Urban cool meets Sicilian country in bold and boutique masseria

URBAN COOL MEETS OLD-TIME SICILIAN masseria at Caol Ishka Hotel, just outside the industrial fringe of historic Siracusa. The name is Gaelic (co-owner Gareth hails from Ireland), but the feel is all designer Italian.

Caol Ishka can be tricky to find (and turning in or out of the drive requires nerves of steel) though any traffic noise from the nearby busy trunk road melts away once you're in the grounds, filled with pampas grass, palms and exotic shrubs.

Stone chalets along the river Anapo (Caol Ishka means ‘the sound of water’) have been given a distinctly modernist feel with cool white and industrial grey walls, sleek chrome bathrooms, spot lighting and designer label furniture. Splashes of exuberant retro – frothy glass chandeliers, ornate gilt mirrors, decadent velvet chaise-longues, vibrant fabrics  and gold-leaf-look doors – set it all off with panache.

Hit the spot
2km from the Sicilian city of Siracusa.


Get lost in space: Room 2 (a deluxe) is big, bold and brags a bathtub wide enough to sink a galleon in. Room 7 has a private balcony and views across to the island city of Ortygia.

Be savvy
Some mozzie spray may be handy for sitting riverside in the evenings.

Be smitten
Crisp and cool Sicilian design haven. 

New-age comforts

Caol Ishka is definitely not cute and cosy. Boldly styled rooms come with touch-on lighting, textured walls ranging from cement-effect grey to exposed stonework, plexiglass bucket chairs, doorless wardrobes and new-age bathrooms. Pristine white bedlinen contrasts with the odd bold scarlet sofa or splashes of deepest purple and lime green. Rooms are not huge, though ours was a duplex with a steep wooden staircase up to an upper gallery. All have an outdoor deck area.

Bedrooms come with walk-in showers, while Room 2 boasts an invitingly big bath and chandeliered purple-painted loo. You'll find kimonos ready to don and a well stocked minibar – though real glasses would have been nice!

There's a pleasing lounge area next to reception with an Apple Mac for guests' use, squashy sofas and lots of designer decorative touches. Despite the distinctly urban vibe, you could be miles from the urban sprawl around here: with grassy fields and the river running alongside, it’s a pretty quiet spot.   Sun-soak around the raised pool terrace or set off by car for the sights of 2km distant Siracusa, with its island heart of Ortygia. 

We arrived too late to dine in Caol Ishka's swish Zafferano Bistrot, with its bare stone floor and rustic-beamed ceiling – though with seasonally-inspired dishes including marinaded grouper, breaded scabbard fish with eucalyptus honey and beef fillet in wine sauce, it looks like we missed a treat. 

Caol Ishka was reviewed for Room for Romance by Adele Evans 

Click on any picture to enlarge it and move through the gallery.







Dining in
Caol Ishka’s Zafferano Bistrot makes a suitably chic setting for dinner, with low-hanging bulbs and sleek designer tableware. Chef Massimo Giaquinta uses the traditional flavours of Sicily to create dishes such as red snapper in a Sicilian grey salt shell with lavender and vegetable dressing. Seafood is plentiful, from smoked swordfish tournedos dressed with Sicilian oranges and balsamic vinegar to Mazzara king prawns with baked vegetable shaves.

Dining out
Plenty of greaty trattorias can be found in nearby Ortygia, the island setting of Siracusa’s old town. Taberna Sveva and da Mariano both have a dedicated following.

Zafferano Bistrot at Caol Ishka

What’s cooking?
Go native and try the grouper filled ravioli with a scampi and basil sauce.

Dress the part

Summery and Sicilian cool.

Top table?
On the outdoor terrace for some great views to match your meal.

See & Do
Be sure to stroll through the island of Ortygia, Siracusa’s historic heart, to take in its crumbling Baroque churches and palazzi, narrow medieval alleyways and squares, temple of Apollo and impressive Duomo.

Go Indiana Jones and explore the nearby nature reserves of Ciane (where you can see papyrus growing in the wild) or Cava Grande, or simply chill on some of the neighbouring pine-fringed beaches. The Baroque gem of Noto makes an excellent day trip. You can also hire a bike or canoe from the hotel.

There are bicycles here for guests' use, though you may need kamikaze nerves to pedal off on the busy SS115 road.

Locally-made papyrus paper is widely on sale in town, together with pottery. You could also take home a bottle of the local (sweet) vino, Moscato di Siracusa.

You can book an on-site Shiatsu massage here in advance.

After dark
Culture vultures can get their fix at Siracusa’s old Greek theatre, dating back to 500 BC: plays are staged here throughout the summer season.  Sample some of the late-night bars and coffee houses around Piazza Duomo and the Aretusa fountain, then make for the late-late clubs along Alfeo Promenade, many of which have dance floors on the beach for a starlit boogie.  


See a tragedy penned by Sophocles in the town’s original Greek amphitheatre.

Theatre, ballet, poetry readings and concerts attract international artists at the Ortygia festival. 

Via Elorina 154, Contrada Pantanelli, 96100 Siracusa


There is secure free guest parking. You'll need a car here for getting in and out of town.

Trains and bus

Siracusa station (near Corso Umberto) - 1.5 km

EUR 10 from the station, or EUR 50-60 from the airport.

Catania – 60 km

Rooms and suites
Ten rooms

Special features
Six rooms have a verandah, while all have LCD TVs and a DVD player, wi-fi connections and Comfort Zone bathroom bottles.

You can cool off in the infinity pool or take a leisurely stroll through the leafy garden.


Rates guide
EUR 200 - 280

Closed mid January – mid February





Minimum night stay?
Five nights during August. It’s also worth checking during other peak times.

Breakfast is served in the dining room until 10:30am, or till 8:30 in your room. Expect plenty of fresh seasonal fruit from the garden.

Room service

Available morning and evening



Welcome on request, subject to size.

Air conditioning

Italian, English and Spanish

Wedding license?

No, but receptions for up to 60 guest can be held, based on exclusive hire.

Your contact
Emanuela Marino – owner


We'll be adding guest ratings of Caol Ishka based on your feedback in the next few months.

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