Villa Carlotta is the sister hotel in Taormina of Villa Ducale, run by the same family, the Quartuccis. We have long approved of Villa Ducale's atmosphere, as have readers, and think that this new venture has a similar feel. Perhaps its main asset is the view: the building and grounds spread over a sizeable area of hillside and you not only look over a (usually) sparkling sea but inland to Mount Etna. An extra dimension is created by the respectable ancient remains in the grounds: a section of Roman road in rather good condition and some late Roman catacombs which guests can explore close up.

  The building is late 19thC, put up by local nobility who wanted to impress the neighbours. They modelled it on a 14thC fortress, and the result is indeed massive and eye-grabbing. Inside, the Quartuccis have spent serious money redecorating in a style appropriate to the building, with much (occasionally unrestrained) use of expensive fabrics. The bedrooms and suites are all individually designed; a major feature is Sicilian cherry wood furniture.

  There's a lovely sheltered pool, but if you want to be by the sea, descend to the hotel's Lido Stockholm, where you can sip a cocktail in comfort on an area of private beach; boat trips arranged. Villa Carlotta is a typical small luxury hotel; this is definitely a class act.