heat was unbearable in the small city of Noto, Sicily that
day. Even in the shaded courtyard of this honey-coloured palazzo
the temperature did not relent. It was with a sigh of relief that I
entered the cavernous and cool entrance to Villadorata, a 17th
century palace that belonged to the famed Nicolaci family and has
since been impressively restored by a private owner.
In our suite we find that the flamboyance of Sicilian baroque
has translated well into its modern form – sumptuous stuccos on the
ceilings and beautifully tiled floors are complemented by large
linen covered armchairs, oversized coffee tables and antique
mirrors. It’s opulent but not fussy. One of the bedrooms overlooks
the jasmine-scented courtyard of the villa, and the other rooms
look onto the stone city. Upstairs on the rooftop the palaces and
cathedrals of this UNESCO World Heritage site unfold beneath us and
I understand why Cesare Brandi, the art critic and historian,
called Noto a “stone garden”.
There is nothing to do in this kind of heat but swim, so we get
in our car and drive to one of the nearby beaches on the coast.
It’s meant to be a 20-minute drive, but the journey takes us longer
as we decipher the hotel’s endearingly misleading instructions
(“When you reach an elbow in the road, turn left”). We find
ourselves in a Game of Thrones-esque setting – on a beach with the
ruins of an old tuna factory on our left – the stone, like
everything here, is the colour of honey. We walk through the ruins
in our swimsuits, dipping our heads in the water whenever we feel
like it and return to our car refreshed and covered in salt.
That evening we take cool showers before leaving for an outing
on the square. Baroque buildings rise around us, the same as they
have been for hundreds of years, only their interiors altered.
Seven Rooms has suggested we try Mana, a restaurant located in the
courtyard of the same palazzo so after delicious plates of stewed
octopus and red shrimp tagliatelle we have only a few metres to
walk. We bring our bottle of wine with us, walking through one of
the hotel’s communal spaces – a grandiose sitting room with modern
chess tables and plush white couches – and drag one of the
armchairs out onto the balcony. It’s almost midnight and the heat
still radiates from the stone around us.
Seven Rooms in total, all decorated in a modern baroque style
with a neutral palette of greys and beiges. Accents include
Sicilian artwork and shells and corrals from the nearby Ionian Sea.
We stayed in the Maestrale suite, which has two living rooms and
two bedrooms. Rooms through Mr & Mrs Smith from £147.
What’s for breakfast?
Included – a buffet of cheeses, cured meats and fruits. Eggs
available upon request. Served on the rooftop breakfast table that
opens for guests in the morning. Views of the city are
How about lunch and dinner?
Nothing, but Seven Rooms has an excellent guide to local
Is there a bar?
No, but you can enjoy a bottle of wine in your suite or on the
balcony of one of the communal spaces.
Parking inside the palazzo’s courtyard, Wifi, beach accessories
– umbrellas, goggles etc.
Things you should know
The concierge service is excellent. Guides for restaurants and
nearby beaches are provided to you upon request and if you would
like to see anything else in Sicily, be sure to take advantage of
their knowledge. Noto is beautiful on the outside but sometimes the
interiors of the attractions are underwhelming. Definitely explore
nearby Syracuse, another beautiful city with more going on. Take a
boat ride to nearby sea caves and visit the underground city.
Within a short walk you can find…
Mana, a restaurant with incredible Sicilian food.