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The 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 unbeatable.
How about lunch and dinner?
Nothing, but Seven Rooms has an excellent guide to local restaurants.
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.
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