STYLISH, sophisticated, sensual...... Sardinia is not your average Italian destination as a week in the charming seaside village of Isola Rosso more than proved.
Famous for its transclucent blue seas, rugged countryside and stunning beaches we were looking forward not only to exploring this most beautiful of places but also sampling three of it's most refined hotels - each one part of the Delphina hotels and resorts chain.
Our first port of call was the enchanting and romantic Hotel Relax Thalasso and Spa.
Due to it being pre-season we arrived in uncharacteristic weather conditions - a downpour so heavy it felt like we were caught up in the middle of a monsoon. Thunder raged through darkened skies, lightning forked over the swimming pool and I could only gaze wistfully at my suitcase of bikinis and sun dresses and wish I had packed a jumper.
But once we had been shown our stylish and spacious bedroom and made our way to the bar to sample the local liquor Mirto, made from the myrtle plant which grows freely in Sardinia, we were in high spirits and ready to cast off the stresses and strains of regular life.
After all, this was a hotel so dedicated to relaxation even the plants bordering the paths that cobweb the complex were chosen and planted specifically for their calming scents. Every sensation in the hotel - from eating, drinking, strolling and sunbathing has the art of relaxation at its centre.
The decor, influenced by French interior designers, uses a subltle pallette of relaxing neutrals and pretty pastels complemented by solid wood, hand carved furniture to create the perfect, soothing surroundings.
While the stylish spa offers a haven of treatments for body, soul and mind including outdoor seawater swimming pools, a jacuzzi, sauna and a relax room.
Guests can also choose from an a la carte menu of beauty treatments including facials, seaweed body wraps and relaxing massages.
The hotel enjoys utter privacy and one of the most magical locations on the island, with a small and picturesque port, the Aragonese tower, a quaint sea-front promenade and exceptionally pretty beaches. The wonderful marine view allows holiday makers to drink in the famous sunsets of Isola Rossa.
The hotel, whilst private, is far from isolated though - being just a short stroll away from the village’s shops and seafront.
But for guests who really want a home from home atmosphere and wish to relax in utter privacy, the hotel also offers the chance to stay in a spectacular private villa - decorated to an impeccable standard, with two bedrooms (one double room and second room with two single beds and 1 single armchair-bed), one bathroom, living room with 1 sofa bed (with two single armchair-beds), kitchen equipped with oven and dishwasher, TV, large veranda with sea view and equipped patio with barbecue.
Guests at the villa can take advantage of the well equipped kitchen but can also enjoy the services of a private chef should they wish to put their feet up and be waited on hand and foot.
The food at the hotel was of a very high standard. Our first night was a relaxed self-service buffet but on our second night we were given attentive table service and some excellent fine dining.
Staff at The Delphina were a pleasure to behold, being professional and courteous but also warm and fun with a very sincere wish to ensure guests had the best time possible.
We were sorry to leave the soothing surroundings and friendly atmosphere of the Hotel Relax Thalasso but at the same time delighted to spend a couple of nights at another of Delphina's impressive hotels - The Hotel Marinedda.
Hotel Marinedda Thalasso and Spa is a sophisticated sanctuary offering accommodation of a superior standard for the discerning holiday maker.
Our room was decorated to an impeccable standard. Spacious and comfortable it boasted a typical and rustic Mediterranean style while managing to remain refined and elegant.
Decorated with chestnut timbers and covered with local stone, soft draping nets around the bed gave the room an air of romanceand made our stay seem extra special.
This super stylish hotel is located in the beautiful Gulf of Asinara, a few hundred meters from Isola Rossa, and is surrounded by magnificent views and luxuriant vegetation.
It stands in front of one of the most spectacular sea panaromas in the whole of Sardinia and leads down to a stunning beach just 250 metres from the main swimming pool of the complex.
Beach lovers can explore the bays with striking red rock coasting the sands, gaze out at the crystal clear sparkling sea and soak in the perfumed and unspoiled natural surroundings. The sea is ideal for surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling and scubadiving. While the beautiful corals and the rich underwater life here makes the seabed very popular with recreational fishing lovers.
Guests at the hotel can cast away their cares by relaxing in the centre of thalassotherapy and spa - one of the most prestigious in the Mediterranean area.
The centre offers such luxuries as a semi-covered sea water heated swimming pool with hydro massage, an elegant sauna and Turkish bath, open air Thalasso circuits in small sea water pools and a relaxation area with a wide selection of herbal teas.
There is also a wide variety of beauty treatments for people who really love to be pampered and I enjoyed a sensation of pure decadence as I relaxed in a pool viewed private room while being treated to a luxury manicure and pedicure.
Dining at the Hotel Marinedda is an exciting and elegant experience. The Delphina Group is famed for the quality of its food and Hotel Marinedda confirms this tradition offering its guests a vast choice of excellent dishes, with a sumptuous buffet or table service.
The main restaurant Petra Ruja, with a stunning view over the bay, offers delicious buffets with regional and international dishes, as well as theme dinners.
After dinner entertainment was offered in the form of a piano bar and shows several artists. While balmy evenings can be enjoyed sitting at outdoor candle lit tables close enough to the bar to enjoy the live music.
Our final destination Le Dune Resort and Spa was a hotel more suitable to families and couples with young children.
Not as elegant and sophisticated as Hotel Thalasso or the Marinedda, this hotel still offers comfortable accommodation while proving a Godsend for parents of young children - boasting a nursery, mini club, baby club, junior club and young club.
There is a Fantasy Village set up on a shady hill with a children’s pool and sandy playground and the Duneland Castle is the base for the children’s clubs with soft play equipment, play centre, organised activities, arts and crafts and sleeping area with cots available.
A fantastic feature of the village is the choice of seven restaurants for dinner while the new Le Sabine Spa has three open air spa pools, health and beauty centre with relaxation areas, a Turkish bath and cardio fitness room.
It was here I enjoyed a luxurious and exceptionally relaxing facial - so relaxing I struggled not to fall asleep and felt amazing afterwards.
Le Dune also represents good value for money with complimentary wine and water at it's child friendly restaurants.
Sardinia itself is a land of many hidden gems. Wonders both natural and man made abound here.
A number of Grotto's and other places of natural beauty are visable accross the island. Just off the road to Castelsardo, an eroded rock called Elephant Rock, attracts much interest. Elephant Rock has a Domus de Janas, a "witches house" that was used as a tomb in prehistoric times.
Just as easy on the eye is the amazing landscape of lush vegetation, rambling nature and of course the beautiful beaches. This rugged island offers beauty and a subtle sense of sophistication for anyone who enjoys a less commercial type of break.
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For information and accommodation visit justsardinia.co.uk