We stayed two nights at the Hilton in Giardini Naxos, making it our center of operation for seeing Mount Etna and Taormina. We arrived after dark but had no problems finding the hotel as it was clearly signed from the exit off the highway. Giardini Naxos was quite deserted at the end of November so parking was not a problem – typically the hotel charges €10 per night for parking, but due to the low number of guests, they waived this fee during our visit.
On our first night at the hotel there were only a handful of people using the facility; it was extremely quiet. However, that changed on the second night when a tour bus full of people checked in. Although we never heard any other people during our stay – it was very peaceful.
We checked into our room and the front desk had hinted that they had upgraded us to a special room. Wow! I’ve never stayed in a hotel room with a bedroom loft before! As we entered the room on the top floor, we found a living room and eating area with a full bathroom; steps off to the side led us up to the loft with a king size bed, second television, and second full bathroom. The balcony overlooked the beach beside the Ionian Sea. There was a plate of chocolate covered strawberries and marzipan waiting for us on the table. We felt much pampered! Add to this the free evening drinks in the lounge, free buffet breakfast and free Wi-Fi and I think we got a great deal at €84/night.
The hotel restaurant was very pricey and the menu didn’t really interest us so we headed across the street to the row of cafes and restaurants. We ate at a cozy café that served Italian food – we shared a pizza on night one and then returned the next night for pasta.
There was also a nice market nearby that was open each night until 8:00 pm where we were able to pick up supplies for lunch along with some drinks and snacks for our road trip.
The Hilton chain has purchased the property from another chain and it is still a bit run down, although nothing that a little cosmetic touches can’t help. There were lots of painted murals all around the lobby that were interesting to look at.
It was too chilly to use the pool or the beach, but we did stroll down there one morning where we enjoyed watching the fishermen and their dogs. The view of Mount Etna each morning was spectacular as the sun shone on the volcano before the clouds rolled in to hide the snow peak.
On our day excursions, the hotel was situated near the main road to the north side of Mount Etna. It took us about 30 minutes to make the drive up to the entrance of Piano Provenzana at Parco dell’Etna. And the hotel was only about 15 minutes from Taormina. All in all, it was a perfect location for us, allowing us to get on and off the autostrade quickly from the airport and on our way to the northern coast as we continued on our Sicilian journey.
This is a lovely hotel, the food is good and the service also. One complaint and it's serious: there are not enough sun beds on the hotel premises. You pay 14 euro - which is a lot - to lie on the beach. If this hotel were to place more sun beds on its sun terrace things would be wonderful! I would recommend it.
Its position is its greatest vantage point. It is very well set out both inside and out.
We booked a package tour as it's not easy to find direct flights to Sicily from Sweden, so this is where we based ourselves for a few days in between other trips around the island. Very nice duplex apartments which was great as my dad was travelling with us so he had his own top floor and there was also a balcony. Some rooms have Etna views and you can see the majestic volcano from all over the huge grounds. These grounds were in fact one of the reasons for picking this hotel since we were going with a five-year-old and she could indeed walk around a lot without us worrying too much about cars, and it was all green and pleasant. They also had a small childrens pool in the quite plain pool area. This was next to a restaurant which was always full unless you booked, but there were other little restaurants in a block just outside the hotel complex which is nice since it is not immediately in the centre of Giardini but a bit of a (nice) walk away. You are near a major bus stop for excursions and airport buses though and there is a beach just across the street in between two bigger hotels (belonging to those so you need to pay to use it). There is a small supermarket on site as well as tennis and football courts. I understand that they sometimes have special activities in high season (we stayed in May which was quiet).
So what is wrong...? Well...I guess you have to live with cockroaches in many a Mediterranean hotel but I have stayed in better ones all over the Med and escaped them so I guess they do have a problem here even if we only saw a couple in our bathrooms (that's enough for me). We also had to wait a long time to get checked in, even by charter standards. The kitchen was not the most equipped in the world either and we had to ask the cleaner to show us how the cooker worked. The tour operators which we travelled with claim in their recent catalogues that the hotel has undergone refurbishments in 2006 so who knows, they might have really upgraded it...
The huge gardens with lemon groves and Etna view.
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