Richard Jones takes a break in Sardinia, enjoying five-star comforts ... and
a chance meeting with the wildlife

STROLLING back to my room, munching on an apple, I bumped into a couple of strange fellow guests. A wild boar and her youngster shuffled on the path in front of me, sniffing around for fruit which the hotel staff had left out.

Not quite what you’d expect from a five-star resort, granted, and enough to convince some that they had made a pig’s ear of their holiday choice.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

To me, this was a perfect example of Sardinia’s charm — a place where natural beauty and refined luxury live side by side.

The island is the second largest in the Mediterranean (after Sicily and before Cyprus). Roughly the size of Wales, it is actually closer to Africa than it is to Italy, meaning that it maintains its warm climate well into the autumn months.

One of its nicknames is the ‘Other Continent’, and although it is a Med destination, at times it can seem more like a slice of the Seychelles.

Nestled on Sardinia’s northern coast, an hour from Olbia airport, lies Delphina Resorts’ Valle dell’Erica Thalasso and Spa.

Back in 1958, Valle dell’Erica was the first tourist village constructed in Sardinia, during a period when it was still possible to build properties a stone’s throw from the sea.

Over the next couple of decades, it became a very stylish, sought-after venue, with many celebrities and royals among its guests.

Then in 2005, it was completely refurbished by Delphina, transforming it into a place equipped with modern five-star comforts.

Eight years on and they have unveiled an extension to Valle dell’Erica – the hotel La Licciola.

The aim of this development was to enrich the resort with yet more luxurious and refined suites, plus the addition of a sea-water swimming pool, two bars, and two new restaurants.

All the rooms at Valle dell’Erica make the most of the sea view with huge balconies and terraces — and in many there is even a window enabling you to gaze out across the Mediterranean while taking a shower.

Countless secluded small bays are accessible on foot from the resort, while the warm atmosphere of its Thalasso and Spa Center ensure it is a true oasis of relaxation and pleasure, especially for couples.

Nevertheless, Valle dell’Erica is also a popular choice for families.

It has large, green garden areas where the youngsters can play without disturbing the adults, a well-equipped mini club, a splendid kids’ pool, and the little ones even have their own dedicated restaurant.

Speaking of cuisine, considering it is surrounded by the sparkling blue Mediterranean waters, it’s no surprise there’s so much delicious seafood on offer around the island.

But even by Sardinian and Italian standards, the food at Valle dell’Erica is first-class.

The dishes at the four main restaurants Il Nautilus, Les Bouches, Grecale and Li Ciusoni are mouthwatering enough, but for those looking for something even more special one evening, I’d strongly recommend booking in at Li Zini for a candlelit barbecue by the sea.

Without doubt, one of the best ways to see Sardinia’s sights is from the water, and Valle dell’Erica’s guests are given a choice of boats to explore the stunning coastline.

Opposite the hotel lies the Maddalena Archipelago, a string of islands scattered along the coast where both supersized luxury yachts and smaller vessels drop anchor into the incredible turquoise sea which is irresistible for swimming.

The most eye-catching sight in the archipelago is the world-famous Spiaggia Rosa or Pink Beach, a protected area on the island of Budelli that gets its colour from the amount of foraminifera and other marine micro-organisms spread over the shore.

The largest island in the chain is La Maddalena with its charming little streets and squares making it perfect for a spot of shopping or a stop-off to devour some delicious local ice cream.

If you’re feeling sporty, Porto Pollo beach on the main island is a paradise for surfers and kite surfers, and wouldn’t be out of place in California or Australia.

Meanwhile, those wanting a taste of history should take a trip to Aggius, a beautiful, ancient stone village in Gallura which houses the island’s the Ethnographic Museum.

Invasions form a big part of Sardinia’s past. As it has been ruled by the Moors, Spanish and Italians, the north and south have their own distinct dialects, sprinkled with Spanish and Arabic-sounding words as well as Italian.

However, there has been an invasion of another sort, with Russian tycoons purchasing mansions and mooring their opulent yachts in the harbour of Porto Cervo at the heart of Costa Smeralda.

A night in one of the town’s top hotels may set you back a billionaire’s ransom, but thanks to Delphina, you don’t need mega monetary muscle to lap up some Sardinian luxury. Instead, save yourself a few thousand rubles, heed the call of nature, and check in at Valle dell’Erica. Not only will you be living the high life, you might even bump into an unexpected guest or two.