When I book a holiday, I tend to go overboard and research the destination so that I have a full arsenal of ideas and suggestions about what to see and do. But when we made arrangements to stay at Delphina Hotels and Resorts in the north Sardinian coast of Gallura, the furthest I got to any details was just to peruse their website and to check the weather forecast.
And I’m glad, because my lack of investigation meant that when we finally pulled up through the electric gates and were led through the lush green gardens, then through the stylish reception area and out onto the terrace, we were blown away by the view – some 1,400m of unspoilt coastline and the crystal blue sea…
The Delphina Hotels and Resorts have cornered the luxury market in North Sardinia with their collection of award-winning hotels – eight to be precise. Spanning from the Costa Smeralda to the Archipelago of La Maddalena, Delphina’s four and five star resorts not only appeal to the discerning traveller, but for families looking for an idyllic getaway.
Set in 28 hectares of shrub land and with seven private bays along the glittering coastline, Valle dell’Erica Resort Thalasso & SPA has 271 rooms, four pools, seven restaurants, plus a conference centre, spa, golf course and children’s club.
Even though it’s large, you can jump on the numerous golf buggies that roam around the complex giving lifts to holidaymakers who are feeling a little lazy. But we didn’t need to and were content walking off the excess dinners we were consuming. Although, I didn’t bother with visiting the onsite gym…
The beauty of the resort, aside from its considerable size, is that it doesn’t feel big. There is a certain air of rustic intimacy – perhaps because the landscape is so attractive, and all the buildings are mostly single-storey. And once you get the lay of the land, courtesy of the resort map, it was easy to navigate between the two hotels.
Yes. That’s right. The Valle dell’Erica consists of two hotels – Hotel Erica, where the rooms are situated close to the sea, and Hotel La Licciola, an extension to the original resort. Both are serviced via two separate receptions, but you really wouldn’t know it. It took us nearly a week to realise we were actually staying in La Licciola!
With flights available from all major UK airports, it’s only a two-hour journey from Gatwick, which makes Sardinia so accessible. Also known as Europe’s Caribbean, the Italian island attracts those wanting some luxury, and wall-to-wall sunshine. The resort is set amongst the National Park of the Archipelago of La Maddalena and the Straits of Bonifacio – which separates Sardinia from Corsica. It’s a secluded and out of the way spot, so a car is needed if you want to explore the rest of the island. Meanwhile, the nearest town, Santa Teresa Gallura, is some 10 minutes away by car. It’s an ancient village, with prime position looking down at the sea. We spent time in the main square, a great spot to people watch, while the shops and cafes offer up a veritable feast of knick knacks and Italian fare.
With our luggage already transported to our rooms, we jumped onto a golf buggy and were taken to our home for the next seven nights. As we pulled up by a stunning saltwater swimming pool, with views of the sea and Corsica, twinkling in the distance, our expectations were exceeded when we were led to our accommodation directly in front of this panorama. The kids were beside themselves, already declaring that this pool, we their pool.
Inside, we were met with two adjoining rooms, tastefully decorated, both with large king size beds, mini bar, Sky TV, air conditioning and large bathrooms complete with his-and-her sinks, and a rain shower. While the complimentary toiletries, robes, slippers, beach bags, and flip flops added a touch of luxury. I was pleased there was plenty of wardrobe space, and, although there were no baths – the hotel kindly organised for a baby bath to be brought to our room, as well as a baby cot. We were very comfortable in our digs, and certainly made use of the close proximity to the pool, with its swim up bar, and our outdoor verandah – perfect to relax in the shade.
Where do I even begin? We ate like Kings and Queens – and being huge fans of Italian food and seafood, we really were spoilt for choice – with seven restaurants to dine at. What surprised as most was the option of eating away from the two buffet restaurants and being able to enjoy waiter service at no extra charge.
But don’t get me wrong, both Nautilus and Les Bouche’s offerings at both breakfast and dinner times were outstanding. At breakfast, fresh eggs to order, as well as a vast array of cold meats, cheeses, pastries, fresh fruit and breads. At dinner; fresh salads, seafood such as cod cheeks, salmon and roasted sea bream, to delicious homemade pastas filled with cheese, as well as roasted meats such as beef and pork, to a table groaning with delectable desserts. Monkey’s eyes lit up every time.
