Checking in to Asmundo di Gisira is like hunting for treasure in an alternate universe – you never know what you might find, but you’re sure to pick up something utterly unique along the way. This boldly designed art boutique is a canvas for Catania’s creative side. Each individually decorated space is the result of various collaborations with largely local artists, resulting in a masterfully curated mash-up of modern art and antiques. The Art Rooms are dedicated to fantastical figures from Sicilian mythology, including crocodile-wrestling heroes and elephant-enamoured mages, so you can piece together your bedtime stories from the artistic hints around you while your imagination really runs riot.
Get this when you book through us:
A VIP check-in, a tour of an art gallery and a set of Ortigia bath products
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2.30pm.
Double rooms from £141.81 (€161), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a breakfast of home-baked pastries and Sicilian savoury favourites (with eggs cooked to order), made exclusively using local ingredients from Catania’s historic market (just a cannoli’s throw down the street).
The Aci e Galatea room is suitable for guests with mobility issues.
At the hotel
Rooftop solarium, reading room, private dining room with open-kitchen, charged laundry service and free WiFi. In rooms: smart TV, electric diffuser with natural essences, minibar stocked with organic treats, tea-making kit, coffee machine and Ortigia bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each stay at Asmundo di Gisira (divided between Art Rooms and Neoclassic Rooms) is truly one-of-a-kind. Choosing which exhibition space you’d like to sleep over in really comes down to picking out your favourite artwork. For the biggest bathroom in the palazzo (and your own piano for in-suite serenades) opt for the Bellini Suite, which takes its name from the Catania-born opera composer, Vincenzo Bellini. You’ll find some words of encouragement in metallic lettering above the bed, which read, “You make my heart go boom boom.” We’re sure Bellini would have agreed.
Available to rent by the hour, the spa’s hand-made cedar-wood sauna, Swedish shower, hammam, sensorial shower and ozone therapy tub are all infused with the hotel’s signature scent, plus chromotherapy lighting.
Factoring in the Sicilian heat you’ll have to contend with during the island’s sweltering summers, breezy linens and a pair of oversized shades are best. But don’t be afraid to go bold with your colours and prints for your own Monica Vitti moment.
Bathing at this hotel is quite an experience in itself. Some of the bathrooms continue the spa’s chromotherapy theme, others feature original floor tiles that have been upcycled onto the walls – and the Uzeta room’s five-metre-high monsoon shower quite li
Welcome, but you’ll mostly find grown-up gallerists here.
This plastic-free property rarely strays from its Sicilian roots, championing natural, recycled materials, and choosing to purchase locally wherever possible – including the market-fresh produce served at breakfast, the Ortigia amenities (one of Sicily’s most luxurious exports) and the artwork on the walls – which, for the most part, has been created by local artists.
Any of the alfresco tables on the first-floor terrace come with sweeping city views, but you can also request to take breakfast on the rooftop (for an additional charge).
Whatever you’d wear to an art gallery, as that’s where you’ll be dining.
There’s no restaurant as such, but the ornately decorated private dining room (plus open kitchen) on the hotel’s second floor can be booked out by residents for brunch and dinner. Rustic Sicilian light bites (locally cured meats and cheese) are also served on the sun-soaked rooftop terrace, presented on cactus-style plates, which tie in with the surrounding succulents and fragrant potted plants.
Bitter blood-orange negronis and limoncello-based cocktails flow freely from the first-floor bar, accompanied by – you guessed it – Sicilian-inspired artworks. A stitched collage of old Mediterranean maps and island photographs by Palermo-based artist Rossana Taormina hangs alongside a whimsical mural by Swedish illustrator Daniel Egnéus depicting elephants, donkeys, butterflies and cacti – with a Sicilian story behind each drawing. Aperitivi and slow-food snacks can also be enjoyed up on Rooftop Gisira from 6pm each evening, just as the clouds above Etna begin to turn a dusky pink.
Breakfast is from 7.30am to 10.30am.
In-room dining (available between 8am and 11pm) is a feast for the eyes in your own private gallery space.
In the heart of the Old Town, Asmundo di Gisira is just a saunter down the street from La Pescheria market – also counting Catania’s cathedral and the Elephant Fountain as neighbours.
Catania-Fontanarossa Airport (also known as Vincenzo Bellini Airport) is just a 20-minute drive away, and the hotel can help to arrange transfers for €30 one-way. If you’re starting your trip on the northern side of Sicily, you could fly into Falcone Borsellino Airport (Palermo Airport) and work your way around the island.
