Villa Igiea: waterfront luxury for Sicily’s tastemakers | The Week UK

Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte Hotel, stands stately on the Tyrrhenian coastline in Sicily. Opened by the influential Florio family in the early 1900s, this 100-room villa sits just on the edge of Palermo at the foot of Mount Pellegrino. Its turreted, castle-like exterior opens into an elegant, cool interior that offers a peaceful respite from the heat of Sicily’s sun-soaked capital – as it has done for the rich and powerful visiting the city since the Belle Époque period.

Originally designed by Palermitan architect Ernesto Basile, the property is characterised by Art Nouveau period features, including beautiful staircases with long, organic lines and an entertainment room, known as the Salon Basile. Residing at the heart of the building, it encompasses the spirit of Villa Igiea in its golden age – complete with a high-vaulted ceiling filled with vine-like wooden beams, and frescoes that depict the cycles of the day. 

Why come here?

Rocco Forte’s director of design Olga Polizzi and design studio Paolo Moschino have breathed new life into this landmark building. Taking inspiration from the colours of the frescos, a tasteful palette of sage greens and blues has been used throughout the property, complemented by earthy accents, artworks, geometric patterns and luxurious textures. The rooms and suites have sumptuous beds, thick rugs and marble bathrooms – giving the place a decadent home away from home feel. 

Villa Igiea has 100 rooms, including 25 suites

Located right on the water, most of the rooms offer private terraces that look out over the Gulf of Palermo and the hotel’s private jetty. In 1907, it’s said that King Edward VII, accompanied by his family and the Tsarina Maria Feodorovna of Russia, arrived on the Victoria and Albert royal yacht to take lunch at the hotel. Outdoors, the villa is surrounded by lush terraced gardens. A huge outdoor pool, complete with an ancient pillared ruin, is the perfect place to lie languid in the sun. For those keen to keep active, there are tennis courts and a gym. 

The outdoor pool at Villa Igiea

Eating and drinking

Florio – the hotel’s grand restaurant with an original Louis XVI hall – is the gastronomic heart of the property. In the evening you can have dinner on the outdoor terrace overlooking the water, where if you’re lucky, they’ll have a live pianist playing. A star dish that cannot be missed is the tonnarelli pasta cacio e pepe with raw Mazara red prawns. A speciality of chef Fulvio Pierangelini, everything about it is satisfying – from the umami richness of parmesan to the delicate, rose-hued sweetness of the shellfish. The entire menu is inspired by his philosophy of simplicity, generosity and ultimate quality and hopes to be a journey through Sicilian scents and culture.

Breakfast is a delightful buffet of Sicilian meats, cheese, focaccia, sun-ripened avocado, honey, fruits and nuts. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to check out the Iris “Palermitana” style. À la carte, I highly recommend the soft scrambled eggs with basil, tomatoes and wild oregano. 

Enjoy breakfast or dinner on the outdoor terrace overlooking the water

Things to do 

Palermo is a vibrant city of juxtaposing qualities. It’s raw and not polished, but if you appreciate somewhere that’s authentic and full of history and life, you’ll fall in love with its gritty charms. Villa Igiea is close enough to the city’s historic centre to be anywhere you want in 20 minutes, but far away enough that it remains serene and tranquil. The hotel offers a complimentary private shuttle that will take you to the heart of the action. 

For a chance to dress up in your finest and embrace the glamorous side of the city, visit the Teatro Massimo. This impressive pillared theatre offers world class opera, ballet, orchestras and concerts among other performances. You’ll need to book in advance to get the tickets you want. 

Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily

In the daytime, explore the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the oldest street in Palermo. Look up and you will see the nearby mountains – framed by the gorgeous stone building of the main street as you pass the cathedral and palazzi. Don’t forget to pick up a huge arancine from Ke Palle.

Also, don’t miss the food markets, which are reminiscent of Arab souks. The Mercato di Ballarò is the most famous. For the best experience, head earlier in the day to see bountiful fresh produce lining the streets. Come also with an empty stomach to sample the delicious street food.

Sofia Gymer was a guest of Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte Hotel. Rates start from €620 (approx. £538) per night in a deluxe room on a B&B basis. Salita Belmonte 43 Palermo, Sicily, Italy; 

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