Hotel Guide: Hotel Villa Athena in Agrigento, Sicily

Hotel Villa Athena’s Villa Suite has a king-size bed, separate living area and a terrace with views of the entire Valley of the Temples archaeological park.
Hotel Villa Athena’s Villa Suite has a king-size bed, separate living area and a terrace with views of the entire Valley of the Temples archaeological park.

From the Terrace of the gorgeous Hotel Villa Athena in Agrigento, Sicily, the view of the massive Greek temple across the ridgeline is extraordinary. The ancient Doric columns are golden in the sun and luminous in the evening light. The hotel is actually within the Archaeological Park of the Valley of the Temples — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and stands only 650 feet from the 5th century BC Temple of Concordia.

Since the Valley of the Temples is a must-visit spot in Sicily, it stands to reason that Villa Athena, a five-star member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, with its own private access to the park, is the only place to stay. Even the name is evocative: It was christened “Athena” by owner Stefano D’Alessandro’s father, who found an ancient coin bearing the face of the goddess on the property.

The 300-year-old villa is intimate and private, surrounded by gardens and groves of olive and lemon trees. The walls and furniture are icy white, bringing a cool ambiance on a hot summer’s day and setting off the bright colors of the hand-painted Sicilian floor tiles. There are 27 rooms, including four suites.

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Sampling the Accommodations

The Villa Suite, No. 205, is in a corner of the villa, with wide windows and a huge private terrace offering a panorama of the Valley of the Temples, olive trees and glimpses of the large hotel pool. There is a king bedroom and a living room, both with views of the Temple of Concordia and beyond.

The decor, as elsewhere within the property, is all white, with stunning tiled floors and vintage paintings providing the color. There is a walk-in shower in the modern bath and a sunken hydro-massage pool in the living room. Who says romance is gone?

Room No. 107, on the ground floor in front, has a terrace overlooking the temples. The spacious bath features a tub-and-shower combination. This room can be connected with Room No. 106 for a larger group or a family traveling together. Note: Guests wishing a bathtub at Hotel Villa Athena may request a room fitted with a tub.

The 300-year-old villa is surrounded by gardens and groves of olive and lemon trees.
The 300-year-old villa is surrounded by gardens and groves of olive and lemon trees. 

Another possibility is Superior Room No. 305, with a panoramic view, and the adjacent Room No. 304, handsomely decorated; it has a window, but no temple view.

The Villa Athena Spa, opened just over a year ago, is managed by Dany Cacciatore. A very old wine-and-olive oil storage building on the property, complete with ancient Greek cistern, was restored to house the spa, which has two treatment centers; there are another two in the pool area. The spa offers face and body treatments for both men and women, as well as a variety of massage therapies. The white decor here is again set off by colorful Sicilian tiles.

Dinner and “I Do’s”

The restaurant and bar, Terrazza degli Dei, offers Italian and Sicilian cuisine for lunch and dinner, with some excellent fish choices, including local pesce spada (swordfish) and calamari. The desserts are beautifully presented, especially the Sicilian specialty, cassata. Of course, the views are as spectacular as everywhere else on the property. There is a sumptuous breakfast buffet.

Note: Some guests are happy to find that lunch is available until 6 p.m.

The hotel is an ideal place for a small destination wedding, with various terraces and garden areas to choose from. There is ample space for parking and the hotel is easy to find for international visitors who opt to drive themselves.

Guests staying longer after nuptial events or tours of the Valley of the Temples will find many places to visit in the area around Agrigento. Our favorite is the astonishing Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks), a brilliant white staircase cliff, high above the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle, 20 minutes away from Agrigento. The Scala rises between two sandy beaches and is a favorite spot for sunbathers, as well as hikers. It is a candidate for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The site was named after the Moorish pirates, who ravaged southern Sicily in centuries past, because the local people called all pirates “Turks.”

For more information, e-mail [email protected]; call at 011-390-922-596-288; or get in touch through Skype (hotelvillaathenaagrigento). Salvatore Ferraguto is the contact at the front desk.

Nearby: “Magnifica Cycling Tour”

To paraphrase a famous line from the iconic mafia movie,“The Godfather,” Tourissimo is making Millennials an offer they can’t refuse. Travel Agent recently sat down with representatives of Tourissimo, an Italian destination specialist for active travel vacations, and learned all about the company’s new “Sicily Magnifica Cycling Tour,” in which clients can explore the dark, violent history of the Sicilian mafia.

As part of the Sicily Magnifica Cycling Tour, which runs from October 22-29, clients will visit the town of Corleone, made famous by the aforementioned Francis Ford Coppola mafia film. (A similar tour will be offered again next May, September and October). Although Marlon Brando’s famous “The Godfather” character, Vito Corleone, is fictional, the town he hailed from in the movie is very much real.

In fact, according to Tourissimo representatives, two of the most cruel mafia bosses ever were born in Corleone, prompting author Mario Puzo to write about Corleone. Puzo wrote the book that would be converted into the American film classic.

After the movie, Sicily became synonymous with the mafia and “omerta,” the code of silence, says Beppe Salerno, managing director of Tourissimo. Nowadays, the places where the mob used to rule are seeing a rebirth thanks to the government and to new generations believing in a legal alternative for making money: tourism. – Joe Pike

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