In a hillside hamlet amid juniper bushes, white granite boulders and Holm oaks, Petra Segreta Resort & Spa’s traditional stazzi farmhouse buildings offer charm and calm on the idyllic Costa Smeralda. This boutique hotel is a romantic retreat close to Olbia’s beautiful beaches. To sample the best of Sardinian cuisine, look no further than the hotel’s restaurant.
Get this when you book through us:
A tasting plate to share and a glass of sparkling wine each; GoldSmiths can try a special Sardinian tasting menu, for €45 a head (excludes drinks)
10am but flexible, subject to availability and a charge during busy periods (50 per cent of the cost of the room a night). Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £222.40 (€252), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €4.00 per person per night on check-in.
Rates include breakfast.
Visit the Wellness Centre Spa and book an Itinerary: this bespoke beauty package includes an outdoor massage treatment.
Annually for the winter season, November–March inclusive.
At the hotel
The Wellness Centre Spa, fitness area, relaxation room, gardens, bridge room, free WiFi throughout, free parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, free bottled water, Nuxe bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Get back to nature in Deluxe Room 201, which has a shaded seating area, its bamboo roof supported by a craggy boulder. Inside, the muslin-draped whitewashed four-poster takes centre stage, and sturdy farmhouse-style furniture adds a homely feel against a palette of creamy, muted hues. The large ensuite has double sinks and a walk-in rain shower. Junior Suite 306 has whitewashed walls and a beamed ceiling, a private outside lounge area and indoors, a sitting area and two bathrooms (with bath and shower).
There is an outdoor, heated swimming pool with a pool bar, a solarium, multiple flumes and a Jacuzzi with a waterfall.
Swimwear for the spa; sketchpad and charcoals for boulder-and-beach doodles; a cool bag for wave-side picnics.
The hotel is a no-pets-no-cigarettes zone.
Over-12s only; this hotel was designed with adults in mind – leave the little Smiths at home.
Sit at the back of the panoramic veranda, by the rough-cut wall and admire the Gulf views as you eat.
Match the restaurant’s relaxed mood with cool, crisp linen in neutral shades.
Michelin-star Il Fuoco Sacro continues the hotel’s fabulous farmhouse style; its white walls and ceiling are punctuated with bamboo beams, and heavy oak tables stud the spacious dining area. Quirky lighting fashioned by local artists and a large stone fireplace add warmth. There’s also a veranda overlooking the Gulf, protected by a bamboo roof and dotted with linen-laid tables and chunky rattan chairs. Chef Luigi Bergeretto is a dab hand with clams. Try his signature fregola al frutti di mare – a Sardinian-style seafood risotto.
The Pool Bar, with its shaded veranda, is a refreshing little drinking hole. Sit overlooking the pool and gardens and mark the sunset with a glass of moscato. A soundtrack of lounge music is as chilled as the countryside-at-dusk views.
The restaurant serves breakfast from 7.30am–10.30am; lunch from 12.30pm–2.30pm and dinner from 8pm–10.30pm; the pool bar quenches guests’ thirst from noon until midnight.
A selection from the restaurant menu is available 8am–10am and 8pm–10pm.
You should have no trouble getting a direct flight to Sardinia. Fly into Olbia Costa Smerelda; it’s a 20km drive from the airport to the hotel. Cabs from the airport are cheap, but they sometimes charge extra for luggage: agree the fare before you get in. There are also boats from mainland Italy and from France to Olbia.
As is the case with most islands, there’s little reason to trundle around by train in Sardinia.
