Editors' Picks

Grand Hotel Timeo, A Belmond Hotel, Taormina

Grande dame, scenic, celebrated yet unpretentious

Via Teatro Greco 59, Messina, Taormina 98039

39-0942 6270 200

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Indagare Adored

At a Glance

As bold and beautiful as its location, Grand Hotel Timeo is set high in the rocky hills of Taormina, adjacent to the ancient Greek Theater and facing the rainbow hues of the coastline, with majestic Mount Etna beyond. Timeo was the first hotel ever opened in the city—and it certainly is “grand” in every sense. The property is situated in a six-acre park blooming with magnolia, cypress, olive and palm trees and terraced gardens surrounding the pool and spa, with finely decorated interiors, romantic archways, Caltagirone ceramics and Baroque detailing. A major highlight is the cuisine at Michelin-starred Otto Geleng, by celebrated Sicilian chef Roberto Toro—and meals present a joyous parade of local bounty: grilled swordfish and branzino, artisanal goat cheeses, regional honeys, baby eggplants, delicate prawns with cantaloupe and soft splashes of Etna’s finest vintages. Taormina is a place of color, flavor and fire—and nowhere is this better experienced than at Timeo.

**The Standout:** Al fresco tastings with unbeatable views on the famed Timeo Terrace (a historic meeting point for such luminaries as D.H. Lawrence) **Don’t Miss:** The special excursion to Mount Etna, featuring sparkling surprises en route, and the traditional cooking class with Le Mamme del Borgo (the “mammas” of the town)

Indagare Loves

  • The back-door entrance from the hotel property into the Greek Theater, one of Taormina’s main attractions
  • Quick connection by funicular and shuttle to the beach club at sister property Villa Sant’Andrea
  • The incredibly central location, which gives guests local access to an often bustling town


Although the views are just as breathtaking as those found on the Amalfi Coast, the rooms just as posh, and the food sublime, this boutique hotel has managed to retain a refreshingly unpretentious atmosphere, thanks in large part to the wonderfully friendly and warm staff. Compared to its glamorous rivals in Positano, Ravello and Capri, Timeo is not nearly as mobbed by Fabulous People in peak season; it’s a whole lot easier to get a room when you want one; and the pricing is considerably more reasonable. The trump card of Timeo is its hilltop perch beside the ruins of the Greek Theater in Taormina. Boats linger in the bay below, while Mount Etna simmers in the distance. To the west are the stone churches, ochre buildings and orange rooftops of town, clustered below a rocky outcrop capped by the medieval fortress of Castelmora. The sea view is punctuated by cypresses, olive groves and lemon trees.

With such lovely views, this is a property where it makes sense to splurge for a room with a terrace, such as one of their junior suites. The hotel was once a private home, and later became the grande dame hotel of Taormina, popular with the arts and culture set. When Belmond (then Orient Express) took over the property in 2008, they poured $15 million into renovations, which included lowering the room count to just 70, creating more space and light. The bones of the property are distinguished, with high ceilings, archways and hardwood floors, and the décor strikes just the right note, using creams, gold, brocades and Baroque detailing. There are plenty of modern amenities (marble bathrooms, outlets just where you want them). Keep in mind that many of the entry-level rooms are located across the street from the main property in the Villa Flora building.

The food at the hotel’s two restaurants is superb, with an emphasis on local ingredients. The breakfast buffet, for instance, may include smoked swordfish, artisanal goat cheese, yogurts served with Sicilian honeys and a wide variety of fresh breads and pastries. At lunch, there is a casual buffet near the pool on a terrace shaded by grapevines. Everything is ultra-fresh, from the vegetables (grilled baby eggplants, cherry tomatoes) and cheeses (buffala mozzarella, boccioni), to the seafood (branzino over couscous, delicate prawns with cantaloupe). You can also order pastas and pizzas from the menu. For dinner, the terrace restaurant is relaxed but refined.

The hotel has beautiful landscaping, a pool, and a somewhat inconveniently located spa. If you want to swim in the ocean, you can use the beach at sister property Villa Sant’Andrea, which is a 20-minute drive away. The hotel is right in the center of town, within easy walking distance of the shops, restaurants and main square of Taormina. The pedestrian-only streets feel a bit like the Trevi Fountain in Rome in vibe: plenty of tourists, but also lots of locals, kids, dogs, teens, and families taking an after-lunch walk. All in all, it makes for great people watching.

Who Should Stay

Honeymooners, couples and families looking for luxury in the heart of Taormina, and those who prefer cliffside views and a central town location over easy beach access. Although furnished with grand antiques, the hotel has a relaxed atmosphere. At breakfast one morning, one of my fellow guests, an Italian in his thirties, sat in his pajamas and robe reading his iPad in one of the sitting rooms.

Good To Know

Because Timeo is set on a steep hillside, much of the hotel is terraced, which means there are quite a lot of stairs. Expect to do a lot of walking. Also, it’s not easily accessible by car, because it’s right next to the pedestrian-only section of Taormina.

Written by Eliza Harris

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