We also polished off meals at Grecale and La Prua over several evenings, both restaurants were excellent, and I got to eat truffled gnocchi, steak, and fish and chips, to name but a few of our dishes. Meanwhile, the resort’s romantic hilltop Li Ciusoni, was bursting with guests, as it was only open on two days during our stay. Supplemented at €30 each, it was a Sardinian feast. There was too much food including two pasta dishes and a hog roast dinner, finished off with deep-fried ricotta-filled parcels drizzled with honey. We could barely move…
The bars around the four pools also offer up lunch menus, such as sandwiches and salads – but if you could face a larger meal, Grecale has a lunch buffet with pastas made to order and great pizzas. The kids loved the gelato kiosk.
When the children insisted on going to see their new pals at Mini Club Ericaland rather than hang around with us, we knew they were having a good time. Erica is a family-friendly resort, from the kid’s pool, playground and daily activities such as golf lessons, and five-a-side football, to daily workshops and their own pizzeria, little ones will not be bored. The staff are so welcoming and brilliant with the children. Open from 9.00am until 11.00pm, it also meant us grown-ups could enjoy an evening know their our kids were in safe hands.
Although Peanut was too small for the Baby Club which is available for children aged 12-36 months, it was the nursery area that was a godsend for us. Equipped with a microwave, sterilisers, changing mats, high chairs and baby food, it meant I could sterilise Peanut’s bottles instead of having to do it in our room using sterilising tablets. It was sparkling clean every time I was in there, and I clocked many parents making use of the facilities.
The club also has pushchairs for guests to use, as well as complimentary canoes and snorkelling equipment for older children. Even more impressive? Mini Club is free.
Thalasso is derived from the Greek word thalassa, meaning ‘sea’ and is the medical use of seawater as a form of therapy. All pools at the resort as seawater pools, while the spa, Le Thermae, is set in a peaceful environment of granite rocks and scented by Mediterranean herbs. Its four pools have different temperatures – so we started in the coolest first and made our way to the warmest, powered by water jets. It was bliss and so, so quiet. Hubby actually fell asleep during his afternoon there and had to be woken up as his robe had come undone…
With a hammam, sauna and gym, a 1/2 a day pass to use these facilities cost €40, however, you are able to enjoy them if you also book yourself a treatment – which what my friend and I did. We opted for a Sardinian body salt scrub and a massage. It was extremely relaxing and I woke myself up on several occasions throughout with my own snoring! My skin felt invigorated afterwards and I felt pampered.
I know a picture can paint a thousand words, but until you actually go and witness first hand the true beauty of the Sardinian coast, and the empathetic way in which Valle dell’Erica has been built to merge within its natural landscape, my description doesn’t really do it justice, nor do my photographs.There are so many opportunities to appreciate the views from the pools, to the restaurants, even just walking around the grounds.
I’d like to think of myself as a true traveller. Before I had children, I used to turn my nose up at people who paid mega bucks to stay in luxurious resorts and never leave the vicinity to explore. However, I look back at my previous attitude with some shame. After all, who am I to judge? Travelling is what the individual makes of it.
Perhaps it was the fact we were with our close friends who were also in dire need of some relaxation and sunshine; that we were both exhausted and coming out the other end of having a newborn baby; and because it felt wonderful to not have to stick to an itinerary. The Valle dell’Erica Resort met all our needs.
Sure, the wi-fi is a bit patchy around the resort and there were still a few teething problems – it had only been open for six days for the season, and there was a sense of frantic flurry to get things organised. But that was by the by…
From the helpful staff – in particular, Lorenza from Guest Relations, Roberta at reception, Stefan the bar man,Giuseppe, Marco and Veronica from Mini Club and Antonio, the egg chef who made our mornings bright and filled with laughter – to the excellent cuisine, facilities and beautiful surroundings, we really felt like we had a ‘holiday’. So much so, we wished we had stayed for a few more days.
I’m not going to lie, prices in Sardinia are far from cheap – drinks and food at the resort are at a premium; you’re looking at €8 for a beer and €5 for a soft drink. But, that said, the half board option is really good value in terms of the quality and amount of food you get, while the kids club is completely free. If you’re not a big drinker, then it won’t be a problem!
Valle dell’Erica bills itself as a five star hotel that offers something for the whole family. I would have to agree – Monkey even stated he wanted to stay there for ever. I am a little regretful for not having explored Sardinia more during our stay, but with such wonderful accommodation, pools, beaches and restaurants, it was truly hard to leave… And, of course, it gives us another reason to return again.
* Standard double rooms with half board option start from £136 per person, per night in low season. £29 per person per day extra for full board. The hotel is open from May-September. We were invited to stay as guests at Valle dell’Erica Resort, but flights, transfers and extras were not included. As always, my opinions are my own