Sicily is full of unique charm and boutique hotels are the perfect way to experience local culture while enjoying luxury. Their smaller size also means more space and less mixing with large crowds, a positive for many travellers since the pandemic.
But, as in many countries, what is meant by a boutique hotel isn’t always clear.
One of the options on this list is more of a business hotel, despite being called boutique. While another is a boutique hotel through and through - for all the right reasons. So make sure you do your research and check that what you’re booking is definitely the type of hotel you’re looking for.
Moving clockwise around this Mediterranean island, we bring you the best small hotels in Sicily’s most popular tourist destinations.
Cefalu - Le Calette Garden and Bay
Cefalu is most popular for day trips from Palermo, Sicily’s biggest city and only an hour away by train. But there’s plenty to see, do, eat and drink here so it’s worth reserving two or three days for this historic beachside town.
Le Calette Garden and Bay is located 2km from the town centre, tucked away in a bay with sparkling blue water. It’s a small resort with everything you need on your doorstep. So much so that I imagine lots of guests don’t even make it into Cefalu town. For those that do, this charming seaside resort is only a 20-minute walk away or accessible with the free hotel shuttle.
The main hotel area is very spacious, with a gorgeous pool and bar area. One level down is a terrace where breakfast is served alongside stunning views out over the sea. Still further below that is Calette Reef Club (open from June to September) where there’s another bar, sun loungers and a private deck. I recommend taking the ladder down to the sea and swimming out from here to discover the tiny hidden beach around the corner from the bay.
All of the Le Calette hotels are family-run and they’ve been in business since 1969. It shows in the smooth running and excellent service. Reception staff were especially helpful; on-hand throughout my stay to answer any questions about the hotel’s services, such as the spa and yoga classes.
Le Calette’s five stars really shine through in its selection of rooms. They feel spacious inside and out thanks to the private outdoor areas. The decor feels high-end and the small touches like fresh fruit really make the experience.
Double rooms start at €198 and can be booked here.
Salina, Aeolian Islands - Principe da Salina
Salina is my favourite Aeolian island and Principe da Salina has now become my favourite hotel - certainly in Italy and maybe in the whole of Europe. It was a real find and, it turns out, I was lucky to get a room at the last minute. It has only 12 available and was booked out for most of the summer, even this year.
There are so many small touches that complete this tranquil hideout, like the sulphuric geothermal pool, meant to improve circulation, and the linen sarongs for use by guests. Not to mention the exquisite home cooking, impeccable interior design and an infinity pool to die for.
My garden room had a beautiful terrace complete with a hanging chair looking out to sea. It was the perfect spot to curl up with a book, especially as the whole hotel was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. This was one of my favourite things about Principe - the silence that envelops the whole place. Within a few hours of arriving, I’d forgotten about life stresses, safe in the knowledge that my only duty here was to relax and enjoy.
Needless to say, the quiet atmosphere makes it unsuitable for families with small children. Most of the other guests were couples or solo travellers. I got the feeling many of them were escaping busy lives and high-pressure jobs.
Principe is run by a family and you really do feel welcomed into their fold. The matriarch is the mastermind behind the food, made with local, seasonal ingredients. It’s really high quality but very reasonably priced, with filling lunch plates from €10.
Anita, daughter and manager, will be happy to book you wine tasting at one of the nearby vineyards. She also gave us recommendations for restaurants in Santa Marina, the centre of Salina, if you can call it that. Though I must warn you, don’t expect to see much of the island as it’s hard to pull yourself away from the warm embrace of Principe.
Prices for a double room start at €170 and can be booked here.
Modica - Modica Boutique Hotel
The first thing that struck me about Modica Boutique Hotel was the location. It is in the shopping area of Modica, rather than in the historic centre, and is attached to a petrol station. Despite this slightly odd choice of location, there’s a lot to recommend about this business hotel.
It has a spacious and nicely designed lobby area, designed by CaberlonCaroppi, that leads on to the restaurant. Food is served here all day and there’s a good selection of Italian and international dishes.
The rooms are all off of long corridors and each floor has water and ice stations which was a nice touch. There are rooms to suit a variety of budgets but all are spacious and nicely designed.
With easy access to the main road in and out of Modica, this is the perfect place for business travellers. The wifi was flawless and the rooms are very quiet. This atmosphere made it a great place to work - and get a good night’s sleep. There’s also a meeting room on the ground floor for hire.
If you do want to explore the old town or visit the hotel’s private beach, there are shuttle services to both. This is the perfect way to reach the old town, especially, as narrow streets and lack of parking mean it’s too much hassle to take your own car.
Double rooms start at €90 and can be booked here.
Mount Etna - Monaci delle Terre Nere
If you want hikes and adventure during the day and peace and solitude by night, this is the place for you. Wine lovers also take note.
Monaci delle Terre Nere is a 25-hectare estate at the foot of Mount Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano. They grow the grapes for six types of wine (all delicious) alongside more fruit and vegetables than I can list.
The produce grown on the estate is woven into every part of the experience, from the fruit basket awaiting you in your room to the lunch and dinner menu which changes daily. I did feel the food was overpriced, especially for Sicily where you can usually eat for €30 a head including wine. But the helipad gave me the sense that money’s not an issue for most clientele.
The rooms are in chalets dotted around the Monaci delle Terre Nere. There’s so much land between them that you feel like you’ve got your own private estate. Until, that is, a golf buggy sails past the window - the mode of transport used to ferry guests around.
I was in a Deluxe Estate Suite and it was breathtaking. It had a bedroom, a living room, two bathrooms and even a walk-in closet. The sofa in the living room doubles up as a bed so you can comfortably fit a group of friends here.
I was at Monaci in late September and it was a cloudy and grey weekend. This isn’t unusual for Mt Etna where the weather is as unpredictable as the volcano itself. I would normally have been disappointed, but our suite was so special that I was happy not to feel compelled to venture out. I lit the fire, connected up the in-room Bose speaker and whiled the afternoon away, ending with a dip in the private pool.
All in all, Monaci is a great choice if you want luxury while experiencing the majestic Mt Etna.
Prices for a double room start at €395 and can be booked here.
Noto - Masseria degli Ulivi
Masseria degli Ulivi is a 10-minute drive from Noto, one of the island’s best baroque towns, and Sicily’s gay capital. But staying here, you wouldn’t know you’re so close to a busy metropolitan centre. Masseria degli Ulivi feels like a real countryside retreat.
The olives that the hotel is named after produce oil late into the year, but it’s available to buy year-round. I sampled it at dinner and it was golden in colour and rich in flavour. Homemade produce is a signature here, with freshly baked bread at dinner and homemade jams at breakfast. All of these treats were exceptionally good, making the food my favourite part of the stay.
At the centre of Masseria is a large outdoor pool which looks out over the countryside. Like the whole hotel, this area is simply designed. You won’t find any manicured lawns or velvet sofas here. Instead, the décor is traditional Sicilian style. In keeping with this, our room was decorated in calming whites and neutral colours.
Unlike most hotels, there’s no USB outlets or fancy tech. But I enjoyed this as it meant switching off my devices for an impromptu digital detox. The service is similarly unfussy. The staff are around if you need them, but they’re not intrusive or overbearing.
Overall, I had a really relaxing stay at this laidback country hotel. I’ll definitely be back.
Double rooms start at €101 and can be booked here.
Ruth Wright was a guest of Modica Boutique Hotel, Monaci delle Terre Nere and Masseria degli Ulivi. All views are her own.