The Ashbee Hotel
The former Villa San Giorgio in Taormina is now The Ashbee Hotel. The house, whose construction began in 1907, was designed by English architect Charles Robert Ashbee, founder of English Arts and Crafts. Commissioned by Colonel Thomas Bradney Shaw-Hellier, who chose the Pearl of the Ionian Sea as a quiet, secluded location for rest and meditation. A vast collection of photographs that show the visit of Charles Robert Ashbee to Taormina and the design work and construction of the Villa San Giorgio is kept in the National Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Additionally, original drawings and sketches of the house are held in the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects as well as in the English home of Colonel Shaw-Hellier at Wonebourne Wodehouse in Staffordshire county.
The hallmarks of The Ashbee Hotel are constant attention of detail, a balanced combination of Anglo-Saxon and Mediterranean aesthetic tastes, a warm and friendly atmosphere where you can feel at home and hospitality tailored for each individual guest. The Ashbee Hotel is a charming residence in an environment rich in history with a timeless garden of palm trees, lemons and grapefruits and a terrace with a fountain and pool that overlook to a breathtaking view. An ideal place for relaxing a few steps from the centre of Taormina. There is a unique and authentic place made of enchanting paths of light and spaces swathed in greenery. A place framed where time seems to have stopped. In front of a unique sea that only this part of Sicily can give.
Easy to locate, just few steps from the main street and chic boutiques of Taormina, the hotel offers easy access to the main theatres, museums and all over objects arts, historical heritage of the city. A short walk leads to famous restaurants, to enjoy an excellent cuisine. Situated on the Viale San Pancrazio in the centre of Taormina, close to Corso Umberto I° and from every main cultural attractions of the city. The Ashbee Hotel is ideal for both business and leisure guests. Close to the Ancient Theatre, famous platform of concerts, operas and cinema festival.
There are 24 rooms and suites, each of them is a grand statement of colour and style, dressed with fine fabrics and antique furnishing in a contemporary concept. No two rooms or suite are alike, yet each of the 15 deluxe guest rooms and 9 luxury suites are richly decorated for a more intimate inward-looking mood.
Dining is an essential part of The Ashbee experience, inspired by mouthwatering seasonal products and local specialties. For foodies, the glamorous The Ashbee Hotel, with its acclaimed St. George Restaurant by Heinz Beck (oh yes, the 3 Michelin star Chef of La Pergola in Rome), is a delightful gem where you can enjoy your lunch and dinner (plan for about two hours for the full gastronomic experience) with the best food in town. The Ashbee Pool Bar, The Roof Terrace and The Lounge Terrace are great for breakfasts, aperitifs, after dinner and light lunch, all in the meantime you will enjoy a stunning sea view.
Intimate rooms and elegantly furnished with luxurious fabrics that provide the finest comforts and the ultimate in relaxation. Classic rooms offer every comfort for an enjoyable holiday in Taormina. They are provided with a bathroom with bathtub or shower, wardrobe, double bed and elegant furniture elements.
Generous sized, most superior rooms have a welcoming atmosphere, expression of the constant attention to detail of The Ashbee hospitality. Completely provided with glamorous and refined furniture, some of which look out over the private garden and courtyard. Furnished by a wood-block floor, double bed, wardrobe, bathroom with bathtub and/or shower and exclusive furnishing.
Ideal for long stays or a rewarding break, the size of the Deluxe Rooms will astound you, allowing you to enjoy, not only a large double bed but a gorgeous terrace where to read a book or to taste a great glass of Sicilian wine during the sunset.
Deluxe Room Sea View
The Deluxe Room Seaview has been designed in a fresh and contemporary Sicilian style with carefully chosen artwork and fabrics in rich, warm and restful hues. The Deluxe Room Seaview has a great view of Calabria and the Sicilian coast by the gorgeous terrace where to enjoy beautiful sunsets.
