Saturday 17 August 2013

Villa Sonia, Via porta mola, Castelmola, Sicily

A comfortable and well-run hotel in a fine location, Villa Sonia provides far-reaching views of rugged countryside and Mount Etna, as well as easy access to the atmospheric tourist hotspots of Taormina and Castelmola. The relaxing reception sets the tone - its antique furniture includes an elegant bureau, an antique gramophone, vintage candlesticks, a set of elderly scales and plump, welcoming sofas. More ancient artefacts are dotted around the hotel, striking a slightly incongruous note with the more mundane interior. Unfortunately, the outdoor pool has a slightly tacky classical theme - pillars, topped with plant pots, demarcate the shallow end from the rest of the pool. And it can be tough to get a sun lounger in busy periods and you may have to plonk your stuff on a table next to the bar, which is pretty much on top of the pool. One level down is a running machine, a sauna and showers. It is a bit confusing what you pay for - the hotel literature suggests you have to pay to use the sun beds and the sauna, but in reality nobody seems to be monitoring this. 

Villa Sonia's comfortable lounge
If you aren't using the pool, you might prefer to sit on your spacious private balcony facing the formidable Mount Etna. Inside, the superior bedrooms are large and well equipped with fine old wardrobes, coffee tables and desks. Although the shiny blue bedspreads and curtains are a bit bling, the beds themselves are very comfortable and the rooms are quiet. Moreover, the en-suite bathrooms are big and fairly luxurious with nicely-tiled floors and ornate mirrors. Some of them have a whirlpool tub - a hit with kids. Better still, the free Wi-Fi works pretty much everywhere, once you get a distinct passcode for each device. 

A superior room at Villa Sonia
You eat breakfast on a spacious terrace facing Mount Etna. Aim for one of the outer tables with the best view, as those under the wooden shelter are a bit too close to the crazy-paving and pastel-painted walls. You eat from white crockery on woollen matts and help yourself to a broad buffet, which includes decent scrambled eggs, chorizo-style mini sausages, tasty bread rolls, croissants, cereals, cakes, grapes, water melons, yoghurts, jams, hams, cheeses, Nutella and more.  You can even boil your own eggs. While the fruit juices aren't great, the coffee served at the tables has flavour. Moreover, the service by the smartly-dressed waiters and waitresses is professional and patient.

Villa Sonia runs a free shuttle bus down the twisty-turney road to Taormina, but only a couple of times a day in each direction. Still, it is punctual and the courteous driver is careful on the precipitous road.  Although it ain't cheap, Villa Sonia is a really pleasant place to stay. 8/10