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 and one Michelin Star, 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.
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.
The St. George Restaurant by Heinz Beck
The creativity and luxury of the menu compliments the grandeur of The Ashbee Hotel creating an experience that is ideal for both a formal business meal and relaxed social dining. The beautiful dining room, which is located on The Ashbee Hotel’s famed terrace, is surrounded by lush gardens with ancient olive groves and with panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. The Ashbee Hotel is enjoying its status as one of the world’s most luxurious and lauded hotels and the appointment of Heinz Beck looks set to only further this distinction. The St. George Restaurant by Heinz Beck features traditional Italian fare with antipasti, pasta, meat and fish main courses as well as desserts. Beck created the menu with the intention of keeping dishes healthy and approachable yet still exciting.
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.
Value for Money
Double rooms are from just Euro 374,00. This rate is per room and per day and include breakfast and free Wi-Fi. Rates are subject to change without prior notice.
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.
Our Special Readings
The most notable landmarks of Taormina
Taormina is a beautiful hilltop town that offers plenty of charming spots to take in the Sicilian island vibes, with sweeping Ionian seascapes and Mt. Etna serving as backdrop. Teatro Antico is the heart of the town where the main walking street of Corso Umberto leads you to most of the interesting landmarks and dramatic viewpoints. The most notable landmark is the Roman-Greek Theatre, with ruins and stage pillars that perfectly frame the blue waters of the Ionian. If you fancy a swim in the calm waves, head down to the coves and pebbled islet coast of Isola Bella. Historical churches dot the main street and rocky hillsides above, and there’s cool spots to head to after the sunsets.
Taormina’s landmark gateway
You can take in Taormina’s blend of antiquity and modern buzz at this arched stone gateway. It’s also where you can start strolling down Corso Umberto, the main walking street, and reach the viewpoint square of Piazza Aprile midway. Porta Messina is one among 2 of the once fortified town’s portals, the other being Porta Catania that’s around 800 metres on the southwestern end of the Corso.
A lonely but magnificent 10th-century structure
This grand Medieval stone fortress-like building’s just a minutes’ walk down from Porta Messina. It has an inner courtyard featuring old Christian reliefs and arched windows with a bit of Arabic influence. Palazzo Corvaja now functions as a museum and art gallery, frequently holding painting and multimedia exhibitions. From the outside, it stands large and tall, retaining much of its ancient architectural features, in contrast to the surrounding modern buildings within the piazza. This partly makes it popular for pre-wedding shoots.
Mount Etna: clear sample of the power of nature
Mount Etna, when the TV broadcasts its eruptions, I am totally involved by the show in which beauty and devastation are at arm’s length. So, when I decided to go back to Sicily, based in Taormina, I accepted with the enthusiasm to be able to see up close the grandeur of this volcano that the people of Catania call “A Muntagna” and try to understand much better this island through the passion, the commitment and the pride of the different people who work daily to give back to this territory the beauty that passes through the dignity of places and people, civic culture, a clear “no” to the stereotypes and prejudices, the mafia and the small illegalities of our society is permeated.
The Mount Etna was the place of starting of the feelings between Maria and Nino in Zeffirelli’s “Sparrow”, and George Lucas used the 2002 eruption as the background of the fight between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in the third episode of the Star Wars saga.
I visited the north side of Etna, more naturalistic and less traveled by tourists hit and run because here there is no cable car or ski slopes, but there are the southest birches of the world, the pyroclastic cones lined up along the lateral eruptive fractures called Sartorius Mounts that reach 1667 meters, and silent walks that lead you to see the sea on the clearest days.
Then I moved to where the first activities of Mount Etna are visible, in Acitrezza where the underwater eruptions about 700 thousand years ago caused the erection of entire blocks of magma beyond the coastline forming high rocks.
Insider guide: Taormina
While the thought of Sicily may conjure images of godfathers and gangster molls, there’s much more to this geographically stunning island than old mafia ties. Palermo, the Sicilian capital situated in the northwest, is well worth a visit, but the European jet set tends to flock to Taormina in the northeast. Serving as a glamorous resort town since the 19th century, Taormina offers breathtaking views at every turn from its perch atop a cliff plummeting straight into the Ionian Sea. The settlement is divided into two sections: Taormina town (where most of the shops and hotels are) and Taormina mare (set by the beach and accessible by a short funivia, or cable car ride). So here is an insider’s guide to Taormina, Sicily, with our favorite tips on what to do, where to stay, and more.
Greek – 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 theater. 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.
Cathedral of San Nicola
Opposite the Town Hall, the street widens out into Piazza del Duomo, with the Cathedral of San Nicola. Founded by the Hohenstaufens in the 13th century and altered several times in the 15th-17th centuries, it combines medieval and more recent features. The unplastered exterior with its crenellations is original, whereas the Baroque main door was added in 1636 and matches the 1635 Baroque fountain in the middle of the square. The three aisles of the basilica are separated by large pillars supporting pointed arches. The interior is decorated with a number of works dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, including the 15th-century Visitation of the Virgin Mary by Antonio Giuffrè and Madonna and Child with Saints by Antonello da Saliba, painted in 1504.