The Junior Suites are ideal for guests who would like something more than a double room. Completely decorated with refined fabrics and provided with exclusive furnishing. Each Junior Suite is composed of a elegant bedroom with exclusive furnishings, wardrobe and bathroom with shower and bathtub.
The Ashbee Hotel has 9 luxury suites, providing some of the most sumptuous accommodation in Taormina. Each suite is individual, with a unique layout, distinctive décor and beautiful bathrooms. The spacious suites provide everything a discerning guest could require for a wonderfully special stay, including all the luxury amenities found in bedrooms.
The Ashbee Suite
Located on the 1st floor, The Ashbee Suite is the type of suite travelers to Taormina dream about as they gaze out over the breathtaking view of Taormina’s Gulf from the private 15 square meter terrace. Composed with a large sitting room with some beautiful antique pieces of furniture, original paintings, two bathrooms and master bedrooms.
The Ashbee Pool
Panoramic swimming pool overlooking the sea where guests can wrap up in a soft towel. The perfect place for a relaxing day.
The Ashbee Roof Terrace
It is a hanging roof terrace on the top floor of the main building of The Ashbee Hotel. Colourful flowers, elegant tables, comfortable wicker sofas and chairs, plush cushions and good musice, perfect things to enjoy the intimate atmosphere of this romantic and exclusive Roof Terrace with its amazing views of sea and of Taormina. An opulent breakfast is served every morning in the infinity roof terrace.
Meeting & Conferences
With exceptional banquet, conference and meeting facilities and impeccable service standards, The Ashbee Hotel looks forward to hosting your meeting and making it a success. In a style that reflects Italian’s luxury yet contemporary culture, The Ashbee Hotel’s new meeting & conference room boasts more than 350 square meters of meeting space that energize and inspire any occasion.
“Certificate of Excellence 2016” – awarded by Trip Advisor
“Certificate of Excellence 2015” – awarded by Trip Advisor
“Certificate of Excellence 2014” – awarded by Trip Advisor
“Certificate of Excellence 2013” – awarded by Trip Advisor
“Certificate of Excellence 2012” – awarded by Trip Advisor
“The coolest hotels in the Med 2012” – awarded by The Times
The history of The Ashbee Hotel:
Named Villa San Giorgio , its construction started in 1907 based on a project of the Colonel Shaw-Hellier that has been elaborated by the famous English architect Charles Robert Ashbee. This veteran English colonel, at a certain point of his life, left Great Britain and moved to Sicily. He bought a piece of land in Taormina, with a view on the Strait of Messina , in back of San Pancrazio Church that was built upon the ruins of a Greek temple dedicated to Jupiter Serapis. In the January of 1907, the Colonel invited Ashbee, his old friend, to spend some weeks in Taormina, and gave him the job to plan his house to build on that piece of land.
Charles Robert Ashbee was born in London in 1863, son of a rich trader, and was one of the most significant representative of the Arts and Craft. This movement was founded in Great Britain at the end of 19th century by William Morris in opposition to the Victorian tradition. The necessity of the Arts & Craft movement was to find “an English style for England” and this research of new kind of artistic expressions crowned in the adoption of the Gothic how new national style and the refusal of more traditional styles.
In Sicily Ashbee had the opportunity to meet some of the most beautiful places in the world and was particularly and positively by the typical features of the Sicilian architecture. Indeed Ashbee wrote in his diary that he has never seen anywhere else in the world a such impressive concentration of beautiful buildings like in Sicily.
Charles Ashbee was usual to plan houses in places that he knew very well, where sometimes he had lived for years. This is because he loved to transfer a sense of daily experience in his work giving to his constructions a precise historic-artistic connotation in the social context of that territory. Ashbee looked at the social context every time he has projected a house and he searched precise points of reference in the local environment, so that he made the house be part of a whole and not a stand-alone creation. That is why Villa San Giorgio is an “unicum” in all Ashbee’s work: it is close to the tradition of the movement that got started in England but at the same time it is different in its place conception and in the use of materials and spaces that inspired its designer.
