Grand Hotel Villa Politi, Syracuse
1 reviews from the community
Review of "Grand Hotel Villa Politi, Syracuse"
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The Internet generation are lucky people indeed. I’m old enough to recall that little period in travel history during the mid-late 1990’s where the cut price airlines were in existence but directly booking hotels abroad was tricky (I can remember having a stressful and expensive call to a hotel owner in Greece to book a room direct, and being only fully certain that they had understood my requirements on the day we turned up at their reception).These days the internet means you get the best prices by booking in advance, and most people wouldn’t dream of rocking up in Barcelona at 8 in the evening, knocking on doors down the backstreets of La Rambla with the hope of hunting down a room for the night.
A little accommodation malfunction
While of course I had pre-booked a hotel room for our December visit to Syracuse on the Italian island of Scilly, but during our flight I had a nagging feeling that I hadn’t checked my email for a few days and as night followed day (and after a 50 minute walk round the outskirts of Syracuse with a heavy backpack as we lost our direction enroute), we finally arrived at our original hotel to find it shuttered and abandoned. I later found out that a family death meant the owners were out of town and had cancelled our booking a few days previously and offering an alternative.Thankfully early December isn’t really peak visiting time for Syracuse and a quick retire to a local cafe with internet access to both calm our beating hearts and to regroup, soon found us rejecting the replacement offer and instead snagging a bargain room for the next 3 nights at the 4 Star Grand Villa Politi Hotel. At less than £60 a night for a room and breakfast, it was a steal although I wouldn’t recommend trying the same tactic in August and expecting a last minute bargain.
A big hole built by blood sweat and tears
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Grand Villa Politi Hotel is that it is almost completely surrounded by misery. The misery is in the form of a massive hole which almost completely surrounds the hotel.
Syracuse was the largest city in the ancient world, and run by the Ancient Greeks. The place is dotted with buildings made from grand limestone blocks and the city used prisoners of war to mine, eat and sleep down huge limestone quarries for the rest of their days. Even though it was around 2,500 years ago I couldn’t help but peer down the 150 foot hole which surrounded our hotel and feel compassion for the hard lives of the people who made that dint in the landscape. OK I admit; it was a fleeting thought as I sipped my glass of finely made Italian red on the terrace.Unfortunately as it was winter the path down to the bottom of the hole around the hotel was closed as it was slippery (and the fencing around the hole was rotted in placed), so one day we walked the mile or so to the main archeological site in Syracuse to take a look at the Greek and Roman theatres and to take a look around a similar limestone quarry there. At this part of the quarry, there is a huge partly man made cave, the Ear of Dionysius, where the slaves used to sleep at night. Dionysius was the city ruler and apparently he could hear any plotting by the slaves at night as their voices were amplified. Note: cute stories like this are probably too cute to be real.
I assume the cave started as a natural tissue in the rock which was then taken down as the base of the quarry sank (not least the sleeping prisoners of war would find it more and more difficult jumping into and out of their beds at night as the floor level dropped further and further) but that was guess work, and I was disappointed not to find out more about the slaves and the quality of life they might have led.
Back on the surface and at the hotelThe Grand Villa Politi Hotel is indeed grand and the 100 room hotel dates from 1862 and looks much like a grand home with a wide sweeping front to it. That big hole means the hotel isn't necessarily the place of choice for these not liking heights. Our room (next to the Winston Churchill Suite - don't you find any reasonable quality Med hotel has one; he liked the freebie holiday in his old age) had an almost vertical drop from the balcony down the 150+ foot.
The wonderful thing about the hole is that you have no neighbours. At home we live a couple of hundred metres down an unadopted track and so traffic noise is minimal. I was delighted that in a busy town we had the same lack of nuisance noise.Check in was polite and efficient and we passed through the reception rooms which really have a classic wow factor; lovely marble flooring and wood panelling and doors and nicely proportioned rooms. Along a long corridor to the equivalent of the easyJet departure gate (the cheap seats at the end) and we were very pleasantly surprised by the size and quality of our room. It had two single beds pushed next to each other and was a goodly size, quite traditional and a slight yellow theme going on.
We loved that we had a balcony, and even better, this balcony led onto a spur of land usually used in summer as an outdoor space but in winter it had restricted access. It meant that each afternoon we had our own private terrace space with about 50 seats on it. Unless you end up with room 130 in winter, then please don't expect similar, but we loved our time with Spotify Jack Garrett and a bottle of wine, while we pondered the hole and its builders.
