Beth, from our administration team, jumped at the chance of a road trip around Sardinia to sample the delights of this gorgeous Mediterranean island.
I always enjoy driving (whether it’s down to the shops for a pint of milk or up to Scotland for a holiday), so I was keen as mustard to be the main driver. As soon as I found out I was visiting Sardinia for the first time, I thought, what makes for a good foodie road trip?
- Fantastic destination
- A good route with stunning views
- Accommodation that makes you feel totally at home
- Travelling companions that you can enjoy long chats with
- Menus to die for
- Elasticated waist bands!
We travelled from Gatwick to Olbia with Easyjet. At Gatwick there was a small queue at bag drop and getting through security was quick. The longest wait was for our breakfast. On arrival at Olbia, the processs of collecting my Corsa was easy. The car hire building is a minute walk from the terminal and is air-conditioned. Just remember, an up-to-date full driver's licence and credit card are needed to collect the car.
Spending multiple nights at each of the properties listed below is, in my opnion, one of the best ways to experience Sardinia's rich cuisine and travel around the north of the island.
Cascioni Eco Retreat is nestled in the countryside in the Costa Smeralda region and is a modern hotel with 15 suites. It has all the amenities you would expect but is paired with a traditional feel of a Sardinian farmhouse – a modern design with a nod to the history of the island. The property on one side has an olive grove and on the other side has stunning views towards the coast. The suites have their own private plunge pools, breathtaking views and a sense of relaxed luxury.
The main house houses the reception, restaurant, the main pool, and a spa (with its own pool, sauna, treatment rooms and relaxation area. The grounds are specious with plenty of quiet areas to explore. As much as possible everything has been sourced as locally as possible – from the furnishings to the ingredients used in the kitchens, with some even grown on site.
For lunch we had a four-course vegetarian lunch; whilst waiting for the food, we were given traditional Sardinian bread. The bread was paper thin and so crispy and had been flavoured with salt and rosemary and very locally sourced olive oil; I think the olive oil had travelled about 50 feet from tree to table. This was a revelation in itself! I was getting floral notes coming through (I think I may have a second career as an olive oil sommelier or a poet?!).
Everything had been made to perfection with passion and pride. The staff refilled your glasses without you noticing and the chef came out to greet us as well. As I was driving, I could not drink the white wine offered but I did have a nose of it and what I smelt was delicious – the only time I wished I wasn’t driving.
After saying a reluctant goodbye, it was on to our next destination and menu!
Agriturismo Tenuta Pilastru Country Resort & Spa has 32 rooms, which are dotted around the property. It’s in the heart of the countryside in the Costa Smeralda region and has been built around the granite; it gives you the feeling people have been here for thousands of years (the archaeological sites of the necropolis of Li Muri and the Tombs of the Giants are meters away). We arrived just before sunset, the sun was hitting the granite in such a way, the stone sparkled. Like Cascioni, the resort again gave the impression of a traditional farmhouse which happened to offer great food and rooms.
For our evening meal we had a taster menu which offered traditional Italian and Sardinian fare. The restaurant has an outside terrace, and it was such a perfect evening everyone chose to eat here. The place was filled with locals and tourists alike, well they do say ‘always eat where the locals eat!’
To start we had a charcuterie platter, this was then followed by different plates to try: pasta, meat and vegetables, everything was locally sourced and tasted divine. My favourites had to be the gnocchi with a ragu sauce and the other was a soft sheep cheese with honey drizzled over. I thought this course was the main event but from where I was sitting, I was watching a chef working away, burning wood, moving hot coals underneath a rack of suckling pigs and thought you had to order these separately – I was wrong! We then had delivered to our table a side of suckling pig! Wow! After finishing this off, we were asked if we wanted a dessert, who was I to say no to a Crème Catalan? Our digestif was freezing cold Limoncello (this time I was not driving).
To be honest, my memory of the last part of the meal is slightly fuzzy but I do remember I had good company, good conversation and good food.
The last venue on my foodie tour was lunch at Hotel Su Gologone, it has 68 rooms and is in Oliena, central Sardinia. It feels like you are being transported to a different time and place, it has an ambiance of its own. Su Gologone was first a restaurant and then a hotel, it was established in the 1960s and is well known within Sardinia as well as internationally. A-list celebrities as well as royalty from all over the globe have been known to come here.
The backdrop is dramatic and the area is watched over by Monte Corrasi; driving in, I asked my driving companion if there was snow on the mountain as to one side of us in the distance, there is a tree line and then the glistening white of granite. Once through the gates you are transported to an adult fairy land, there are quiet areas dotted around, some where you are immersed in nature, others perfect for sun worshippers and others shady glades.
Back to lunch – the restaurant gives you a feeling of hospitality; paintings on the wall with typical Sardinian themes, tables and chairs mixed and matched (but not in a trendy way), welcoming staff. I felt the number of Sardinians outnumbered tourists, from friends catching up to families celebrating. The food again was at another level and kept coming, our table was overflowing. We all were pledging our undying love for difference delicacies, saying you must try this! What is it? I have no idea what it is but it’s fantastic. From simple charcuterie and olives, vegetable dishes, meat dishes and stuffed pasta. When the waitress came round and asked if we wanted the pork dish, we had to decline but only as we didn’t have enough room, not even for a wafer thin mint! I was told when I got back to the office that that was the best of the meal - gutted is an understatement.
Whilst waiting for the gate to open for our return flight back to Gatwick, we decided to have a last taste of Sardinia and indulge in a Sardinian ice cream. If you can, try the pistachio with a wafer cone, it was the best way to finish off the experience!
I hope this blog has given you a taste for Sardinia and if you ever need a driver, just let me know!