Although he did not live in Sicily for a long time like he did in other places, he gave to Villa San Giorgio an important mark that, moving from his experience as an Arts and Crafts’ architect arrives to the intent to represent “something of that marvelous Greek-Sicilian style” in the Taormina’s villa, as he wrote in his travel diary. In line with this concept of design contextualization, Villa San Giorgio is completely different from everything Ashbee has planned before. The materials used and the prevalent house frames reminds the other buildings of Taormina, for example the staircase in the main entrance resembles that one in the courtyard of Palazzo Corvaia. What makes Villa San Giorgio particularly interesting from a historic-artistic point of view is a special mixing of two different traditions, here blended together: in a hand the Sicilian architecture; in the other hand a more cosmopolitan English architecture.
A huge photo archive of Ashbee’s Sicilian stay and of his design work and the building of Villa San Giorgio, is still today kept at the National Library of Victoria and Albert Museum of London, whereas the original house drawings are kept at the Drawings Collection of Royal Institute British Architects and in the English house of Colonel Shaw-Hellier in Wonbourne Wodehouse in Staffordshire. Ashbee was usual to annotate his travel memories in diaries that today are kept in Cambridge, at the King’s College and at the National Library of Victoria and Albert Museum.
When to go:
Taormina is a popular seaside resort which is preferred among Italians, who choose to spend their summer holidays on its beaches. It can become very crowded in July and August. Although it can be visited from May to October, when the weather is pleasant and you can bathe in the sea, spring and autumn are the recommended seasons. Most museums and tourist attractions open in spring and close their gates in fall, while numerous art festivals run from June to September. The summer months can get up to 40° C and this means that July and August can simply be too hot for some visitors. If you do not like the hot, visit Taormina during the spring months, maybe the days will have less sun but temperatures will be more pleasant. In June, the city hosts a famous film festival, the Taormina Film Fest, a week rich of first-run movies, national and international celebrities and a lots a glamorous parties.
St. George Restaurant by Heinz Beck
The Ashbee Pool Bar
The Lounge Terrace
The Roof Terrace
All guests should check out the organic and locally sourced breakfast buffet, featuring an array of Sicilian sweet and savory dishes. A breakfast surronded by the panoramic view of Taormina, Straits of Messina, Calabria and Mediterranean Sea.
Taormina is a small, yet very elegant city on the coast of the Italian island of Sicily. Ever since the nineteenth century, it has been one of Italy’s most popular seaside resorts. The city lies perched on the rocky Mount Tauro hilltop. The charming resort was one of the main destinations for the aristocracy of the Roman Empire since the first conquerors reached the coast and fell in love with the picturesque region. When the Greeks arrived at the Ionian coast of Sicily in 734 B.C., they found a settlement belonging to the Sicels, a civilization that inhabited the island during the Iron Age. During the first Punic war, in 212 B.C., the city fell to the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city faced the attacks of the Byzantines and Arabs. In the eleventh century, the Normans banished the Arabs. Shortly after, Charles de Anjou was pronounced King of Sicily. Nowadays, most of the inhabitants live on tourism.
Explore the town – For most tourists, the greatest appeal of Taormina is the town itself. Its streets are a pleasure to stroll, lined with romantic buildings and opening onto terraces with stunning views. The approach is equally compelling: from the coast road at Capo Taormina, Via Pirandello snakes its way up the mountain, passing Byzantine rock-graves on the left, the belvedere on the right, and the funicular to Mazzarò. It brings you to Porta Messina which, together with the adjoining Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, forms the grand entrance to the town. This is the start of the main street, Corso Umberto, which then crosses the town before ending at Porta Catania. The entire street with its squares and terraces, shops, open-air cafés, and lanes leading from it, seems made just for sauntering and stopping to savor the views of Mt. Etna and the sea.
