a magical evening at Castello San Marco

It is always a delight when a handsome young man tells you that the doors to his castle are always open to you.

Once upon a time on a faraway island

Off season our rescue dog Daisy loves a walk along a beach and one of her favourites is San Marco Beach which is around an 11 minute drive away from our home in Giardini Naxos and located near a small town called Calatabiano. San Marco is a long sandy slightly pebbly beach lined with tall Eucalyptus trees.

Behind the trees you can see high walls surrounding a beautiful building and gardens, this is Castello San Marco.

You get a tempting glimpse of the castle and its lush tropical gardens through its big iron gates and I have always been fascinated to go beyond the castle walls.

Whilst having breakfast one morning with my lovely friend Giusi of Walking Eolie & Sicily, she asked me if I had ever been to the Castello and I sadly replied "No, but I have always wanted to go". "Then we must go together" she said. So a date was set for an aperativo the following Monday evening.

Remotely located, the stunning Castello was built in 1689 as the country residence of Prince Ignazio Sebastiano Gravina Cruyllas, Prince of Palagonia who was the heir of a noble family close to the King of Spain. He used it for social occasions and meetings. Receipts dating back to 1690 show that the castle was built in record time within just two years.

In the early 1970's the castle was bought by the Murabito family who lovingly restored the building and its gardens to its former glory turning it into a unique charming 4 star hotel.

The castle is a place with a notable past and I was excited for our visit, Daisy got ready for her Cinderella moment and wore her bright pink diamante collar with her pink polka dot bandana. Castello San Marco is a dog friendly hotel.

On our arrival at the castle we were greeted at the gates by our host for the evening Valerio Murabito whose family own the property which he and his brothers manage in spectacular style.

Valerio has worked in London in one of London's top class hotels.

As you step beyond the castle gates your breath is taken away by the beauty and elegance of the castle and instantly you get a feeling of warmth and the depth of the historic surroundings and you really do feel like a Disney Princess.

Immersed within 4 hectares of parkland the main building is built in a typical Sicilian baroque style complete with turrets and a grand outside staircase. In the evening it is illuminated by warm welcoming lights creating a soft and soothing atmosphere. The perfect place to lose your glass slipper.

Valerio proceeded to give us a tour of his castle and its gardens. We visited at sunset and that night the sky was a glorious peachy pink shade with the sun setting over Mount Etna which is clearly seen from the gardens.

The castle's interior is decorated in a modern way boasting traditional Sicilian baroque touches and works of art and hand crafted furniture. Around every corner you are reminded of its aristocratic past with majestic halls, grand fireplaces and huge chandeliers.

As a hotel the castle has 30 suites and a junior suite which are located in the castle grounds. As you wander around the grounds and gardens along the cobbled pathways and under the archways of the castle the only sound you can hear is birdsong, soft music and a light breeze through the trees. There are lanterns everywhere lit with candles and snug places to sit and chill, so much so that it makes you feel that you never want to leave EVER.

What makes the castle so unique is that is still has a Palmento, the original wine press, which has been converted into a relaxing wine bar. There is also inside and outside dining serving delicious Sicilian cuisine to a high standard.

Additionally there is a sparkling swimming pool, a tennis court and the relaxing Aquae Leonis spa.

In the summer you are in for a real treat as the hotel boasts its own private beach named "Syrah", located on San Marco Beach. There are white sunbeds which nestle under canopies with billowing white curtains and you can swim in the clear blue waters of the Ionian Sea.

The castello really is like a fairy tale castle which makes it the perfect location for weddings.

Weddings and events can be held in either the gardens, the summer gazebo or the stunning banqueting hall or how about a beach wedding followed by a wedding breakfast and festivities at the castle?

The castle is also perfect for special occasions, conferences and meetings. On entering the banqueting hall I felt as if I had stepped back in time to the era of the legendary book Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) one of the greatest books of our time set in Sicily 1860 and I could just vision myself in the hall at a grand feast reminiscent of the dinner held by the main character the Prince of Salina or dancing at the ball where Angelica tempts Tancredi with her beauty in her gorgeous flowing ball gown.

After our tour we retired to a tranquil seating area in the gardens for our aperativo, drinking cocktails, prosecco, delicious white wine from the Gambino Winery which is located on the slopes of Mount Etna and Sicilian beer whilst Valerio enchanted us with tales of the castle's history.

The castle holds many special events throughout the year and its annual Ferragosto costume party with a roaring 1920's theme are legendary.

I would definitely recommend Hotel Castello San Marco particularly if you want a secluded relaxing holiday away from the buzz of Taormina. The hotel oozes romance and is the perfect place for a romantic getaway or honeymoon. It could also be your venue for a dream destination wedding.

Castello San Marco is approximately 25 minutes drive from Taormina and is ideally situated for visiting Mount Etna, the Alcantara Valley and Eastern Sicily. I would recommend car hire however local taxis and private drivers are readily available.

After our magical evening it was soon time to say goodbye to Valerio before the clock struck midnight. He had been the perfect host and said that the doors to the castle are always open to us. We left knowing that as is always the Sicilian way that we had made a new friend for life.

The End

For more Information and Booking visit www.castellosanmarco.it

You can also follow Castello San Marco on Facebook and Instagram

If you enjoyed this post then search my Blog archive for my post:
The Arabic/Norman Castello of Calatabiano (February 2017)

Additional Links:
Walking Tours with Giusi www.walkingeolie.com
Wine Tasting at Gambino Winery www.vinigambino.it

Il Gattapardo (The Leopard) is available in English on www.amazon.com

Photo Gallery

The Castle

The Beach
(Photo credit: Valerio Murabito)

and finally ......
a very happy Daisy at San Marco Beach

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