Our Home – Casa Silva

Nestled 200 metres from the Taormina’s Teatro Antico, along the roads via Teatro Greco and Corso Umberto leading to the centre, our ancient villa emerges. It’s a first-hand testament to Taormina’s history – which evolved from an age-old farming and fisherman’s village to swiftly become one of Europe’s tourist capitals. Our home is Casa Silva.

Taormina’s spirit and the beginning of its tourism can be traced to the arrival of Florence Trevelyan who began to attract elite figures from the European aristocracy. The footprint left behind by Florence Trevelyan is green, naturalist as well as philanthropic. Casa Silva was built in the 19th century on the grounds of a park and it belonged to Salvatore Cacciola and Florence Trevelyan, who were cousins. The architectural style, and especially the garden, blooming with citrus fruits and essenze mediterranee, bear the hallmark of Miss Florence, evident also in the public gardens, bringing life to her testament: Florence Trevelyan Cacciola compelled her heirs to never build on the land of ‘Hallington Siculo’, nor on Isola Bella, and to never hunt on the vast estates, imploring them instead to take in and look after birds and dogs, just as she did.

When guests pass through the gates into I Giardini di Babilonia, they can’t believe their eyes. They feel they’ve taken the wrong turn. How is it possible that this peaceful oasis exists in the heart of bustling Taormina? It’s a piece of Eden where you can stop to treat your tastebuds amidst an orchard of trees of oranges, mandarins, grapefruit and loquat, palm trees, variegated plants and flowers and an inebriating scent of wisteria… all while being immersed in Taormina’s thousand-year history… This isn’t solely a restaurant – it’s paradise for the soul!

Casa Silva, this ancient aristocratic villa, surrounded by a noticeable and imposing stone wall which separates it from the beautiful staircase on via Timoleone, is under the care of the government agency ‘Superintendence of Fine Arts’ which protects its historic and artistic value. In the past, ancient Greek and Roman coins were found within the garden’s 1000 square metres. This garden is an integral part of Taormina’s archeologic park and also houses our Babilonia School: Centre for Italian Language and Culture. Traces of brick from the Roman Age are also evident in these gardens.

The story of Lady Florence Trevelyan, is thus an interesting and compelling one. A true love story à la Britain…

After the death of her mother in November 1877, together with her cousin Harriet Perceval, Florence spent roughly two years travelling around Europe, reaching Sicily. Florence had close ties with Queen Victoria when she lived at Balmoral Castle after the premature death of Victoria’s husband, Albert, only until being accused of having an adulterous relationship with her son, Prince of Wales and the future king, Edward VII. She had no choice but to avoid the scandal in Victorian and Puritan England, swiftly leaving England forever, as per the wish of the Queen.

She settled therefore in Taormina, which she had reached in 1884 and where she lived in exile, financially supported by a sizeable royal annuity, without ever again returning to England.

In 1890, she married the doctor Salvatore Cacciola, who had been mayor of Taormina for many years. Over time, he bought some plots of land along the hillside and undertook the project of creating an English-style garden, which she called “Hallington Siculo”. From this garden, known now as Taormina’s Villa Comunale or Parco Duca di Cesarò, one can enjoy the splendid panorama that has made Taormina world-famous, a panorama that extends from the sea to Mount Etna, enveloping the whole Naxos Bay. In the garden, various rare species of flora had been planted and were sheltered in small fanciful buildings, the so-called Victorian Follies,built from brick and different types of stone, in a particular architectural style that can be found today at Casa Silva, our school’s headquarters.

In 1890, Lady Florence Trevelyan bought Isola Bella, the small island overlooking Taormina beach, linked to the coast by a straight sandy isthmus. Here, they built a house and cultivated a garden. In addition to the typical varieties found in the Mediterranean, they planted non-autochthonous species as well as rare shrubs so that the place soon became home to many maritime birds and interesting lizards.

During her life in Taormina, Lady Florence Trevelyan introduced for the first time many exotic plants from the Southern Hemisphere, not yet known to Taormina’s natural landscape, including araucaria, calliandra and bauhinia. The Villa Comunale still showcases a blossoming garden, enriched by the presence of citrus trees and essenze mediterranee, as well as age-old palms, araucaria, magnolias and other high-stemmed trees.

A gigantic araucaria and an age-old ficus Benjamina dominate in our school’s garden, a presence which inextricably connects us to the history of this city!

At once imposing and elegant, Casa Silva reflects the highly personal eclectic tastes of Lady Florence Trevelyan, in addition to the particular natural style found in the public garden, the architectural style comprising a combination of materials used in the brick and pumice-lava turrets (a later addition).

‘Casa Silva’ is also the name of the international fashion-house established by Kurt Pinkl and Wilhelm Goetz – two young Austrian designers with a taste for luxury who would stay in this villa. The brand soon became famous in the world of international haute-couture, with its name deriving from the ancient villa of Taormina which had long-served as their home and art studio.

So this is the story of the two young Austrian designers who stayed at Casa Silva. Just several years before the outbreak of World War II, Kurt Pinkl and Wilhelm Goetz opened one of the most elegant and fashionable ateliers in Taormina, frequented by salient figures of the multi-national ‘bel mondo’ movement who stayed in the town perched on the slopes of Monte Tauro during their retreat. Silks, chiffons, brocades, velvets and taffetas, embellished with semi-precious stones, gold and silver embroidery, sequins and pearls were creatively transformed into luxurious stoles and refined jackets, opulent evening dresses and precious pochettes, gloves and scarves and essential accessories for chic ladies of the time. This transformation happened thanks to the skilled local workforce which had been employed by the duo of talented stylists.

That’s right – every day, we work in this piece of Eden to offer your tastebuds unforgettable joy! It is the ideal place to celebrate the milestones in your life with the people you hold dearest!

This paradise is called Casa Silva and we are proud to call it our home!