Hotel Review: Gabbiano Azzurro Hotel and Suites, Golfo Aranci in Sardinia
Just over 200 miles off the coast of western Italy lies the ‘Endless island’, Sardinia – or Sardegna to the locals. The beautiful island offers tourists some of the best beaches and clearest waters in the Mediterranean, beautiful mountain views, delicious food, and warm, welcoming people. The island is also home to a number of exclusive resorts and luxurious hotels; including Gabbiano Azzurro.
Gabbiano Azzurro (translation: ‘blue seagull’) is the best of both worlds – it’s a luxury hotel with an authentic, Sardinian charm and enchanting family history. The four-star hotel occupies prime position on the north-eastern coastline with gorgeous views across jagged rocks so guests can enjoy watching the yachts and fishing boats cruise by.
The pool and one of two restaurants, White, sit on the rocky outcrop with views to one side over the quaint village of Golfo Aranci while the other vista takes in the hotel’s private beach and the picturesque bay.
Golfo Aranci is a small fishing town originally founded by the fishermen of Ponza. Now, the quiet but popular tourist resort boasts small hotels and bustling restaurants. The golden beach rolls gently into the azure water and the harbour is alive with busy fishing boats and luxury catamarans bobbing on the surface.
Gabbiano Azzurro doesn’t scream ostentatious overindulgence at you, rather it whispers subtle hints of luxury and hidden extravagance from the beautiful rooftop private pools which you’d never know existed unless you have one, and the delicately presented plates of food which could rival that of any Michelin-starred restaurant.
The hotel prides itself on having rooms and suites for everyone – from its compact double rooms for those looking for a reasonable bill to its larger, poolside suites perfect for families, and its secret luxury suites – one of which was our home for two nights – which ooze style and sophistication, perfect for honeymooners and guests looking for a bit of luxury.
The hotel’s staff are busy, constantly refreshing the hotel, improving facilities and updating its 80 rooms and suites. This summer, they opened a new fitness suite and massage room while also revamping some of the older rooms into bigger, junior suites. With two complete, they have ambitious plans to create more.
Two years ago they opened a number of luxury pool suites to cater to the high-end market – beautiful, white rooms with a private pool and terrace on the roof. The vast suite is a soothing space, traditional materials are complimented with nautical art and the white décor is accented with hues of turquoise. The huge bed looks out of the patio doors onto the balcony, a glass balustrade offering guests uninterrupted views across the Med.
A huge white, stone bath stands strong at the centre of the room – but the suite’s key feature is tucked away, up a small secret staircase from the balcony onto the roof: a stunning rooftop infinity pool and terrace. The sun-drenched veranda is the perfect spot to enjoy a morning coffee, flick through a holiday read, or – as we did – toast your holiday while watching the sunset.
All of the rooms in the hotel’s new wing have views over the sea and the pretty pool below. But the salt-water pool isn’t the only place guests can enjoy a dip, Gabbiano Azzurro also boasts it’s own private beach. As part of the hotel’s grand improvement plans they’re currently busy pumping sand from the rocky outcrop onto the beach to restore it back to how the bay once looked and create a larger space for guests to enjoy.
We headed to Blu restaurant for dinner with our host, Laura. We enjoyed a delicious fish amuse bouche with crunchy cauliflower and sweet apricot before a starter of lobster and a rich warm sauce. Next up was a classic local fish and pasta dish: fregula, only available in Sardinia.
Made with semolina and squid ink (for the black variety), the risotto-like pasta with shrimp Carpaccio led onto a delicious entrée of fish with deep-fried vegetables and an off-menu ‘Total White’ mango half-sphere semi-fredo with a delectable crunch but lighter than air!
If you want to sample local cuisine then it’s only right you wash it down with local booze; try the Sardinian Vermentino wine. To finish, it was only polite to try the mirto liquor made from the indigenous myrtle plant. Staff have created their very own toiletries made from the same fragrant plant so every guest’s shower has the same mirto aroma!
If sunbathing, swimming, eating and drinking isn’t enough to keep you entertained, there are lots of excursions available for guests including dolphin tours and cooking classes to make traditional Sardinian dishes, or entertainment in the shape of weekly performances by the Tenores (traditional Sardinia singers performing shepherd songs).
Gabbiano Azzurro is also perfectly located for guests to explore the stunning Costa Smeralda. We hopped in our hire car and drove the short 30-minute drive to Porto Cervo, the millionaire’s playground, to stroll along the docks and window shop in the designer boutiques. Just 20 minutes around the bay is the pretty waterfront town of Porto Rotondo; a warren of pretty flower-lined streets and welcoming eateries that surround the marina.
Or, driving north along the coastal roads and then inland into the mountains, is the picturesque village of San Pantaleo; a scenic stop-off for any road trip across the island, especially for those who want to experience an authentic Sardinian village.
After a busy day exploring, the perfect spot to relax is Gabbiano Azzurro’s beautiful terrace at Blu restaurant. Jasmine climbs up the walls and clings to the gazebos that frame the al fresco tables of the restaurant. The scent of the delicate flowers fills the air. We sat down to eat just as the sun set casting a beautiful wash of oranges and reds across the bay.
We chose from the a la carte menu, selecting the fish of the day – scorpion fish – which melted in the mouth. I’d suggest asking for the waiter’s recommendations on the fish of the day, how to have it cooked and which wine to accompany it; we were really happy with his suggestions, which were extremely tasty.
We didn’t find the dessert menu particularly inspiring but opted for a traditional tiramisu. The terrace can get a little breezy in the evening so waiters offer guests soft throws to stay warm by the candlelight meaning you can sit and enjoy star gazing with a glass of wine as late as you like.
Guests can choose from a bed and breakfast option or half-board and have the flexibility to decide daily if they want lunch or dinner. You might struggle to eat here if you don’t like fish or seafood and there were very few vegetarian options, but we enjoyed our dinners and breakfasts, and guests can opt for different menus at Blu, White and the beach bar which provides drinks, snacks and ice creams throughout the day.
Breakfast is served out on the poolside terrace or in the White Restaurant with the doors flung open. The buffet includes hot options, continental choices and delicious pastries and fresh fruit. Guests can order fresh Italian coffee to enjoy on the veranda or treat themselves to a Mimosa in the sun.
We spent our final morning soaking up some rays on the hotel’s private beach. The wonderful staff prepared our sun loungers as we paddled in the water, the clearest we’ve ever laid eyes on in the Med. In the high season, guests should be prepared to pay a fee to reserve a sunbed but the beach was relatively quiet for our visit.
While Gabbiano Azzurro is a beautiful hotel with fabulous facilities it is the family history that makes this place so special. The 50-year-old hotel has been run by the Datome family since 1968, with staff who have worked with them for decades, some for more than 30 years.
‘The staff are our greatest treasure,’ Laura tells us. She’s being modest. The Datome family is what makes Gabbiano Azzurro so special. And it doesn’t get more Italian than that.
Classic Village View double rooms are available at Hotel Gabbiano Azzurro from 168 Euro a night. Pool Suites are available from 888 Euro a night.
Address: Via Dei Gabbiani s.n. Golfo Aranci 07020, Olbia/Tempio – Sardinia
Phone: +39 0789 46929