Boasting 300 days of sunshine a year, with alabaster sands and aquamarine waters often drawing comparisons to those in the Caribbean – it’s hardly surprising that Sardinia has become a holiday hotspot for celebrities such as Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney. Italy’s second biggest island, Sardinia is one of the most geologically ancient bodies of land in Europe. With a population, in various waves of immigration, by Phoenicians, Romans, Pisans, Genoese and Spaniards, evident in everything from architecture to food. But did you also know that Sardians are some of the world’s longest-living people? A culturally isolated, traditional ‘Blue Zone’ Island whose inhabitants still hunt, fish and harvest their food and have a strong sense of community. All just a two-hour flight from London, says Emma Whitehair.
With eight resorts exclusively in North Sardinia, Delphina hotels & resorts was founded by a local family, with a background in property management. Supporting the community, with interior décor by local artisans and its own organic wine, food and spa products on offer. Delphina is also the first Italian hotel chain to use 100% certified green energy from renewable sources. And the three (5-star) Delphina hotels we visited each have the perks of a sprawling resort, including numerous on-site restaurants, combined with their own unique rustic charms.
The Marinedda has one of the largest wellness centres in the Med. Specialising in Thalassotherapy (the use of seawater to help with everything from easing aches and pains, to respiratory conditions and inflammations), the 2,500 m2dedicated spa centre contains four pure seawater pools that go from hot to cool with jets of varying degrees of intensity. There’s also a huge range of treatments on offer, including Intraceuticals, an anti-ageing treatment, as loved by Madonna. However, for its sheer simplicity, Hotel Capo d’Orso was the resort that stood out. Full of secluded nooks and crannies, sun-bleached decking and romantic hammocks. An ideal lover’s getaway.
Valle dell’Erica is known as the best beachfront hotel in Sardinia for its unspoilt coastline of sandy beaches and wind-carved coves. Set in 28-hectares of land – there is the optional use of the hotel’s buggy to get around if you tire of wandering the winding paths lined with olive trees and bougainvillaea. We spent most of our time enjoying the supersized loungers with thoughtful pull-down shades to protect one’s eyes from the glare of the sun, with time between sessions in the heated Thalasso pools overlooking the sea.
The spacious rooms all have large verandahs and a 70s North African vibe to the interior. With printed tiles, inset concrete sofas and terracotta accents. While such is the selection of own-brand organic bathroom products, you may be tempted to stock up before departure.
With numerous restaurants in the Delphina resorts, there is little need to venture further afield. A highlight was arriving by boat to Hotel Capo d’Orso’s private Marina, for lunch overlooking the bay. The only of the hotel group’s restaurants open to the public, rather than just guests, Il Paguro offers food as spectacular as the view, including delights such as salmon carpaccio ‘cooked’ in wine, seared prawns with lentils and a local speciality of creamy fregola with clams.
The other restaurants we visited were mostly high-end buffet style, with everything from Traditional North Sardinian to vegan selections on offer. And, after starting out with such a sense of adventure, what did I learn from these buffet meals? Nothing tastes as good as fresh Italian al dente pasta with a rich late summer sweet yet tangy tomato sauce, topped with Buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves. Simply divine.
While another notable mention goes to the dessert selection at The Marinedda. Especially the punchy homemade ginger ice cream and gooey squares of chocolate with orange peel.
Hire a boat to explore some of the archipelago’s 60 uninhabited and protected islands. Dropping anchor to take a swim in the crystal-clear waters then rest on the deserted white sandy beaches. Stop off at La Maddalena, the only island with a population (and Naval base), if only to check out the Cadets wandering through the town in their stylish white uniforms.
Take a hike with a local tour guide to explore the alien landscape of the aptly names Valle della Luna . With huge granite boulders that have been organically moulded by nature into fantastical shape, it’s unsurprising to learn that this is the location for many western movies.
Visit Capo Testa, said to be one of the earth’s most “energetic” points. With more bizarre rock formations and an old lighthouse with views out to Corsica, it’s a spot of contemplative beauty.
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