Discover the Roman Amphitheatre – Taormina’s most famous landmark is the Greek Theater, originally built in the third century BC under Hiero II of Syracuse. But under Roman rule in the second century BC, it was completely rebuilt with all the characteristics of a Roman Amphitheatre. The perfectly semicircular cavea rises in stepped seating to an upper diameter of 109 meters, the stage stands above the level of the orchestra, and the finely decorated stage loft is so high that its sides adjoin the top rows of seats to create an enclosed space. A fortuitous gap in the wall of the loft frames Taormina’s most celebrated view of the surrounding countryside as far as Mount Etna, one that has been immortalized in paintings and photographs as one of Italy’s most iconic.
Have a fun on the beach – Descend on the cable car to the art-deco station of Mazzaro then stroll to a choice of sand and pebble beaches nearby. In the sea below Taormina is a small rock-bound island with a nature preserve, almost connected to the mainland by a sandy beach. You can cross to walk the paths around its perimeter and enjoy the views from its terraces. All along the shore below Taormina are coves and beaches for swimming, which you can reach by paths. Just north of Mazzaro are more beaches at Spisone, Mazzeo, and Letojanni.
Discover the Villa Comunale – Below the former Dominican monastery, Via Roma runs east to the municipal gardens of Villa Comunale. The gardens were created by Florence Trevelyan, an Englishwoman who planted rare species here and built the fanciful and imaginative Victorian stone follies that survive today. Its commanding position offers some excellent viewpoints, and you’ll find more if you follow Via Bagnoli Croce on to the Belvedere. From here, you can return on Via Luigi Pirandello, passing below the Greek Theater, to the Porta Messina.
Shop & Stroll – The Corso Umberto is the main pedestrian street through Taormina and is hard to miss. For the shoppers out there this is the place to be. The Corso Umberto is lined with numerous high end shops as well as gelato shops, produce vendors, café’s, souvenir and jewelry shops. No matter what you are looking for it’s a sure bet that you can find it somewhere along the Corso Umberto. At night the street comes alive with music and entertainment and can resemble a party atmosphere. It all makes for a fun and lively place to be.
Visit Castelmola – Located on the top of a hill above Taormina is the quaint village of Castelmola. Considered one of the most beautiful towns in all of Italy its precarious setting high above Taormina provides for an amazing view of Taormina, the beaches of Giardini Naxos, and Mount Etna. The Duomo of Castelmola, also known as the church of San Niccolo’ di Bari, is worth a visit and has a balcony which affords some great views. The remains of the castle itself are not much, but it is worth the few extra steps to climb to the ruins of the castle if for no other reason than the view.
Explore the Alcantara Gorges – The Alcantara Gorge is something that I highly recommend. As it’s about a 40 minute bus ride from Taormina you should probably dedicate at least a half a day for a visit here. Located on the north side of Mount Etna, the Gorge was formed thousands of years ago when a lava flow from the volcano was cooled quickly by the flow of the Alcantara River. This quick cooling resulted in the lava forming columns through which the river eroded a channel, eventually resulting in the gorge that you see today. There is a beautiful path that you can walk that follows the top of the gorge and you get some great views looking down into the gorge from this vantage point.
Visit the Mount Etna – When visiting Taormina, Mount Etna looks so close you’d think you could reach out and touch it. One of the things that helps make Taormina such a beautiful and picturesque place is the fact that you can get a great view of Mount Etna from pretty much anywhere in Taormina. Taking pictures and looking at Mount Etna is wonderful, but making a visit to Europe’s largest Volcano is an amazing adventure.
For most travelers to Italy, Rome is the furthest south they will travel. The golden triangle encompassing Rome, Venice and Florence is the main route. But the south has so much to offer! The regions of the south include, Lazio and within it Rome and Vatican city, Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia along the Adriatic, Naples and Campania, the toe of the boot Basilicata and Calabria and the island of Sicily. Lazio is a region of lakes, mountains, and vineyards. The area was formed by the eruption of four volcanoes and has left the region with numerous hot springs and volcanic crater lakes. Lazio’s best beaches can be found in the Parco Nazionale del Circeo between Gaeta and Sabaudia.
