An Interview with the Sciglio Family who runs my Small Hotel

A major renovation of the property happened in 1971 when each of the guest rooms was equipped with its own bathroom. Salvatore, the son, has an accounting background which comes in handy with helping to run the hotel. He is in charge of all the reservations and the Internet communications with the clients. Salvatore indicates that most of their clients are European and include people from France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Ireland. Customers from the United States and Canada also frequent Hotel Villa Nettuno, primarily due to a listing in one of Arthur Frommer’s tourist guide books. The property keeps the family really busy expect for the months of November to January when things slow down considerably.

View over the rooftops of Taormina

The three family members have a little bit of outside help: one lady comes in to help with breakfast, another young gentleman helps with the heavy work in the garden, one maid looks after the rooms while another helper takes care of the ironing and the laundry. Running a hotel involves a lot of demanding work, not just to look after the rooms, but the garden of Hotel Villa Nettuno also needs a lot of attention.

The “Tempietto” (little temple) on the Sciglio property, overlooking the Mediterranean

I was also curious about how the hotel business has changed over the years and Salvatore explained that the business has become more difficult. Years ago people used to stay longer, often a week, or two or longer while today’s tourists on the go will usually only stay two to three days. Salvatore added that many of them rent a car and complete a tour of the island, so naturally they stay a shorter period of time in each destination. Regulations have also become tougher and Italy has implemented tough standards in terms of hygiene and health standards.

Vincenzo and Maria with three Babilonia language students, including moi

Interestingly, in 1960s Taormina was more of a summer destination, and hotels tended to be closed in the winter. Today it is almost the opposite where people particularly enjoy coming here all the way from February to October. Particularly spring and fall are enjoyable seasons while summer temperatures are rather hot, typically in the 28 to 32 degree Celsius range. Italian tourists usually come for two weeks in August. Most of Hotel Villa Nettuno’s clients fall into the age range of 40 to 60. Salvatore added that the younger crowd likes to stay in Giardini Naxos where all the dance clubs are.

The living room / breakfast room at Hotel Villa Nettuno

When asked what they do for relaxation, Vincenzo indicated that one family member must always be at the hotel, so that makes leisure time a bit difficult. However, he disclosed that for relaxation, his family owns a little house about 10 km from Castelmola, a village perched on a mountain crest just outside of Taormina. This property is a former hayloft with two rooms and a black stone floor. Vincenzo built a wood oven so he would be able to cook there and he refers to the property as very “rustico”. After all these renovations now there is room for 10 beds. He explains that his house looks like a “presepe”, and after my failed attempts to understand what he was saying I caved in and looked it up in a dictionary: it looks like a nativity scene.

Vincenzo said he would invite me to come to see his weekend house in the mountains and I was just hoping that there would be enough time with my busy plans and the Sciglio’s demanding work schedule at Hotel Villa Nettuno. Either way it was great to have met such a nice hardworking Sicilian family who has been in the hospitality business for 55 years.

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