Palermo! Layers of history lie displayed at every turn, telling centuries of stories. Round any corner you’ll meet a jaw-dropping experience, a mosaic-lined church, a tree, a fine old façade contrasting with a gritty street scene. And Palermo, Italy’s City of Culture 2018, is renovating like mad. For a full immersion in this dazzling city, stay here at the heart of the historic centre, sheltered from the hubbub by high walls and leafy terraces. The Baron and Baroness Calefati are splendid and knowledgeable hosts, but speak no English. After major restoration of the family mansion, dating from 1500, they have swung open the doors for events, visits, dinners – and a handful of guests. Ask for a tour of high aristocratic ceilings with frescoes and mouldings, endless salons full of original architecture, period furnishings, ancestors and bold colours. It’s all a bit of a contrast with interesting but much shabbier bedrooms and old-fashioned bathrooms – this won’t suit people looking for glitz and the stairs up are quite steep. Delicious breakfasts are on family heirlooms on the beautifully-arcaded veranda.