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In Cefalù, This Hotel Is a Love Letter to Sicily’s Soul

09 July 2024
by Giadzy
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In the fishing village of Cefalù, one family has been building a legacy of warm Sicilian hospitality for 50 years. 

On the northern coast of Sicily, the town of Cefalù is a quiet stop halfway between Palermo and Messina. Often overlooked for more famous destinations on the island, Cefalù’s subdued reputation as a sleepy fishing port makes it a perfect option for travelers looking to experience the real Sicily. The narrow medieval streets of the hilltop town overlook the gorgeous coast, and ancient buildings like the central 12th-century duomo show off a stunning blend of Islamic and Western architecture. Restaurants showcase incredibly fresh fish in homey, traditional dishes, and the beaches are sandy and calm.  

It was this charm that won over Sicilian engineer Santino Cacciola in the late 1960s. After completing some work in the Cefalù area, he was enchanted by the beauty of its coastline and bought a stretch of land along the bay to build a family home that would also be an oasis for travelers. More than 50 years later, that property, Le Calette, is a hidden gem of a five-star hotel run by Santino’s daughter and granddaughter. Le Calette BeachNamed for the small coves that nestle in this undulating coastline, the hotel follows the curve of the bay with uninterrupted views toward the Aeolian islands. Santino’s daughter, Francesca, and her husband, architect Angelo Miccichè, helped evolve the hotel over a series of terraces, which now include a main hotel building, private villas, and three restaurants.  

The sunny pool deck and bar have a view of the coves below, while the tranquil spa is tucked under the pool level, like entering a secret underwater grotto. Wander down a winding garden path to reach the Caletta Selvaggia, a secluded beach cove sheltered by craggy faraglioni rocks, or take the shuttle to the hotel’s main beach club, where loungers and umbrellas are laid out for guests to spend the day by the water.  the Cacciola familyGaia Miccichè, Francesca’s daughter, says, “Growing up at Le Calette was magical. It was like a huge playground for me.” She loved chatting with guests, and remembers her grandfather identified early on that she would be the one to carry on the family legacy – he would joke that the young Gaia was his double and call her Santina.  

Though she left Italy to attend university and worked for UNESCO in Paris and Ethiopia, her heart remained in Cefalù. In 2020, she returned to her home at Le Calette. “My heart remained in the bay and among the sea stacks where I grew up,” she explains. “I always knew [my early moves] were temporary.” 

Drinks at Le Calette

Today, a visit here begins with a welcome drink by the pool, followed by a tour of the sweeping grounds. The welcoming staff are quick to offer local recommendations to personalize your stay, and both Francesca and Gaia are on the property every day. You’ll even see Gaia’s dog, Cindy, following close behind her owner wherever she goes – the sweet pup loves meeting guests!  

Francesca has outfitted the rooms and public areas with work from artists and craftspeople to showcase the best of Sicilian style. Rooms have unique painted tile murals, textiles, and other handmade touches, and gorgeously sculptural ceramic bowls made just a few miles away hang on the walls. “I often say that Le Calette reflects my mother's soul,” says Gaia. 

In addition to Le Calette, the family also own the hotel Alberi del Paradiso on a hilltop on the other side of the city, as well as the bakery Mon Chou-Chou in the city center. For an authentic experience of the romance and beauty of Sicily’s coast, you won’t do better than a stay with this welcoming family at the home they have built over three generations.  

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