Catania Centrale is 10 minutes by car from the hotel, with easy connections to Palermo, Messina and Syracuse. Ask the hotel about its station pick-up and drop-off service, which costs €15 one-way.
There’s not much need for a car if your stay in Catania is fleeting, but much of Sicily’s coastal and rural charms are best discovered with some (ideally small, whizzy) wheels – particularly given Catania’s proximity to Mount Etna, which is steaming out for a visit. The hotel’s valet parking service is available on request for €20 each night (from 7.30am until 8pm).
Worth getting out of bed for
Don’t expect the aristocratic air of Palermo – Catania’s charcoal streets are a little rough around the edges (much of the dark lava stone used to build the Baroque palazzi was hewn from Etna itself), but the city feels all the more characterful for it. A short, urban-safari stroll from Asmundo di Gisira is the curious (and rather comical) Elephant Fountain, a lava-stone Roman statue known locally as Liotru, which stands on an Egyptian obelisk in the centre of Piazza del Duomo. The south-west corner of this Unesco-listed piazza – a photographer-pleasing mish-mash of lava and limestone – leads onto Catania’s delightfully raucous La Pescheria, a daily fish market brimming with glistening seafood. This is as good a people-watching spot as it is the locally approved place to pick up the catch of the day. The classically inclined should visit Museo Civico, for the Biscari archaeological collection of colossal sculptures, Greek pottery and ancient mosaics, displayed within the imposing 13th-century Castello Ursino. And of course, it would be impossible to visit Catania without paying some sort of homage to its operatic legend, Vincenzo Bellini – whether it’s joining local dog-walkers for a sunny stroll around the picturesque Giardino Bellini, or stepping through the stucco and marble entrance of Teatro Massimo Bellini for a suitably lavish night at the opera. For some of the most magnificent views of Mount Etna, Catania’s main shopping street, Via Etnea well and truly lives up to its name – or get up close to the still-smoking giant with an off-road day trip (just a 45-minute drive away). Ask the hotel about guided crater tours (you can even hike to the summit), and wine tasting in the surrounding vineyards.
Unsurprisingly, seafood is the order di giornata in Catania – and one of the finest spots just happens to be a few doors down from the hotel, within La Pescheria market, at Osteria Antica Marina. The cries of fishermen hawking their just-off-the-boat haul tend to die down later in the day, so you can dine in relative peace and quiet on simply cooked seafood platters and Sicilian pasta dishes, including Catania’s signature alla Norma sauce (a hearty combination of tomato, aubergine and ricotta). For something less seafood-centric, try the family-run Trattoria U Fucularu, for its slow-cooked Nebrodi pork shank and Catania-style zucchini rolls.
Sweet-toothed visitors will be happy to hear that café culture in Catania mostly revolves around granita – the icy alternative to gelato, traditionally flavoured with pistachio, citrus fruits or coffee. Most places will serve their granita sandwiched between cloud-like slices of fluffy brioche (which makes for messy but more-ish coffee-dunking material), including Pasticceria Mantegna – which has been serving up some of the island’s best hand-made granita for more than 60 years, alongside the holy trinity of Sicilian pastries (cannoli, cassata and cassatelle).
Carbing up in Catania’s pizzerias requires a ‘washing down’ list of wine bars and aperitivo spots – something which this volcanic-grape-supplied city isn’t short of. The locally sourced wine list is particularly extensive at Razmataz, which is usually packed out with locals sipping Etna Rosso on the alfresco terrace.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this contemporary art-filled hotel in Catania and unpacked their lava-rock sculptures and volcanic-grown wine, a full account of their culture-packed coastal city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Asmundo di Gisira in Sicily…
It’s difficult to know where to start when painting a picture of Asmundo di Gisira, which describes itself as an ‘art market living boutique’. The ‘art market’ part is apparent as soon as you step through the 17th-century palazzo doors (look out for the Asmundo family’s coat of arms at the entrance), since you can check out the contemporary collection while you check in at reception, standing above the sunken Roman streets, which can be admired through the glass floor. Every objet d’art is available to purchase, with a special price list for hotel guests, so it’s more than likely that some of the pieces will disappear during your stay – either snapped up as a souvenir by one of your fellow aesthetes, or carried off in the hands of an art dealer – which means the exhibition is ever-evolving. There are, however, some rather weird and wonderful long-standing artistic works in residence, which include a ceramic Spiderman scaling the exterior wall, a life-size Catwoman sculpture and a four-metre-tall flamingo (all by Palermo-based artist Domenico Pellegrino). This is a hotel which really needs to be seen to be believed.