Sicily: Skip the big resort in The White Lotus and book one of these charming small hotels

La Calette is located close to Palermo and is one of our favourite boutique hotels in Sicily.
La Calette is located close to Palermo and is one of our favourite boutique hotels in Sicily.   -  Copyright  La Calette
By Ruth Wright

If HBO series The White Lotus has peaked your interest in the southen Italian island of Sicily, you're not alone. Travel agents have seen a huge uptick in enquiries since the series started in October, especially from US customers.

The series was filmed at the large Four Seasons' San Domenico Palace hotel in Taormina.

But as a resident of the island, I recommend you dig a little deeper in your accommodation search.

What's the advantage of small hotels?

Sicily is full of unique small and boutique hotels that allow you to experience the local culture while still enjoying luxury.

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 the largest island in the Mediterranean, we bring you the best small hotels in Sicily’s most popular tourist destinations.

Where was 'From Scratch' filmed in Sicily?

Netflix series 'From Scratch' has also peaked interest in Sicily since it was released earlier this year.

Based on a best-selling memoir "an artist finds romance with a chef in Italy and embarks on a life-changing journey of love, loss, resilience and hope across cultures and continents", according to Netflix.

In the third episode, Lino takes Amy back to where he was born and raised- north-west Sicily.

The hotel scenes were filmed at La Calette Garden and Bay, a hotel with amazing sea views day and night.

La Calette
La Calette Garden and Bay is just 2 kilometres from Cefalu's town centre.La Calette

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, the seaside resort is only a 20-minute walk away or accessible with the free hotel shuttle.

La Calette
There is direct access to the sea from a ladder on the deck.La Calette

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.

La Calette
Rooms are spacious with private areas indoors and out.La Calette

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 even 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 only has 12 available and was booked out for most of the summer.

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.

Principe da Salina
This hotel has an infinity pool to die for.Principe da Salina

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.

Principe da Salina
The terrace is the perfect place to curl up with a book and enjoy the quiet.Principe da Salina

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.

Principe da Salina
Food is made with local, seasonal ingredients.Principe da Salina

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 well-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.

Modica Boutique Hotel
There are rooms here to suit a variety of budgets.Modica Boutique Hotel

The rooms are all off long corridors and each floor has water and ice stations. There are rooms to suit a variety of budgets, but all are spacious and thoughtfully 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.

Modica Boutique Hotel
The hotel has stunning views of the city.Modica Boutique Hotel

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 you can imagine.

Monaci delle Terre Nere
This hotel is located at the foot of Mount Etna.Monaci delle Terre Nere

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 guests here.

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.

Monaci delle Terre Nere
There is more than enough to keep you occupied even with the region's unpredictable weather.Monaci delle Terre Nere

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 also 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

Lots of the filming for The White Lotus was done in Noto, so it should definitely be on your itinerary.

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.