Over the European summer, we were lucky enough to visit Andrea Quartucci’s luxury boutique hotel in Taormina, Sicily. The historic 19th century aristocrat mansion was acquired by Andrea in early 2007 and has recently undergone a magnificent transformation. It is now a luxury hotel comprising of 23 suites overlooking the ground’s lush gardens, private pool and southern Italy’s greatest views of the Mediterranean Sea. The hotel maintains its historic character (evidenced by original Roman catacombs in the lounge area), and is famous for its warm Sicilian hospitality.
Here were some of the things we loved about Villa Carlotta:
We sat with the hotel owner, Andrea Quartucci to find out a little more about the man behind the stunning establishment.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born in Taormina and raised in Rome because my parents sent me to study Law in Rome. I was a lawyer for about six years until the early '90s and then I realised I didn’t want to live in a big city, even though Rome is beautiful. So I decided to come back to Taormina and start a new life. I wanted to start in the hotel business because it’s always been my dream. My wife and I…we invented the boutique hotel without knowing it.
How did you come to open Hotel Villa Carlotta?
The building wasn’t for sale, but I have always loved this place since I was a child. I was looking for something charming and different because I don’t like modern buildings. I was trying to buy this property for two years before the owner finally gave in.
What is your favourite thing about this hotel?
Andrea smiles at the question. “The atmosphere you can feel. If it’s only one thing, then it’s the atmosphere. There’s something untouchable in the air.”
You have an amazing view in an amazing town – a lot of people would envy you. What do you think is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is definitely meeting a lot of interesting and amusing people from around the world. Enjoying the people from all over the world. It’s an amazing job, you grow up so much and you touch cultures from all over the world. When I get up in the morning I can’t wait to go to work, I thank God everyday for allowing me to have such an amazing life.
What do you think is the most important thing about running a boutique luxury hotel?
After careful consideration, Andrea answers thoughtfully, “I think it’s when the guests arrive, from the very first moment to the last moment, the stay must be hassle free, problem free, completely. From parking to choosing restaurants to sightseeing, it has to be problem free. For me, I’ve been in the business 25 years now, I have the know-how and I have the psychology. I always say to the guests who stay with us “first rest your mind, then rest your body”. They bring their problems from London, New York etcetera here, and it takes two, even three days until they can get rid of it, until they can emerge in the atmosphere of Taormina. Afterwards, they always say “Grazie Andrea!”
Have you had any VIP guests that you have been excited or nervous about?
My question causes Andrea to visibly tense. He answers slowly, “Yes we have. The Emir of Qatar (Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani) comes to Taormina every year with his giant yacht, his three wives and kids. Every year he comes and has dinner here and we reserve the whole restaurant for him. You can imagine how nervous the staff are. Security comes here in the morning and the Italian police wait outside. We have to be careful. They don’t eat nuts. No Alcohol. But, they love pasta."
You run Villa Carlotta, Villa Ducale, the apartments and Villa al Mare, how do you have the time to take care of them all?
Andrea laughs, “I have great organisation and great staff. Luckily everyone is very close, [the] apartments are 150m away and Villa Ducale is only 1km away [from Villa Carlotta]. I don’t have spare time. I live in the hotel all day because in such a boutique place, the presence of the owner is essential. Thankfully my wife, Rosaria manages Villa Ducale and between the two of us sharing the management responsibilities, it's able to work. I work in my office but I’m always around, I talk to the guests often. I talk to them like friends. However, during the winter we travel and I also do a lot of sport, like tennis and during the summer I love to spend time with my children at the beach. We love fishing and boating a lot. Like every Italian we are very fond of football, not soccer, football."
What are your favourite travel locations?
When we travel during the winter, we are always looking for sun and beach so we love going to Africa and Asia. For short breaks we like to see Paris, London; London is our favourite, or Italian cities like Rome for long weekends to shop, visit theatres and museums.
What is your favourite thing about Sicily?
Andrea smiles warmly at the thought of his home. “Climate, Culture and Food but most of all the friendliness, the sense of hospitality of the Sicilian people.