peP.R. Pops in on Sicily and Venice
peP.R. Pops in on Sicily and Venice

peP.R.ONCINI IN ITALIA


peP.R here, just back from Italy where I was lucky enough to visit our partners in Taormina, Sicily and Venice, all part of the V Retreats collection. The Taormina area had tons to do, from hikes to boat excursions exploring the rocky coast to wandering the winding streets in town - 3 days was not enough! And not a Godfather in sight, but don't worry, plenty of cannolis. In Venice, this was the first time I felt like I saw true Venetian life, thanks to Ca di Dio's setting in the Castello neighborhood. 
[Room tours and more from my trip on Instagram stories @jmakhospitality.]
 
Here's what I learned... 

Left: Taormina's Teatro Greco from the 3rd century. Right: Ca di Dio's private dock in Venice.

ATLANTIS BAY vs. MAZZARO SEA PALACE


Although Atlantis Bay (left) and Mazzaro Sea Palace (right) are very close to each other, both on the coast of Taormina, allowing for swimming in the crystal-clear Ionian Sea outside their doors, there are small nuances that will help you choose the right one for your clients. 
[Note that both close end of October and reopen in April for the season.]

ATLANTIS BAY


Atlantis Bay is literally built into the rocky coast, with volcanic rock making up some of the walls. The private setting on Mermaid's Bay is ideal for honeymooners and those wanting a more serene stay. Its glass-box fitness room has to have one of the best views of any hotel gym, the pool is large and lovely, but the waterfront is the place to be. There is no sand but a ladder down from the rock wall and a floating dock that allow for easy swimming into the refreshing sea. And a fun way to return from a boat excursion along the rocky coast and into caves – an absolute must-do! 

Top left: Atlantis Bay's newly renovated lobby. Top Right: The floating dock and waterfront. Bottom Left: Pool deck with restaurant at right. Bottom Middle: Cannoli for breakfast! Bottom Right: The fitness room facing the bay.

MAZZARO SEA PALACE

Mazzarò Sea Palace (pronounced MAZZaro) is also set on another incredible cove, Mazzarò Bay, which not only has a sandy beach but also is framed by large rock formations, which some guests and locals jump off of into the sea (not me!). There are a few hotels on Mazzarò Bay so it's a more active waterfront with boats coming in and out. Families with young children would likely prefer Mazzarò due to its easy water access and livelier setting.
Mazzarò's rooms have large terraces facing the sea (some with plunge pools). The lobby cocktail lounge was incredible (follow their chief mixologist Francisco on IG @cocktails_artist), and the live piano player at dinner was the perfect accompaniment to the setting. I was floored that our server, Dana, had done research on what we had eaten and drank the night before in order to make recommendations as to what we should try - and she nailed it. Mazzarò's Armonia Restaurant is a must-do, and bonus that guests can enjoy its incredible terrace again each morning for breakfast.
Top Left: The rocks that guests jump from. Top Middle: Fresh lemon juice and Prosecco "Blooming to You" drink brought to guests on the beach. Top Right: The view from my terrace. Bottom Left: Front Desk Manager Angela and Room Division Manager Marilena, two of the charming HPs at MMazzarò.

TOURING TAORMINA


Taormina was full of surprises, starting with the dramatic 5-minute cable car ride up to town from the hotels at the beach. We found it teaming with cactuses and bougainvillea, interesting shops, local ceramics, weddings emerging from churches, and a Greek theater that's still used for concerts today. The small but stunning botanical gardens with playground and amazing views (above left) was a surprise, as was the lovely Rosmario Restaurant across the street, where we lunched on local specialties of fresh fish crudo and fried sardines - Sicily is a seafood lovers dream! 
Don't miss the hike to Madonna della Rocca church which is accessed through a series of stone steps taking you up the mountain to the top of Taormina. We lucked out to have done it at sunset and were pleased to find a cute bar at the top playing disco music and gathering a crowd to enjoy the Mt. Etna views. 
We didn't have time for a Mt. Etna visit/hike and winery lunch afterward, or to hike up to Castelmola, which is a tiny medieval town, both on my list for my next visit to Sicily.

Top Left: Atlantis Bay Concierge Alessia pointing out the symbol of Sicily on our walking tour of Taormina. Top Middle: Fresh fruit granitas at Bam Bar, a typical Sicilian breakfast food. Top Right: Taormina's Greek Theater from the 3rd century! Bottom Left: View from the botanical gardens, Villa Comunale di Taormina. Bottom Right: The cable car up to Taormina town.

ON TO VENICE: CA' DI DIO


It felt very James Bond to arrive via private boat to the dock at Ca' di Dio, which literally means House of God. The hotel faces out to the lagoon along Riva Ca' di Dio, a wide stone promenade where you'll find joggers running along the water in the morning and others catching water taxis. The historic building dates to the 13th century and stands out among other hotels with its generous passageways and public spaces and modern decor which give it the feeling of a home. GM Christophe Mercier keeps a running roster of interesting events and partnerships - a Venice Design Week installation of modern lighting and of Venetian glass were on display during our visit. Its Alchemia Bar is a jewel box with the most charming mixologists who serve traditional Venetian “cicchetti” tapas and pair them with unexpected concoctions like their lagoon-inspired Negroni. Our lagoon-facing room was remarkably silent with the windows closed, we even over-slept!

Top: The gorgeous private wooden boat that transported me from the Venice airport to Ca' di Dio's private dock. Bottom Left: Ca' di Dio's lobby with photoshoot going on for Venice Design Week. Bottom Middle: Davide, one of the sweet mixologists at the hotel's Alchemia Bar. Bottom Right: Me with GM Christophe Mercier in front of the hotel.

THE CASTELLO NEIGHBORHOOD


Ca' di Dio is perfectly set – just a 10-minute walk to St. Mark's Square, but far enough away to offer a more relaxed, neighborhood atmosphere. I preferred heading in the other direction towards the Arsenale, a complex of historic naval buildings, which during my visit were host to a convention of naval officers. And to the Giardini, a lovely park where I caught some of the Venice Art Biennale. In between were relaxed cafes, artist studios and residential life I hadn't seen before in Venice. 

 J.MAK AMENITIES (FOR ALL 3 PROPERTIES)

 

12% commission. 
50 euro spa credit, 50 euro F&B credit. Early check-in / late check-out / room upgrade upon availability. Welcome amenity in the room. 
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