Escape to Sardinia
Lynne Coates visits a luxury eco-resort Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & Spa on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.
A s our plane approached Olbia, I could see the spectacular mountainous landscape of Sardinia with its archipelago of small islands, bordered by white sandy coves and surrounded by crystal clear waters. It was breathtakingly beautiful from the air and I couldn’t wait to discover this most romantic of Mediterranean islands. We were staying in the northern Gallura region at one of the Delphina Resort Hotels, a family-run group of eight resorts that has been acclaimed for its eco-sustainability and environmentally conscious initiatives, most recently winning the title of Europe’s Leading Green Resort 2019 at the World Travel Awards.
After about forty minutes drive from Olbia, through winding mountain roads, we arrived at the gates of Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & Spa, the discreet and secluded entrance giving no clue as to the panoramic vista that greeted us when those gates slowly opened. Set in 28 hectares of lush, scented gardens, along 1,400 metres of unspoilt coastline, it’s a truly unique natural oasis, nominated by Trivago as the best beach-front hotel in Sardinia. With two hundred and seventy one bedrooms and suites, four swimming pools, a Thalasso Spa, seven restaurants and five bars, it is so cleverly woven into the landscape that you could easily forget this is a resort hotel, as it feels more like a little village winding its way along to the coast. It did take a while to learn my way around, but once familiar with the layout it was easy, and you can always hop on one of the buggies that regularly circulate the paths – useful if you choose the restaurant furthest from your room at night. The dining options range from intimate beachside to fine-dining restaurants, plus an outdoor kitchen serving traditional Sardinian cuisine. The standard of food is exceptional. The breakfast and dinner buffets are truly the best I have seen, with beautifully presented mini-portions of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes as tasters, as well as a fantastic fresh fish station, a choice of meats, and, of course, freshly made pasta, and (if you have space) heavenly desserts. I loved the buffets as I do like a little taste of everything, but for more sophisticated dining my favourite restaurant was Li Zini, where you can eat fish ‘fresh out of the sea’ at intimate candlelit tables right on the beach. So romantic!
In the unlikely event you become bored of relaxing in a picture-perfect beach cove, swimming in stunning infinity Thalasso pools, or indulging in delicious Spa treatments, then there are plenty of activities on offer. Trekking and mountain-biking itineraries, windsurfing, kite surfing, diving, sport-fishing and sailing cruises are all available on request, as well as a picturesque golf course and a Technogym. Families with young children are really well catered for with a supervised Mini Club, and a dedicated family area with secure indoor and outdoor play areas.
One of the loveliest ways to discover the island is by boat and Delphina resorts have a number of vessels available to take guests on sailing trips. We sailed around the archipelago of La Maddalena, an exquisite coastline of little white sandy coves, nestling between hills and rocky promontories. Dramatic rock formations appear all around the island, and a local custom is to name some after animals they seem to resemble. The sea, a kaleidoscope of blues, is eye-wateringly beautiful. It is hardly surprising that the super-yachts of celebrities and billionaires seek out the privacy of these idyllic secluded coves during the summer months.
You can take a picnic and swim to shore off the boats, or simply drop into one of the little fishing ports, explore, and experience some of the local life. We stopped off at Santa Teresa Gallura, a delightful little town, perfect for a stroll and a spot of souvenir shopping. A walk up the hill to nearby Capo Testa lighthouse, reputedly surrounded by rocks of magnetic energy, is popular with tourists – I didn’t feel the magnet attraction but the views were magnificent!
Well worth a visit is the village of Aggius. Surrounded by mountains and breath-taking scenery, it is a centre for trekking and climbing. The old town proudly retains an authentic Sardinian lifestyle, with an active cultural centre. Known for its traditional weaving, you can watch carpets and fabrics being skilfully created on hand-looms. A museum in the centre is dedicated to the story of weaving, with a wonderful exhibition of old looms. The village has begun to attract artists, and many of the town’s cobbled streets have become open-air art galleries with ‘muralista’ artworks displayed on buildings.
Sardinia is famous for its Cannanou wine and we visited Siddura, the most exclusive winery in the Gallura region. Created out of an abandoned vineyard, uniquely located in a valley, it was the ambition of the new owners to produce outstanding wines of the finest quality. Growing Cagnulari and Vermentino grapes they produce an exceptional selection of award-winning wines that clearly reflect their commitment and passion. All the wines we tasted were superb – needless to say it was a very enjoyable visit!
On my last evening, as I sat on my terrace with, of course, a glass of Cannanou, watching the glorious sunset over the archipelago and the distant island of Corsica, I was feeling truly sad that it was time to leave this beautiful island with its dramatic rugged coastline, secret coves and those idiosyncratic rocky animals. There is something indefinably authentic about Sardinia that makes it so special – I know I’ll be back.