We are heading home from Sardinia. Half-term week, 7 days of bliss in true paradise at the Hotel Valle dell’ Erica. This family holiday passed by in a flash. A testament to where we were. For the first time in ages, taking the family to a hotel catering to our every need really felt like a holiday from the minute we arrived. I normally take a day or two to acclimatise to any new environment. The critic in me finds little niggles that I need to let go of before settling in but here I just couldn’t find anything.
We arrived At Valle dell’ Erica, an hours drive north from Olbia, in the unspolit Gallura region in the dark.
So without a glimpse of the exceptional view or the resort itself – set within a beautiful natural park teeming with flora and fauna and low rise buildings; suites made of stone and covered in plants and flowers that blend into the surroundings so much so that you almost feel alone on your balcony, overlooked by no-one.
The Valle dell’ Erica is made up of two 5* hotels; Erica and La Licciola. You wouldn’t realise it though, although two receptions and each with their own restaurant, guests dine around and can wander and explore throughout the resort which is spread over a 28 hectare park.
Almost a mile of coastline, a long, white sandy beach and then other beaches too with stunning, secluded, rocky coves dotted around.
Again, this does’t feel mass-market. You can find a secluded spot all to yourselves. This sort of each experience is one you would expect to drive out of the hotel for, somewhere far from civilisation.
Instead, here, back behind the beach and in the wild foliage, you can dine feet in the sand on superb fish dishes at the swish but relaxed seafood restaurant Li Zini or lunch at the beach bar Li Caracoli, next door, nibble on Sardinian olives, cheeese and pane carasau – traditional Sardinin crispbread topped with olive oil, rosemary and salt, a cold glass of Sardinian wine in hand!
The food here is a big draw. Breakfast, whether taken on the terrace near the pool or in one of the main restaurants is fit for a king. Fresh juices made to order, cakes, pastries and breads beyond your wildest dreams, cold meats, fish, fresh salads, cheeses and a dozen local honeys and jams are just the beginning. Of course there’s the obligatory egg station, fruits yogurts and all the staples. I was truly in heaven as were my little ones – waffles with organic chocolate spread being a favourite.
Provenance and ingredients are priorities here. Most is organic and local – Gallura is a big foodie area – and the staff, especially chefs are passionate. We even got to see the pasta being made with the kids enthralled and offered a chance to try their own hand.
For dinner, we chopped and changed between restaurants too. Once to the traditional Sardinian, Li Ciusoni; tucked away in the hills, surrounded by nature you are eating 0km food. Mouthwatering antipasti starters with dried meats and pickles followed by traditional pasta dish and melt in the mouth suckling pig. This is rustic, rural cusine at its best.
A real treat, we went for my husband’s birthday dinner. You get driven there in a buggy, an icy glass of prosecco upon arrival it feels very special indeed. A glass-walled kitchen also adds to the theatrical nature of the surrounds, especially when contrasted with the open-stonewalled restaurant where you truly feel at one with nature.
There’s so much good to say about this place I hardly know where to start. For us, kids club was a dream. Ericaland with a baby (from 12 months old) and mini club was just next to our room. Well, a very short walk away. The staff were kind and caring, looking after our 18 month old really well.
Ericaland has its own pizzeria with pizza oven too. Plus the kids get their own chef and menu to choose from each day. Food is cooked fresh and to order at each meal. Don’t expect rubbish either – this is proper food with meat dishes, vegetables and generally very upmarket child-friendly fayre.
There’s loads of outdoor covered and indoor space with a nursery and cots and a 24 hour baby food preparation area with a fridge stocked every day with a selection of fresh vegetable purees, stocks, fruits, yogurts, milks and all equipment needed to cook, feed, sterilise and generally care for your baby, buggies and highchairs too. Each day is packed with activities, beach trails, treasure hunts, lots of free sports for the older kids and plenty of attention from happy staff with boundless energy. Leaving frazzled parents time to relax.
