Cala di Volpe still lives up to the setting it was designed to be: an elite, laid-back playground for the ultra-wealthy and famous – but an initial glimpse of the property does not unveil its true, understated elegance, writes Codelia Mantsebo
An iconic hotel that's played host to stars including Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed, Elton John, Grace Kelly, Beyoncé and Jay Z and Robbie Williams, Cala di Volpe on Sardinia’s exclusive Costa Smeralda is perhaps best known as one of the locations where Roger Moore appeared as James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Despite the all-star status, luxury is discreet here. From afar, the rustic-elegant resort appears to be a medieval jumble of crooked towers, rough porticoes, terracotta-tiled roofs and ombré walls in pastel shades of pink, orange and yellow. Think colourful Bedrock minus the Flintstones. Inside, narrow passageways honeycomb the white stucco interior, while multicolored windows admit rainbow sunbeams.
The brainchild of Aga Khan and designer Jacques Couelle, the resort was built in the 1960's – a jet-set landmark that would live on forever. Couelle’s modest take on luxury is more reminiscent of an ancient fishing village than a hotel. It’s an architectural masterpiece, borrowing forms and colours from the Sardinian landscape; wild nature with its picturesque rocky landscape.
More than 50 years on, the hotel has gone on to become, perhaps one of the world's most expensive holiday indulgences, offering the most interesting slice of la dolce vita this side of the Mediterranean.
The architecture at Cala di Volpe integrates effortlessly into the traditional Sardinian surroundings area, with a surrealist-like atmosphere. For the uninitiated, the building is intimidating; however it’s the intimate details that reveal the hotel’s true, understated elegance. The hotel’s walls are adorned with hand painted murals on the walls that could easily mislead you into thinking you are in a gallery. It’s such delicate touches that give Cala di Volpe a personal, and thus, elite ambiance.
Despite its understated style, this exclusive hotel is everything but simple.
Rustic whimsy meets all-out luxury. Directly in front of the rough porticoes is a slip for yachts, an Olympic size saltwater pool and the poolside restaurant. I hop aboard a private speedboat shuttle, complimentary for hotel guests, that whisks me to a secluded beach just ten minutes away – a plus for A-list celebs avoiding paparazzi. The beach, an isolated crescent of rough sand, is set with blue-canvas chaises and thatched umbrellas near striking blue-green water.
I was happy to relax and enjoy the surroundings; the hotel also boasts an indoor and outdoor gym, plus a chic salon. A selection of designer shops on the hotel’s ground floor provide a stylish refuge replete with dolce vita class and elegance.
You’ll find that you enjoy the hotel itself; it is a place to be, not to do. We spend our days at the beach, by the pool or in the lobby, at the piano and beach bar sipping Vesper Martinis – James Bond’s favourite cocktail. For those who fancy venturing further afield, there are plenty of other beaches and coves to explore in the area.
In our room, I find the simple white sheets of my bed crowned with a Lindt chocolate after turn down. Hints of decadence continue to trail into the colourfully tiled bathroom stocked with deluxe Acqua Di Parma toiletries.
Stylish and homely meet in roughly hewn white stucco walls adorned with a large flat-screen television contrasted with traditional Sardinian art that demonstrates the illustrious traditions of its artisans. As usual with most Italian hotels, there was no iron but given the hotel’s clientele, they won’t need one anyway.
The rustic yet refined cuisine in Cala di Volpe’s candlelit dining room serves Italian dishes with a twist. Our chef used a mobile stove to cook our meals to our tastes at our table. Breakfast is served here too. Traditional Sardinian cakes compete with freshly-baked bread coupled with mozzarella. These indulgences pair well with exquisite views of the private harbour from the restaurant. You can also appraise the stunning vista from your balcony, while room service bring breakfast to you.
Considering the upscale clientele, high-prices, excellent cuisine, simplicity of design, and absence of pretension, Cala di Volpe is by turns calculatedly idiosyncratic and deliberately imperfect. Yet, it also strikes a very glamorous appeal. Well heeled travellers seeking a sophisticated, yet casual environment in one of the Mediterrennean’s exclusive locales will find Hotel Cala di Volpe una bella esperienza.
Like anything else on Costa Smeralda, the luxury and provincial finery of the Cala di Volpe does not come cheaply. Double rooms start at £1,160 per night in high season, while its penthouse suite starts at £30,000 per night.
But if good times are what matters, who’s to say that’s not money well spent?
Hotel Cala di Volpe, Costa Smeralda, 07020 Porto Cervo OT, Italy
+39 0789 976111