Hotel Review: Experience Hotel Su Gologone, Oliena in Sardinia
Situated in the heart of the Valle di Lanaitho, on the outskirts of Oliena, is Sardinia’s best-kept secret: Experience Hotel Su Gologone. This unique hotel doesn’t just offer its guests authentic Italian charm but also breathtaking beauty. As soon as you arrive at the secluded spot, an air of relaxation and a slower pace of life washes over you. And as the name would suggest, this is so much more than just a hotel; it’s an experience.
We arrived at Hotel Su Gologone on a stunning, sunny June day. Our winding journey hadn’t been without drama (the main road was closed and a diversion sent us along the narrowest of sandy tracks, dodging boulders and potholes, and over a Roman stone bridge) so we were hot when we turned into the four-star hotel’s gates. Flowers, plants and vegetation sprout from every pot, cascading down the walls and growing from every crevice. The hotel’s entrance is an explosion of colours and fragrances – and this floral masterpiece continues inside.
We were greeted by the broad grin of our gracious host, Servei, who whisked our luggage off to our suite before bringing us some refreshing drinks and taking us on a whistle-stop tour of the vast resort. More than 70 rooms are scattered across 10 hectares with no room or suite the same. The traditional, rustic charm and remote location of this one-of-a-kind hotel are what makes it attractive to glamorous celebrity guests like Madonna – who once hired out the entire resort for a quiet, relaxing break away from the media.
Experience Hotel Su Gologone started life as a restaurant for those visiting the Su Gologone spring. Soon, the family realised customers wanted to stay overnight and the hotel was born – growing and growing over the years since. Today, the hotel remains in the same family, with Pasque and her daughter, Giovanna, welcoming guests. Giovanna – an artist and interior designer – has transformed the hotel; designing all of the soft furnishings in the hotel and putting her own unique stamp on every element of the hotel’s style.
Exploring the four-star hotel is like stepping into Giovanna’s mind; her dreams and imagination running wild from her childhood all the way through to adulthood. She was born at the hotel and has poured her heart, soul and passion into every design feature and décor decision. She is an art connoisseur, and walking around the hotel – which already boasts one of the largest private collections of art on the island – is like touring an art gallery or museum. Just as Giovanna had hoped, the hotel – a work of art itself – is like a huge frame for other art works. Many rooms are dedicated to famous artists or local craftsmen.
Our suite, named after Maria Lai, is like stepping into a museum – the bed is more than just a bed, it’s a piece of art in homage to the traditional crafting of the loom. Wooden struts jut into the living room and prop up the bench seating out on the verandah which boasts its own outdoor bath and beautiful views over the valley.
Set among hills, olive groves and vineyards, Hotel Su Gologone is surrounded by nature and untouched terrain. We awoke to the clanging cowbell of our neighbours; a trio of donkeys who had come to shelter in the shade next to our bungalow. Shards of sunlight broke through the tree canopy to dance across our terrace as we enjoyed a morning coffee before making our way to the restaurant for breakfast.
The buffet-style breakfast offers guests an abundance of choice from continental pastries to cereals, and fresh fruit and yoghurts to fresh Italian salads and vegetables. The restaurant occupies prime position in the complex with balconies over the pool and views across the rolling hills and countryside in the soft morning haze. Lush green plants and delicate flowers spill over the balcony edges and tumble down the walls, framing the views.
A day by the pool is the perfect way to unwind in this tranquil resort. The vast pool – filled with the natural water from the Su Gologone spring at Fiume Cedrino River (a tourist attraction situated just a 400m stroll from the hotel’s gates) – is a refreshing break from the heat of the sun. A Jacuzzi with breath-taking views is tucked around the corner and a fitness centre offers guests somewhere to work out. Waitresses serve drinks poolside and bring ice-cream treats around in late afternoon so there really is no need to move if you just want to relax with a good book.
However, if you prefer to stay busy then there are endless activities and excursions on offer. The resort has its very own crazy golf course buried amongst the trees and tennis courts and a football pitch offer those sporty guests something to get stuck into. A host of excursions – from kayaking to hiking – can be booked via reception, or guests can borrow mountain bikes to explore the surrounding countryside at their own leisure. Giovanna’s beautiful designs can be purchased in the on-site boutiques which also showcase local crafts and traditional creations.
If your visit is short and sweet (like ours) be sure to dedicate some time to simply getting lost in the hotel’s twisting lanes and footpaths fringed with rainbow-coloured floral displays. Around every corner is another beautiful terrace with breathtaking views; each lounge, bar and terrace is awash with a different colour.
We headed to the orange terrace – which also doubles as a cinema for films under the stars once a week – to go olive oil tasting before wandering up to the cigar lounge, a sun-drenched spot overlooking the vegetable garden. The path twists through the cactus garden to the pretty spot where guests can enjoy cigar, chocolate and whiskey tasting evenings. In the kitchen nearby, local women in traditional dress use the old bread oven to make local delicacies for guests to enjoy.
Climbing on top of these spaces, the Terrace of Desires offers guests the chance to do early-morning yoga and leave their wishes on notes in the jar. While next door the Terrace of Dreams hosts a weekly stargazing night and boasts stunning views across the valley. Lemon trees sprout from huge terracotta pots and pretty flowers float in rustic water fountains. Everywhere you look is like an oil painting; a chorus of birdsong providing the soundtrack to the living art show as butterflies flutter by and geckos scuttle up the walls.
But the best spot in Hotel Su Gologone is Bar Tablau – the white panoramic bar offering incredible views of the olive groves and cactus copses below. Cosy cushioned corners cling to the side of the hill surrounded by cacti with views over the canopy and valley. It is a spot that must be experienced to be believed. Delicious cocktails are served to a soothing background of zen music and guests are invited to help themselves to bite-size morsels and canapés from the fresh buffet. Birds twitter and cicadas chirp, with the jangling bells of sheep climbing the hills around you chiming in time with the music.
Guests can enjoy dinner at Bar Tablau – choosing from a concise specials menu that changes each day – or can head to the a la carte restaurant for the hotel’s signature dishes. We headed over to the main restaurant terrace and took an enchanting spot with pretty views over the pool. Inside, the breakfast buffet makes way for an antipasti buffet (one of the starter options) that you’re welcome to help yourself to. A variety of salads, vegetables, fish, cheese, breads and meats make up the buffet.
The main menu is minimal and focuses on simple, traditional Sardinian cuisine, inspired by the hotel’s humble and modest beginnings as a local restaurant. As a vegetarian there aren’t many choices but I opted for the potato-stuffed ravioli with marinara sauce which was warm, filling and packed full of flavour. My husband, who’d been bewitched by the open fire spit he’d seen earlier in the day, opted for the trio of meats.
Su Gologone is one of those places that’s impossible to describe. No matter how many words you have or how many pictures you take, it’s a place you have to visit; to see with your own eyes to understand the true magic of staying here. Imagine the most colourful restaurant you’ve visited, the most rustic hotel you’ve stayed in, the most artsy bar you’ve sampled, the most beautiful gardens you’ve roamed, and the most stunning views you’ve observed – and you’re still not close.
While the beauty and uniqueness of this place is what takes your breath away, what warms your heart is the fact this is a true family business – run by three generations of women who still make every decision from the design of the cushions to the flowers in the pots. The head of the family, and founder of the hotel, despite being in her 80s, still takes part in the day-to-day running of the hotel.
Classic Rooms are available at Experience Hotel Su Gologone from 198 Euro a night.
Address: Su Gologone, 08025 Oliena, Sardegna
Phone: +39 0784 287512