And relax is what we did. I’m not a naturally relaxed person but here, just walking through the park to breakfast breathing in the warm air and fragrance of the flora and fauna – wild dill and rosemary – looking out to sea with Corsica just across the water – made me happy.
A spot by the infinity pool (there are 4 pools here, all beautifully designed with shallow areas and big undulating rocks lending to a relaxed, natural feel – one just for kids), within a few feet of Bar Captain Nemo for frozen daquiris and ciabatta stuffed with local artichoke and sundried tomato followed by an affogato or a home made ice cream was pure bliss.
A club sandwich with and smoked salmon tasty, fresh and enough for two people! Later in the afternoon we would wander to the swim up bar. This was a hit with both kids and adults alike. A simply enchanting spot to drink delicious, fresh cocktails.
It’s the atmosphere here that I loved the most. Despite having nearly 300 rooms, it felt like our own private haven. No overcrowding at the pools, always space but also enough people around to have some atmosphere at meal or snack times. A pianist at breakfast somehow wasn’t annoying, no piped music and no try-too-hard clubby vibes, instead, quietly playing in the background to complement the vintage ice cream cart, over lunch you might hear Frank Sintara, Nat King Cole or Ella Fitzgerald, old school classics in their original forms!
The resort has much to offer if you want to be active too, not least a very unusual outdoor exercise area overlooking the emerald sea. There’s also a 3 hole par 3 golf course with real grass, loads of sailing options, cruises and fishing too. A proper gym and Thalasso and Wellness Spa, just very big cherries on a delicious cake.
I coudn’t find one thing wrong with our room; huge windows on three sides looking out to the park and sea, with balconies too on either side. Newly refurbished, comfortable with a Sardinian vibe and spotlessly clean, it felt more like a villa. On the ground floor with our own front door out directly onto one of the plant and flower flanked path. 2 rooms, one for the kids, we had all the mod cons and luxuries; including a free coffee (pod) machine – much to my husband’s pleasure!
The staff go out of their way to help and I noticed particularly good with children – something that Italians are famed for. Days wiled away by the pool or walking the rails to the different beaches, sitting having an ice cream taking in the stupendous view just flew by.
We left just once to to Santa Theresa, a 10 minute ride on the shuttle away. A little retail therapy, a typical Italian village with a lively square flanked by cafes and bars, gorgeous beach and a few choice shops was all we needed but you can go further afield by boat (the hotel has many excursion options) or car. We just didn’t get bored enough to leave.
One recommendation too, within the resort, there’s a little square with pharmacy, gallery a couple of little shops and a photography shop. I was always the one to shoo away photographers pre-kids but give them some time, we came away with some stunning shots. I wanted to buy the lot but settled on my favourites.
Valle dell’Erica is a truly magical place. If you are looking for a family holiday with great facilities and a heavenly vibe with great food to boot, this is your place. It gives you the best of everything in one place.
Back at Gatwick, the only saving grace of leaving such a wonderful place behind was our easy arrival. We have been using Help Me Park now for valet parking for a while now. I’ve realised that it’s cheaper and easier to drive yourself and leave the parking to someone else. No waiting around for cabs, driving at your own pace and being in control is much less stressful. Help Me Park was established in 2005 focusing on core values of trust, convenience and reliability. They never keep you waiting, they look after your car in a secure location and their staff and professional and courteous. They are also an approved Gatwick Airport operator which gives peace of mind and allows them to meet you on both outbound and inbound journeys directly at the terminal door. Pricing is really competitive too. There are lots of cowboys out there, so use these guys for really brilliant service!
We travelled EasyJet to Olbia from £36 each way. For more information on booking Sardinia, I highly recommend the people at Just Sardinia. Huw and Alison and their super-knowledgeable team will look after you well. They can arrange everything you need in one place and really know the island inside out. With over 25 years experience, they are unbeatable.