Review: Resort Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & Spa, Sardinia
Sardinia has long been an open secret amongst the wealthy. Its status as an ‘accredited getaway’ is underpinned by its understated elegance, natural beauty and warmth of the locals, not to mention its cultural uniqueness. Its separation from mainland Italy eliminates the ‘just passing through’ crowd, with those electing to holiday here, nailing their colours firmly to the island.
One recurring feedback to English Luxury is Sardinia’s dearth of accommodation. High quality hotels are not in abundance but then again it’s not over-developed like some of the beautiful Greek Islands – now slaves to package tour operators when once destinations of desire and sanctuary for writers, artists and in-the-know travellers.
On hearing of my Sardinian sojourn, the English Luxury team instantly went into anecdote mode on the famed Costa Smeralda, holiday destination to the famous, wealthy and beautiful and its equally alluring beaches which many maintain are the finest in the world. Yes, this was handily located near my destination, on the north east of the island.
At Costa Smeralda you may spy Gwyneth Paltrow or Steven Spielberg strolling the beautiful bay of Cala di Volpe, framed by the perfumed scent of wild herbs; thyme, rosemary and oregano which stoically peer through the island’s eternal granite armour. Alternatively, you can witness the extravagance and all night frolics in Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Club patronised by the likes of Hollywood actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, Fashion Mogul, Phillip Green and Supermodel Naomi Campbell. I experienced neither.
My destination was the Resort Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & Spa, which can be found in the municipality of Santa Teresa di Gallura. It’s a more laid-back, sedate location, low on razzamatazz but still, being Sardinia, high on natural beauty. It looks out onto the Strait of Bonifacio, with the uninhabited island of Spargi and the French island of Corsica in the distance. It works as a destination, because its primary audience is families not pleasure seeking ‘dinkies’ or singletons.
The resort offers two hotel choices, Erica and the newly refurbed La Licciola. The latter with an enticing sea-water swimming pool and waterfall, a couple of bars and restaurants – one expressly focused on local specialities.
The hotel rooms have an uniquely Sardinian flavour. There’s a certain rustic feel to the interiors with textured walls, vibrant patterns and colours referencing its natural environment with distant echoes of North Africa and Byzantium floating somewhere in the ether.
The Thalasso Spa Centre – Le Thermae is a highlight with a multitude of treatments ranging from Body wraps, Hydromassage baths, water jets to lymphatic drainage and slimming and water retention therapies. Essential oils from local plants are used in treatments and with 15 rooms available, waiting time is minimal. You’re in expert hands throughout and there’s a deep knowledge and understanding of posture and corrective strategies – excellent for those who make a living bent double over a laptop! A visit to the Turkish bath and sauna is a prerequisite and I even managed a session in the cardio-fitness gym to loosen up pre-massage.
Service in the restaurants is particularly impressive. It’s seamless, with an invisible efficiency. The food however, does not match up. It’s consistently inconsistent. Local specialities often underwhelm with no distinct personality. Just when you despair a wonderful lamb dish arrives with seasoning that has me knocking on Mr Michelin’s door – then alas, the dessert would disappoint. Maybe because in Italy you expect the earth. Having dined in the most amazing, gastronomic amphitheatres Rome, Sicily and Tuscany has ever produced you are waiting to feast like Caesar himself. Instead it’s akin to watching England at the World Cup or expecting your online food order to arrive within the 2 hour time slot – ultimately both fail to deliver.
This is a resort. The idea is you stay on-site and resort owners Delphina try to provide a number of engaging activities. Their imaginative programme for the Nursery and Kid’s Clubs includes adventure minipark, cinema, cooking/pizzeria, confectionery and photography classes, as well as theatre, multilingual creative writing and jewellery workshops. This frees adults to relax at the Spa, lounge by the plethora of outside pools, explore the beach, windsurf or play golf (lessons provided). There is even babysitting on hand for parents to escape for an intimate dinner date or try a salsa lesson courtesy of the Cuban dancers – this does depend on your level of sobriety. Still want more? There are organised boat excursions that are well worth the effort.
I wouldn’t bother with a hire-car when you have the opportunity to sail the crystal blue waters to the Corsica Archipelago or explore La Maddalena Archipelago by sailing ship or choose a smaller, intimate Latin Sailboat and head to the Marine Park at La Maddalena Archipelago and the Strait of Bonifacio. Finally, there’s the Fishing and Charter option for budding anglers. All excursions come with expert crew and local food and wine onboard or at island stops along the journey.
I opted for La Maddalena Archipelago excursion. We took in Hotel Capo d’Orso, a more intimate, sophisticated and refined location that couples and singles immediately gravitated to. Weave your way down to the beach or jetty from the hotel and you’ll find private sunbathing alcoves, each carefully designed for couples or small families. Only their municipal standard mini-golf course disappointed. Lunch on the hotel waterfront was memorable as was the stunning marina view and the sense of laid-back Sardinian timelessness. La Maddalena offered further ‘therapeutic services’ with a selection of shops, bars and restaurants, a sharp contrast to the relative confinement of the Resort Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & Spa.
In no time we were island hopping across the Archipelago, diving off the boat into the bluest of waters, neighboured by ‘the beautiful people’ sunbathing on the decks of their powerboats and pristine white yachts.
The small uninhabited island of Spargi was our final stop before our return. If it’s not the video location for Chet Baker’s Jazz classic ‘Let’s Get Lost’, then it should be. With beautiful white beaches and not a soul in sight – it’s a real gem. It’s almost unimaginable in an age of global travel and escalating population that such a place exists in Europe, but there it was.
It can only be accessed by boat – which just adds to the romance and a few guys were then spotted selling local jewellery. Food and drink would have sold in a nano-second but you’re not in the mood to start hangling over bangles. Guys, please revisit the business plan.
You can’t help missing Sardinia and the Resort Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & Spa, especially when you’re returning to the indifference of London. This Resort does work because you sense a great deal of thought has gone in to engaging with guests, not through snappy upselling but an inventive programme of activities across the age range. And when you’ve finally wound down and feel the need to explore, the excursions serve as a wonderful release valve and the perfect way to experience the beauty of La Maddalena and beyond.
Resort owners, Delphina have an impressive portfolio of 8. A word of advice, stick to their 5 star offer (the Resort Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & Spa is 5 Star – just). Organisation is attentive and heartfelt. If you want an elite, slick 5 Star vacation this is not it. It’s not as smooth, exclusive and on the money as other destinations, but like Sardinia itself, it has oceans of charm and ‘family’ is at the heart of everything it offers.
Resort Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & SPA 5*
Loc. Valle dell’Erica
07028 – Santa Teresa Gallura (OT) Italia
tel. +39 0789 750020