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Honeymoon like an Italian prince


It's amore at Seven Rooms Villdorata in Sicily


Words: Damien Woolnough

Photography: Mattia Aquila


16th May 2018

There’s a reason why Sicily has become almost as familiar as Mykonos and Tulum on the Instagram feeds of friends and frenemies determined to make you jealous. The Mediterranean island has a savage beauty that suddenly gives way to unbearable elegance, like the Seven Rooms Villadorato Hotel in Noto.

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Noto itself is a unique treasure after the seaside spectacle of Taormina. Following a devastating earthquake in 1693 the city was built in the 1700s in a uniform baroque style with bleached limestone. The result is breathtaking and protected by Unesco.

As a reward for surviving his questionable navigation, leading to an unexpected detour through roads peppered with burning trees, my boyfriend quite rightly had organised for us to stay in a suite at the Seven Rooms Villadorata. My curses at the city's narrow, cobbled streets were silenced as we drove into the hotel’s magnificent cobbled courtyard.

It quickly became clear that this is not just a hotel, it is a palace. The hotel is in the private quarters of the Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata, one of the city's more formidable landmarks.

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Stepping inside is like entering the disappearing world of Giuseppe Lampedusa's The Leopard, except with a wifi, high thread count and eye to design that will have you contemplating marble busts for your bedroom back home.

With soaring ceilings and cool tiled floors, the suite offers refuge from the heat, which is enough to melt a gelato in seconds (this was tested on several occasions). The furnishings are Spartan chic with stuffed white pieces that match the pale facades of the neighbouring structures.

The suite’s bathroom was big enough to swing a six foot Italian-Australian, with the sweet smell of the hotel's exquisitely handcrafted soaps (which somehow found its way into my luggage…) providing the perfect olfactory backdrop to cleansing adventures.

Bathroom products include the hotel's own artisan soaps and local label Ortigia.

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The communal breakfast room is a tonal study in simplicity.

There's no mini-bar in the suite, although a fridge stoked with mineral water and a nespresso machine slates more basic thirsts. Those in search of wine, men and song can stroll around the block to the eclectically decorated Ristorante Manna Noto, in the palace's basement. A local wine list, and menu packed with regional delicacies with the gentlest of contemporary twists will have you tutting at hotels that rely on room service.

Sure, there's a cathedral but why not pay homage at what is regarded by many as Italy’s finest cannolo (the gelato also has a reputation to rival Ronaldo) at Caffe Sicilia. Pastry chef and fourth-generation owner Corrado Assenza keeps the ingredients simple, achieving the miracle of a casing and filling that melt simultaneously in the mouth.

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At all times your suite is only minutes away from the compact main street, to retire for sleep, salvation and listen to some of Sicily’s subtler sounds from your open windows, or to make some noise of your own.

Sure, you can share it on Instagram but why not keep your adventures to yourself.

Verdict: A hidden honeymoon gem where the old world adds to new delights.

Seven Rooms Villadorata.

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