A chic conversion of an 18th century private home, the Villa Athena is something of a gem. It’s the only five-star hotel in an area filled with five star attractions, and the closest to the UNESCO World Heritage site that is the Valley of the Temples. One of Sicily’s most famous attractions, the Greek temples here date as far back as 510 BC and form a stunning frieze against the almost always azure sky. The Temple of Concordia is just metres from the hotel, and part of the ancient view. Pristine and glorious beaches are within easy reach too, perfect for cooling off between wandering around these incredible remnants.
The hotel itself has a strong sense of history, found in the artefacts preserved in its expansive gardens, not least an ancient Christian basilica. Every room has a view of the past too, either of the temples or of a twisty olive grove. Decorated in designer fabrics and understated hues, interiors have a timeless feel too, but with all the modern comforts and marble bathrooms you’d expect from a several-starred hotel. A pretty pool sits in the midst of the vast gardens, with the scent of Sicilian lemon and almond trees adding to the pleasure, as does the adjacent bar with a fine line in snacks suited to sunny days. A meal on the terrace of the much lauded main restaurant serves up splendid views as well as Sicilian specials including superb seafood, not least sea urchins. The cocktail bar set in the colonnades of this old building is the spot to linger in through those limpid island sunsets, the colour of a very Italian Aperol Spritz.