Naples, the capital of Campania, is an ancient city founded by the Greeks but conquered by the Normans, the French, Spanish and more. It has survived through grit and the feistiness of the people, which is evident today in this somewhat impoverished city. A few of the sights you might want to visit while there are Castel Capuano and Porta Capuana. The Castle was a royal palace until 1540 when it was transformed into the Court of Justice. The nearby Puerta Capuanais the finest Renaissance gateway in Italy. The Duomo was built between 1294 and 1323. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is one of the world’s most important archeological museums in the world. Nearby is the petrified city of Pompeii buried in ash by the 79 AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
The Amalfi coast is a real tourist draw because of the beautiful hill towns such as Sorrento, Praiano, Amalfi and Positano, the enchanting views of the Mediterranean and the Isle of Capri, just a ferry-boat ride away. Ravello offers the best views along this winding cliff-side drive. Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia are the three regions forming a long strip along the Adriatic Sea. Dominated by the Apennine mountain range, this area has the contrasts of the Gran Sasso peak at 2.912 mt. and The Adriatic sea’s glorious beaches. L’Aquila, Abruzzo’s capital lies at the foot of the Gran Sasso. Outdoor lovers are intrigued by the Parco Nazionale d’ Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise. This park is one of Europe’s most important nature preserves . This park is open for hiking, trekking and climbing.
Bari, Puglia’s capital, a port city with ferries to Croatia and Greece is enhanced by the nearby Castle Del Monte, a UNESCO site. Alberobello is distinguished by the number of Trulli within its borders. Trulli are little, circular, white-washed buildings that have conical roofs. The origin of these buildings is obscure, but are interesting historically. Lecce is home to the Lecce Baroque style architecture mastered by Giuseppe and Antonio Zimbalo . Some examples can be found in the Chiesa de Rosario, the Palazzo Vescovile and Duomo, and the Santa Croce.
Basilicata and Calabria form the toe of the “Italian Boot”. Scattered with Greek ruins and isolated towns, these regions are almost virgin territory for tourists. Matera offers fantastic views from its perch atop a cliff. The Sassi section, below the bustling city, was once home to Materan cave dwellers. Tropea is one of a string of unspoiled, picturesque towns along the Mediterranean. Sicily was a crossroads from Africa and Europe and has retained customs from the many cultures that crossed its path. Mt Etna has provided the fertile land that gives this island agricultural abundance. Tourism is still relatively low, so lovers of history and rich Italian cuisine should put Sicily travel on their short-list. Palermo is an exotic city worth exploring. A few of the many main sights are the Duomo, Palazzo Reale, La Mangione and Villa Guilia. The Duomo at Monreale with its glorious mosaics is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Sicily. The Port of Marsala evokes memories of the sweet wine that has been produced here since the 18th century. Siracusa, former Greek stronghold is filled with Greek temples and artifacts. The Museo de Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi has important artifacts from the Paleolithic to Byzantine eras.
Finally Taormina is one of Sicily’s most visited resorts. The well-preserved Roman amphitheatre offers magnificent views of Mt Etna. Taormina (picture above) is where bougainvillea, bright geraniums and sweet-scented orange blossom lined the narrow streets. This international resort is a favorite of celebrities, but we didn’t spot any (not that I’d recognize them). More interesting was the 5th-century Roman amphitheatre, high above the sparkling Mediterranean. Tiers of well-worn stone form the seats, and concerts and performances are held there to this day. We suggest to stay at The Ashbee Hotel, a restored villa with spectacular sea view, garden and captivating roof terrace. Next to lovely San Pancrazio Church (the oldest church of Taormina and former Greek Temple), the location of The Ashbee Hotel is attractive with a great view to Sicilian Coastline and to straits of Messina. It combines modern amenities with tasteful tradition and it has 25 rooms and suites, each of them is a grand statement of colour and style, dressed with fine fabrics and antique furnishing in a contemporary concept. No two rooms or suite are alike, yet each of the 15 deluxe guest rooms and 9 luxury suites are richly decorated for a more intimate inward-looking mood.