Is it possible to have a normal family holiday in ‘playground of the super-rich’ Costa Smeralda? Rising to that challenge, Andrew Dent discovered the answer is ‘yes you can’, and then some.
Unless you are part of the global elite and super yacht crowd, you might not have heard of the Costa Smeralda. It is after all a playground for the super-rich that was founded back in the 1960s by none other than the Aga Kahn.
Since then, every Euro Royal, Russian oligarch, Hollywood A-lister and even the Obamas and Elton have holidayed here. And it’s no wonder really, when you see the stunning coastline, azure blue water and the perfect sandy beaches.
But is it possible to have a ‘normal’ family holiday here? It was down to me take on the tough task of finding out for you dear reader. The results are a resounding ‘yes’, It absolutely is. Furthermore, you should absolutely try it.
Costa Smeralda starts with very family-friendly UK flights
With direct flights from London to Olbia airport this paradise is just two and half hours away from the UK. All the familiar airlines fly to Olbia including British Airways and EasyJet. Upon arrival in the very easy to manage airport you are left with a mere 30minute transfer to one of the four hotels operated by the Costa Smeralda Group. So far, so family-friendly.
Down-to-earth luxury at stunning Hotel Romazzino
I was to stay in the Hotel Romazzino, which is one of the most family-friendly and down-to-earth of the Costa Smeralda group. It is a stunning property nestled into its own hillside valley overlooking expansive gardens, the beach and then onto the shimmering water.
Our room opened up directly onto the gardens, only a short stroll down to the enormous swimming pool and the beach. An incredibly safe environment and very kid-friendly, Costa Smeralda even has its own security team wandering each of the properties 24/7.
The beach of the Romazzino is one of the longest in the area and is a delightful stretch of a few hundred metres. The water is an insane colour, warm and calm. There are also full water sports facilities at the beach, as well as a jetty for water taxis to whisk you off somewhere fabulous for lunch. The beach is public, which adds to the authenticity.
Like most of the hotels in this area the Romazzino dates back to the 1960s. There are still plenty of original touches, especially in the colourful bathroom tiles. But everything is all nicely up to date. The food is also great without being fussy. Everything is alfresco, there are ice cream stands dotted around and the breakfast buffet table is literally creaking under the weight of the fresh produce.
Explore Porto Cervo at the heart of Costa Smeralda
You might not choose to leave the Romazzino, but if you do it is a short 10 minute drive down into the town of Porto Cervo.
This is the beating heart of Costa Smeralda and walking around feels slightly reminiscent of a Hollywood Studio tour. Except here the stars are luxury boutiques, big name restaurants (think Zuma and Novikov), along with the enormous super-yachts sparkling in the Mediterranean sunshine.
As you might imagine such jewels create some pretty interesting people watching opportunities too. So Porto Cervo is well worth a few hours wandering around. The Cervo Hotel is situated in the heart of the action if you are here for a retail and restaurant break, but it is not the most kid-friendly, or famous of the group.
Visit Hotel Cala di Volpe for vintage luxe vibes
For that you need to visit the jewel in the crown of the Costa Smeralda group, the Hotel Cala di Volpe. It is the 60th anniversary of this quintessential property which is as much of an architectural gem as it is an hotel.
Its design was started in the 1960s by Jacques Couelle, and while things have been updated and modernised in places over the years, it still delights at every turn with glass and design that you simply don’t see elsewhere.
There is an enormous pool area, Juventus Academy Resort Experience soccer school, La Volpe Kids club and a great beach a few minutes walk or boat transfer away. Cala di Volpe was the setting for James Bond’s ‘The Spy who Loved Me’, and if it’s good enough for James, it’s good enough for me.
No visit to the Cala di Volpe would be complete without dinner in Le Grand restaurant. It is quite possibly one of the most stunning settings I have ever eaten in. The waiters are perfectly Italian: charming, funny, elegant, knowledgable. The tableware is unique and the food out of this world. Kids are welcome and they will love it. Like most things on the Costa Smeralda, it is expensive. But worth it.
Anyone for the Mouratoglou Tennis Centre?
Right across the road from the Cala di Volpe you will find the Mouratoglou Tennis Centre Sardinia. Named for the legendary coach of amongst others: Serena Williams, Simona Halep (recently blighted by doping charges) and Stefano Tspisits
Naturally you don’t get Mouratoglou himself, but you do get his methods. Our coach was the charming Austrian, Daniel, a hitting partner of former world number one, Dominic Thiem no less. If that wasn’t enough, half way through our session current world top ten player and Italian heart throb Matteo Barritini casually wondered in and started stretching off. Such is what happens in the Costa Smeralda.
We had a gruelling session of hitting, running and shuttling backwards and forwards and I was glad to be sharing the time with another player -thus allowing for well needed rests. It was a fantastic session and even in the short 90 minutes I discovered two tips (one for backhand and one for my serve) that are already helping me in my weekly matches back at home. At 190 euros for two people per hour, it feels like great value. You may, or may not, get a current tour-pro hitting on the next door court. I will be back for an extended tennis break for sure.
There is so much more to do around the area too, from visiting ancient local villages to concerts, hiking tours, golfing and boating, to name but a few. There are also changes afoot with hotel updates and new brands coming in for summer 2024. The Costa Smeralda has been a magnet for the last 60 years, there is no doubt that it will be for the next 60 to come. Just make sure you take the kids and become part of the story.