Sea Reached via a narrow coastal road five kilometres from Syracuse and Ortigia Island in Sicily, the five-star Grand Hotel Minareto is a deluxe resort with detached and semi-detached suites (mini-villas) on circular roads, some with sea-views, all within a short walk of a large central swimming pool. Named after a camping site that once occupied the land (an ornamental minaret being the only remaining symbol), the 90-suite, honey-colored, adobe-like resort was opened four years ago and has four different categories of accommodation (the Catenia-based owner also has a pub/nightclub, ‘Clandestine,’ on Ortigia). Arrival is at a rotund driveway with a tall, intricate stone, glass and metal sculptured water fountain featuring birds in flight. Tall olive and palm trees stand either side of entrance door. The spacious lobby can best be described as chic, with high, creamy white stucco ceiling, wide hanging chandelier-like lights, cream-colored marble flooring, large reception desk lined from above with hanging mini-chandeliers and framed by three pillars. The contemporary design is awash with soft, plush crimson and black leather seats, tall gold-colored vases and slender flowering plants in vases shaped as long stemmed wine glasses. Nearby, bonsai trees stand in a base of soil and stone, together with bronze-colored sculptures, including a life-size depiction of two semi-naked lovers entangled in each other's passionate embrace, a lion mid-leap, a ferocious bird of prey mid-flight and the braided mane of a horse clasped back as if it was galloping against the wind. Saucily, reminding of suggestively decorative designs at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, the rims of lampshades in the lobby area are bordered with ostrich feathers. Opposite the reception desk in a far corner is a discreet bar with seating beside it, and above it, a short set of marble steps to a second, subdued leisure area. Adjacent to the lobby, through sliding doors, is an open, high-ceilinged atrium with plenty of additional seating. Beyond this, a door leads outside to a short tunnel at the end of which is the property's private, soft-sand beach, intimate, crescent-shaped and lined with palm trees and steep, white chalk-like cliffs. Guests leave their cars near the main building and are driven by golf-buggies the short distance to the main accommodation area behind tall, iron security gates. A second beach is rockier, but quieter. The superior rooms displayed a dark ash-gray marble floor, creamy white walls with heavy gold and green curtains. Appliqué arts decorated the walls, with two mirrors bordered with imitation gold frames. Aside from a most comfortable bed, a large utilitarian desk and two round bedside tables of matching stained wood occupied most of the space. Interestingly, one wall was bi-colored, divided diagonally, the top half being creamy brown and the bottom one being gold. The bathroom was a melange of contrasting color, Spring- green walls with thin black-gray borders and a sandy-colored wall facing the sink. One of the best things about the accommodation was its outdoor patio, providing as it did, a terrific view overlooking a bay of the Ionian Sea and across to the old town center of Ortigia island (sea-views are the best location choices on the resort and while more expensive, worth paying for). Grand Hotel Minareto is located in the middle of a protected area and its grounds are attractive – filled with well-tended flowers, cacti and olive trees. While such places as Syracuse and its archaeological park are fifteen minutes away by car, the property provides a shuttle service. It also has massage rooms, a fine-dining restaurant, pool service and area tours upon request. For a quiet, south-eastern Sicilian coastal retreat removed from all traffic and traffic-lights with in-house restaurant and excellent others nearby, plus a sheltered, sandy beach within walking distance of your front door, choose Grand Hotel Minareto.
April 29, 2014