The building today hosting Taormina’s luxury Ashbee Hotel was named Villa San Giorgio; construction works began in 1907 on a project by English Architect Charles Robert Ashbee on commission by Colonel Shaw-Hellier, an English veteran who, at one point in his life, had decided to leave England and move to Sicily. He had bought a plot of land in Taormina with a view onto the Strait of Messina right behind the Church of St. Pancrazio, built on the ruins of a Greek temple dedicated to Serapis Zeus. In January 1907 he invited Architect Ashbee, a close friend of his, to spend a few days in Taormina and entrusted him with the project of a house to be built right on that plot of land.
Charles Robert Ashbee, born in London in 1863, son of a rich merchant, was one of the most significant and influential representatives of the Arts and Crafts movement, founded in England in the late 19th century by William Morris as an alternative to Victorian traditions. The aim of the movement was creating “an English style for England”; the quest for new forms of artistic expression resulted in the adoption of Gothic as a new national style and the rejection of more traditional ones. Once in Sicily, Ashbee got to know some of the world’s most fascinating places and absorbed the distinguishing features of Sicilian architecture; as a matter of fact, Ashbee wrote in his diary that nowhere else had he seen a place with so many magnificent buildings as Sicily.
Ashbee would project houses in places he was very familiar with, where he often had been living for years. That is because he loved to convey a sense of daily life through his projects, giving them specific artistic and historical connotations within the local social context. Therefore, Ashbee would take the social context into great consideration upon projecting a house and apply specific references to the surroundings in order to fit the new house into a whole (instead of creating a standalone element).
What makes Villa San Giorgio truly interesting from a historical and artistic point of view is the well-chosen concoction of two different traditions: Sicilian architecture and English cosmopolitism.
A huge photographic archive of Charles Robert Ashbee’s visit to Taormina and Villa San Giorgio project and construction works is still preserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s National Library in London whereas the original drawings of the house are kept at the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute British Architects and in Colonel Shaw-Hellier’s English house at Wonbourne Wodehouse in Staffordshire. Plus, Ashbee used to scribble his journey reflections on his diaries which are today on display at the Cambridge King’s College and Victoria and Albert Museum’s National Library.
Today Villa San Giorgio has been turned into a luxury hotel which offers a wide range of exclusive services, in cooperation with Sicily’s most luxurious partners. It is the ideal place where to leave off from the daily routine and to enjoy a complete relax, just a few steps away from the Central Taormina. Since 2011, The Ashbee Hotel has firmly established itself as a leader on the Sicilian boutique hotel scene.
From our soft-opening to the 1st Michelin Star, discover how we became the Taormina hotel where art meets contemporary style.