Lodging Places

Casa Cuseni, a hidden gem in Taormina. Sicily. Italy.

MySlowTrip - Italy Sicily Taormina Casa Cuseni

A magic place to stay in Taormina, Sicily, Italy

What a gem! Casa Cuseni in the centre of Taormina was built by Robert Kitson in 1905. This British gentleman, a very wealthy heir of a Leeds locomotive manufacturer, had to flee homophobic Fin de Siecle London.

He settled here, bought the whole hill adjacent to the city centre and built this beautiful Villa, now a national historic site. It claims itself as the “First Hotel for Artists in Europe”.

On the ground floor there is a museum with original interiors from Kitson’s time. The interiors were designed by the famous painter and designer Sir Frank Brangwyn. Kitson hosted many famous artists here – Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Picasso, Roald Dahl, to name but a few. Coco Chanel was so inspired by patterns in the floor tiles of the gardens that she even incorporated them into her brand.

Signora Maria, the “pearl” of the house, gives a tour of the house and gardens, with her vivid stories putting the guests on a time travel. This place breathes history.

On the upper floors there are a few modernized apartments, very spacious, with stunning views from terrific terraces, and original interiors. I had the privilege of staying in Mr Kitson’s personal bedroom with his original desk. What a treat! Staying at the villa gives the guest such a warm and intimate feeling.

The gardens on several levels were landscaped by famous architects. Very romantic to stroll along, breathe the gentle Sicilian air and enjoy the bright colors from a lush vegetation and the enjoyable lapping of various fountains.

After Kitson’s death, the heritage became difficult as he had no children. At some point during WW II, even the Germans occupied the Villa. In 1947, when Kitson died, his niece, Daphne Phelps inherited the Villa. In her famous book “A House in Sicily” she vividly depicts the live at the Villa. Highly recommendable reading.

It is with great sadness to leave a place like that. But the warm farewell from Signora Maria and the padrone himself – Signore Francesco – made it less heartbreaking. And when Signore Francesco personally helped me with carrying my luggage down to my car, I got nearly embarrassed.