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San Domenico Palace Hotel - Taormina, Italy | Hotel Review

Pure Luxury at San Domenico


San Domenico Palace Hotel - Taormina, Italy:
A 14th century monastery converted into a luxury hotel, the San Domenico Palace Hotel is a peaceful walled sanctuary that is far from being commercial. Located in a 2000-foot mountain with surrounding cliffs, going to the place is considerably a navigational feat. Add the fact that the property is well-disguised, these obstacles only add more mystery and allure to the hotel's already fascinating past. Its bell tower, frescoed chapels, and bountiful gardens with stunning sea views give it the serenity and tranquility you would suppose an old monastery would have.

Considered one of the best hotels in Taormina, San Domenico Palace Hotel is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and far exceeds the more known (and commercialized) Grand Hotel Timeo which from our experience, having stayed there for our first three nights in Taormina, was close to atrocious.

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First Impression/Lobby:
As we walked through the subdued courtyard up the hotel, I began to have my doubts. I did not want to expect too much for fear that I would end up disappointed much like how I was with Grand Hotel Timeo. Once I walked in the glass-enclosed lobby, however, all my doubts were dispelled. The moment the concierge saw us, he almost jumped to run and greet us, then happily escorted us to the front desk.

The staff and employees in the San Domenico hotel are first-rate. They instantly make you feel welcome and let you know that you are somewhere special. They make you feel that you are in a true five-star luxury hotel. At once, I knew that I was in a place that the Grand Hotel could not even begin to compare to.

The reception staff was very attentive. The gentleman who checked us in was extremely nice. He informed us that our room was not ready for another 15 to 20 minutes (which was pardonable since we arrived early) and offered us coffee or something to drink. Since we were headed out for a day of sightseeing anyway, we passed on his offer. He bid us a nice day and assured us that everything will be good and ready when we get back from our tour. He said that they would take care of our bags and that there will be a very nice room waiting for us.

Aside from being extremely personable, the concierge was spot-on in their service. They had great recommendations and good follow through, exactly what you would want from your concierge.

The Room:
We had an executive Seaview room with expectedly stunning views of the Mediterranean, seen from the Belkin an arched opening that overlooked the sea. The room had an eclectic Italian interior tastefully accented with antique pieces, painted stone floors, and two walnut-wood chairs and a small table just big enough for having breakfast. Huge picture windows and glass doors leading to the balcony which was also furnished with a table and two chairs (perfect for lunch or dinner) made our room absolutely perfect, a far cry from the suite we had at the Grand Hotel Timeo.

The entrance of the room was a hallway. On the right side was the bathroom and on the left was an adequate space to put our luggage. The bathroom was divine, covered with immaculate marble tiles. It had a shower/tub combo, a toilet bidet, and a single base and sink, and was equipped with lush white towels and bath products which had a pleasant spicy earth, masculine scent. While the toiletries were not brand name, manufactured instead by the company who owned the hotel, I still found the products luxurious.

The hotel offered speedy wireless Internet in the room, which costs 15 per 24 hours, a lot cheaper than the Grand Hotel Timeo's for 24 hours.

Room Service:
For dinner, we decided to dine in our terrace and try their room service. I ordered some things that were not on the menu: a green salad with cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, a simple vegetable soup, and pasta with pink cream sauce and chicken. They said no problem.

When our food arrived, the gentleman brought in the trolley right out to the balcony and set up our table elegantly. The presentation was simply amazing. He transformed the terrace into a five-star restaurant with silver serving bowls, exquisite China, and a crystal tablecloth.

I don't know which was the most impressive, the service, the presentation, or the food. Their generous portions were large enough for four people, considering we only ordered for two. The food was perfect, done perfectly right down to the very last detail. In comparison to what we experienced at the Grand Hotel Timeo, where room service was a joke, this was far beyond a stake.

The housekeeping was close to impeccable except for one minor annoyance: whenever they did the turndown service, they did not leave water on the nightstand.

Other than that they were very consistent and very thorough. Our rooms were immaculately clean every time and our sheets were heavenly.

San Domenico had a stylish restaurant intimately decorated with cloistered glassed-in mini gardens giving it a botanical feel, and large arched windows offering fantastic views of Taormina. Although their restaurant was Michelin star rated, we did not take advantage of it and instead went out to try a local restaurant, Casa Grugno, which ended up being worse than disappointing.

Even though the walk from the hotel to the pool was quite far, taking about five to ten minutes, it was not something I would complain about because the walk in itself was a delight. Going there, I passed by remarkable pictures and artwork displayed on the walls of the hallways, as well as wonderful statues and sculptures that led to a beautifully manicured garden. One could easily spend 30 minutes or an hour just walking through that enchanting garden, which so happened to be in full bloom.

The hotel's pool was at the end of the garden and was made up of two levels. The top level had lounge chairs which could sit around 20 people, and was the perfect place to get the perfect tan. The actual pool and a cabana bar were located in the lower level and also had a capacity of 20 people. While the pool was no more than an oversized lap pool, its setting along the cliff with splendid views of the sea below made it unforgettable. It was very serene, quiet and peaceful and made me feel truly relaxed.

The pool service was less than impressive. The gentleman, acting as the pool boy, was more interested in reading his paper then taking care of guests.

The hotel had a small self-service gym, not much larger than a guest room. It was equipped with a treadmill, step master, free weights, and a bicycle machine. There was also a small spa with modest facilities including volcanic-mud scrubs and massages.

Overall Impression
San Domenico Palace Hotel is easily one of the most gorgeous, well run, classiest hotels in Italy, and definitely the best hotel in Taormina. If I had to choose between a junior suite at Grand Hotel Timeo and an executive room at San Domenico, the choice is simple. San Domenico would win hands down, time after time after time. I give the San Domenico my highest rating of Fantastic Bombastic!

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