What can transform an already very good hotel into a truly great one? If you already have a great location and beautiful rooms, it is people. And the Villa Sant'Andrea has achieved greatness in its first season under excellent new management by Orient Express.
For decades, this gorgeous hotel on the beach in Taormina - Sicily's most exclusive resort - has attracted Brits, including more than a few Anglo-Jewish honeymooners. There is a gracious elegance about this mansion, built in 1830 by an aristocratic British couple as their holiday home, and a very Italian vibe that flows through a modern extension.
Light, bright and shiny are the keywords: acres of pale marble lead to rooms of varying sizes but unvarying stylishness, all flooded with sunshine and many having spacious terraces. However, the hotel's great joy is its semi-alfresco restaurant above the private beach, presided over by the best and jolliest maitre d' you could hope to meet. A great place, especially for lunch, it serves simply brilliant southern Italian food, and there is a lovely beach bar stretching across a wide terrace.
Orient Express also now runs the Grand Hotel Timeo in the hilltop shopping district of Taormina, and limos shuttle guests hourly to its pool and formal restaurant (and the nearby boutiques) for those who prefer it to the Sant'Andrea's private beach, which has changing cabanas as well as lounging facilities. Between the two complementary properties, Orient Express have Taormina sewn up.
RATES: 363 Euros (£310)
TEL: 0039 0942 627 1200