Robert Hawthorn Kitson was a wealthy British aristocrat who relocated to the small town of Taormina, Sicily, in the early 1900s to find refuge from persecution for his homosexuality. Kitson lived for many years at Casa Coseni, surrounding himself with prominent artists and writers of the time who would visit and sometimes stay for extended periods at Casa Coseni. Ernest Hemingway wrote his first short story at Casa Coseni; Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory here. Greta Garbo lived on the property for over a year. Other celebrities visiting Kitson at Casa Coseni included authors Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams and Ezra Pound and artists Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Kitson had accumulated a significant art collection at Casa Coseni when the Nazis arrived in Taormina during World War II. The German quartermaster confiscated Casa Coseni to billet 4 German generals. Kitson, an Englishman as well as a well-known homosexual, fled to England, leaving behind his art and possessions, including many unique ceramic pieces.
On the night before the Germans took possession of Casa Coseni, Kitson’s neighbors and farmers he had employed came into the house and emptied it of all possessions. The Sicilian friends kept these expensive paintings, ceramic pieces, books and other items hidden from the Germans throughout the occupation, and when Kitson returned to Casa Coseni in 1946, they returned all the collection to him, unharmed.
The ceramic pieces that now decorate Casa Coseni are from various styles and eras, reflecting the eclectic taste of Robert Kitson. They form a delightful accompaniment to paintings, books and decorative arts sprinkled around the property. there isn’t a single ceramic item I would point out – more the blend of decorative items that make the living spaces so compelling.
Casa Coseni is now a museum and B&B. The gardens are amazing, and the views overlooking the Mediterranean are breathtaking. More information can be found on the Casa Coseni website. And don’t miss the “secret room” with Arts and Crafts frescos by Sir Frank Brangwyn. Images of the frescos are captured in this video.