Villa Sant'Andrea, Taormina Mare, Sicily $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
This seafront hotel, located below Taormina proper in Taormina Mare, occupies its own private stretch of beach framing the Bay of Mazzarò. The ethereal setting wasn't enough to save the circa 1830 villa turned hotel from a long slump, but Orient-Express' takeover and renovation in 2010 firmly reversed that course. While the updates won't be completed until 2012, most of the Villa's 65 rooms have already been redone in a new, nautical style: a jaunty white-and-blue palette, seashell sconces, balconies facing the beach. The use of local stone and Sicilian materials is complemented by the artisanal treatments in the wellness center (try the orange blossom and jasmine massage) and the locally sourced ingredients at Restaurant Oliviero. The hotel's fishing boat can be commandeered for an exploration of the coast's coves and bays, but if that sounds too sporty, you can always wait for the Bellinis to make the rounds at the alfresco piano bar in the evening.—Raphael Kadushin
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