Location and a couple of local eatsThe hotel is a bit out of town but a quick 20 minute hike into the town centre down a gentle slope is little hardship and we were perfectly happy with the location. There is a simple and friendly bar (Drago) just down the road if you want drink and food and the weather is terrible, and of course the hotel has its own dining room if you wish to use it. Bar Drago was a perfectly pleasant place with a patio surrounded by a busy road, but with a good view down the coastline into Syracuse a mile or so down the hill. The cafe bar is open just for drinks too and can get quite lively. While I didn’t have any the Italian sweets looked fantastic.
A little further afield, but about mid way between the centre of town and the hotel is the slightly bizarre Cantina Mexicana. The restaurant is located in a building that looks like an old scout hut or barn and much effort has been deployed on bits of modern Mexicana from beer advertising signs, bits of cloth and wacky hats.The food was a reasonable choice of Mexican food and there was the addition of Mexican pizza which looked great but all that Italian bread has already made me like the first middle aged male pregnancy. I wasn't sure what I wanted so I chose a slightly larger dish with a little bowl of chilli, a chicken and a chilli wrap and black beans, a tiny bowl of guacamole, sour cream and shredded lettuce.
Unfortunately the dish arrived on a much scratched plastic plate with a protruding nipple in its centre. I know novelty food platters shaped like a Mexican hat are supposed to "delight" but its rather shabby state made me feel I was dining from a dog bowl and I think I was about 4 when I was last presented with a plastic plate to eat off. It let the place down and it did nothing to keep the food warm.The food itself was actually nice and fresh and light. Unlike some Mexican restaurants they had thankfully avoided the curse of the stodgy. I would have liked my dish hotter (in both senses of the word) and it’s a shame there wasn't a little bottle of chilli sauce kicking around on the table.
We didn't time our evening well as it seemed the restaurant has a new toy; a karaoke machine. I don't mind them in their place, but the middle of a meal seemed like a rather strange experience. After a version of the Italian language version of Bowie's Life on Mars it was time for us to make a fairly hurried exit.Our meal for two came in at around 33 Euros which wasn't bad and we had a filling, pleasant meal albeit that I didn't enjoy the scratched scrubby plate or particularly the entertainment.
A local homage to fascism: the Monument to Syracuse Fallen in Africa
I find it positive that the Monument to the Fallen in Africa is these days largely used as a meeting point for weekend cycling groups and for teens to practice their drawing (using a spray can of paint), drinking and loving skills on an evening. When you consider the statue was a massive statement piece designed just prior to World War 2 for the fascist government of the day to stamp its authority on one of its colonies in Africa and originally destined to sit in the city of Addis Ababa, it’s nice to think that folk like Mussolini would be rolling in their graves to think of the freedom that people have today to reject and ignore such a controlling government.The cunning plans for world domination were spoilt by war and so eventually the government in the 1950's decided to plonk the completed and massive sculpture on a hillside above Syracuse, and a short walk from our hotel. I rather get a lovely image of the prime minister of the day getting fed up of this huge lump of rock spoiling the view from his bedroom window (I can't imagine where it really was stored for 15 years or more).
The monument is a big square box with brutal hunky strong figures of men who were considered heroes of their day. There's etched images of tanks and tools of death. I guess if the Italian government hadn't found a home for it, then the statue could grace some grand gay nightclub somewhere.I do actually quite admire that very distinctive style of art; definitely 1930's, definitely dictator material and built to stand for generations. Eighty years on, it is still in remarkably good condition although most of the surfaces are littered with paint sprayed name tags and crude images of male dangly bits.
In truth the statue probably isn't worth visiting in itself, but it’s probably worth a quick detour out of the hotel just to see it.
Once more at the Hotel: ablutions and breakfastThe shower was good and we liked the free toiletries too; no problems there either. Breakfast likewise was very good with fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurt, bread, cakes, cheese, jams, tea and coffee galore.
Finire (as the Italians might say)
To sum up we really couldn't fault our experience at Grand Hotel Villa Politic. We stay at a range of hotels and have stayed in plenty of quality hotels in our time. While in terms of look the hotel has style and class rather than modern and shiny, we liked the personal attention to detail, and this is obviously a well run quality hotel.The hotel might feel a little “out of the way” for the city centre, but there is plenty of interest in the immediate area. Of course interesting is in the eye of the beholder, but if you like fascist architecture, Mexican karaoke bars, holes and thinking of Greek slaves flogging themselves to death then the Grand Villa Politi Hotel might just be the place for you.
* A mix of new content and reviews written by yours truly and posted at tripadvisor
Product Information : Grand Hotel Villa Politi, Syracuse
Manufacturer's product description
Address: Via Maria Politi Laudien, 2, 96100 Siracusa
Rating: 4 Stars
Listed on Ciao since: 30/01/2017