The Ashbee Hotel is awaiting you, now!
Yesterday a luxurious sicilian boutique hotel, The Ashbee Hotel, is open again for the summer season, boasting brand new services. New fitness and wellness facilities, a new partnership with the renowed and Michelin Starred Chef Heinz Beck and specially curated room packages are available at the hotel that overlooks the aptly named Ionian Pearl. Here at The Ashbee Hotel they offer stylish ambience, the highest quality, careful attention to detail, unobtrusive luxury and honest hospitality. And on top of that, nature gives you one spectacular backdrop after another, day after day. Together they are the perfect team to give you a fabulous time in Taormina.
Surrounded by lush gardens with ancient olive groves and with panoramic views of the Ionian Sea, the hotel’s 24 guestrooms and suites, each have their luxury details, some with a terrace which overlooks the blue of the sea. The Deluxe Sea View is the most captivating among the guestrooms of The Ashbee Hotel and perhaps one of the best in Sicily while the opulent The Ashbee Suite is the ultimate in luxury travel. Harmoniously blending-in with the hotel’s garden feel, the accommodation combines English Style style with an authentic Sicilian look and offers the utmost in privacy and exclusivity.
With 1 gourmet restaurant and 2 panoramic bars, The Ashbee Hotel offers a tantalizing range of dining options. From a leisurely snack at the Pool Bar where to eating under the olive groves or at the Roof Terrace Bar, where to enjoy a captivating view of Straits of Messina and the Sicilian Coast. Last but not least the chic gourmet restaurant, St. George Restaurant by Heinz Beck, located on the main terrace perched over the azure waters of Taormina Bay.
The captivating face of South Italy
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.
Sicily: an attractive all-year offer
Lying between southern Italy and northern Africa, Sicily presents an attractive, all-year-round climate with which to indulge in its many activities. But what makes the island different from the rest of Italy is its multicultural society, having been ruled by Middle-Easterns, Africans and Europeans. As a result, Sicily is home of a stunning selection of architectural splendors, dating from ancient Greek and Roman times to impressive Baroque cathedrals and monasteries. Historic sights, such as the Val di Noto and Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica, attract visitors from throughout the world. During a visit to the island, you will be surprised by the many facets of Sicily’s enchanting landscapes, often wild and untouched, but always charming in their simplicity. Said that, get a car and follow a driving excursion around its winding coastline and into its more mountainous territory so that you can discover a few ways to enjoy Sicily’smany offerings.
Like many capital cities, this one offers diverse choices; two of the most interesting (and contrasting) are the International Museum of Marionettes and the Capuchin Catacombs. Even though the first focuses on wooden, lifeless puppets, it is much more dynamic than the latter. The former represents a Sicilian tradition dating back hundreds of years, to the time of Socrates, but opera dei pupi (puppet theater) reached its peak around 100 years ago on the island. With the support of the Association for the Conservation of Popular Traditions, visitors to the downtown Palermo museum can see hundreds of beautifully-designed puppets, their masters’ equipment as well as other memorabilia, and regularly-staged shows involving bandits and chivalrous heroes characters such as Orlando, Rinaldo and Gano di Maganza. The Capuchin Catacombs provide a somewhat macabre tourist attraction as well as an extraordinary historical record.
Special City Guide: Taormina
Taormina draws in the jetsetters, the nouveau riche and everything in between to its romantic alleyways and dazzling hotels. Taormina offers a breathtaking landscape dense with man-made archeology. There’s a lots of history in every corner of the city infact it was Taormina that the Oxen of the Sun roamed the plains in Odysseyean tales. The spectacular views of the smoldering Mount Etna and accross two bays out to the Ionian Sea have helped make Taormina Sicily’s most famous – and fabled – resort town. Cascading down the slopes of Mount Tauro at some 200 mt. above sea level, Taormina first became a port of call in the 18th century when it formed part of The Grand Tour, and travelers flocked to see the well-preserved Teatro Greco amphitheater, where you can still see plays and concerts against the backdrop of distant Etna.
Soon Taormina evolved into the destination of choice for aristocracy, bohemians artists and jetsetters alike and among the famous names who hung out in the town is D.H. Lawrence, who was inspired to write “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” when he was there. Over the years, the town became Sicily’s answer to Monte Carlo, today Taormina still has an air of chic, which is evident in the prices, but as the island’s prime tourist destination it can also get incredibly crowded during the summer months. Its winding medieval streets are packed with Arab, Norman and baroque monuments, as well as numerous restaurants, cafes and shops. The town is a shopper’s paradise with a plethora of souvenir shops, plus a host of jewelers, smart designer boutiques and funky stores selling everything from hats to chandeliers.