Hiring a car is essential if you want to explore the island; check the airport you’re flying to for car rental hire. If you're driving from the airport, take the roundabout to the left and follow signs to Costa Smeralda. Pass through Olbia, and head on to San Pantaleo. Continue on the main road into the centre. Turn left after the small ISA supermarket into via del Volontariato. Cross the mini roundabout and turn left at the sign for Petra Segreta. Follow this road, keeping to the right, until you come to more signs for the hotel; then, take a left onto the little country lane and follow it for five minutes until you reach the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
You could easily lavish a treatment a day in the Wellness Centre Spa, which offers a health-boosting range of treatments including shiatsu and ayurvedic massages, reflexology, phyto baths, mud treatments and facials. Once you’ve been pampered and pummelled, explore the Mediterranean trail, a picturesque path within the hotel’s three acres of forests and fields. The path includes eight meditation points, natural granite caves and flourishing plants, so you can prolong the relaxed vibe induced by the spa. Drive 30km to the San Trano church, built around a granite grotto surrounded by Mediterranean bush and admire the spectacular views of the Luogosanto countryside. Look out for the church’s monolith altar and a rare black granite rock, known as ‘Petra Farru’. Nearby is the castle of Baldu, entirely built of granite and located in a forest. Beach bunnies can’t complain here, with a bounty of coves and coasts to choose from. There’s the glamorous La Celvia, a 20-minute drive from the hotel. A sprinkling of shack-style bars adds a Caribbean atmosphere to this hip haunt, beloved of celebrities, politicians and off-duty bankers. A more family friendly choice is La Marinella beach, 4km from Porto Rotondo. This tranquil stretch of white sand faces the islands of Soffi and Mortorio and there are plenty of romantic little coves to discover, beyond the main beach. Spiaggia Del Principe, named after Prince Āgā Khān’s preference for this nook of the island, is indeed a retreat fit for royalty. It has two stunning sections of powder-soft sand, separated by a promontory of blush-pink rock, and shimmering azure water. When/if you get bored of the beach, browse and barter at the San Pantaleo market, on Thursday mornings. Stock up on Sardinian olives, sausage and sundried tomatoes, then admire the art on display in the church.
For fresh seafood, dazzling views of the Costa Smerelda and equally eye-pleasing clientele, dine at Tanit, harbourside in Poltu Quatu (+39 0789 95500). If you’re after fresh, rustic pizza in a relaxed setting, dine at Vecchio Mulino on Strada Statale, near Arzachena (+39 0789 81943). For a Michelin-starred affair, sample reinterpreted Sardinian specialities at Ristorante Gallura, a deservedly popular restaurant at 145 Corso Umberto, in Olbia (+39 0789 24648). Ristorante Madai (+39 (0)789 91056) is an elegant, stylish place to eat, and has a breezy courtyard, but be warned: portions are fashionably small, prices fashionably high.
People-watch over a glass of prosecco in Caffè Nina, a small bar on Piazza della Chiesa (+39 33 8368 7288; www.caffenina.it) in the centre of San Pantaleo.
We leave the delightful village of San Pantaleo and begin our approach to Petra Segreta Resort and Spa. A winding dirt road snakes through scrubland strewn with hulking volcanic rocks. My Blackberry shows no reception. Commencing a vertiginous climb, we follow teeny tiny signs directing us to Petra Segreta Resort and Spa high in the hills above the Costa Smerelda. It is, however, not the happiest taxi drive. Italy is currently losing 2-0 in the World Cup. Our driver is energetically shouting ‘Kaput!’ motioning a slit throat. As we pull up to the pale timber double gates of our final destination, Italia scores. ‘Due-Uno!’ By now all three of us are shouting.
Flying easyJet was our only option to get to Olbia airport, half an hour’s drive away – and easyJet is not always, well, easy. Add to that air traffic control strikes. But never mind all that – one glimpse of the low-slung warm bronze stonework of the traditional stazzi farmhouse buildings and the hotel appears pure perfection set against an azure sky strewn with streaky fluffs of white. A bristling guard of flowering lavender stands to attention as we walk up the steep drive and into reception where we are greeted by tinkling jazz, and the attentive and charming Daniel.
Assigned room 202 (you cannot pre-book specific suites), our impressions are that it’s cool, calm and well-designed, with white walls, timbered ceilings and solid Sardinian furniture. Double doors lead out to a generous veranda and a breathtaking view to a sparkling Costa Smerelda bay. We turn on the television looking for BBC World – it’s Italian Sky. It’s probably for the best, and we’re nudged out into the Mediterranean gardens past olive trees, wild lavenders and prickly pears, to catch the last rays of sun, poolside.
This pair on a post-nuptials escape are in fact at a wellness centre. Indeed, Petra Segreta is a spa hotel, meaning that all the other guests here now – a mere 12, there are only 15 rooms in total – are like us, couples looking for peace. As such, the atmosphere translates as pin-drop silent. We talk in stage whispers. ‘They charge €3 for filtered water?’ and ‘Shall we have a cocktail?’ Ordering a gin lemon and a bloody Mary, we encounter Barbie and Dada, the resident West Highland Terriers. Unlike most hotel pets I've met, these two cuties aren’t jaded by the affections of strangers, and they gamely they offer up their tummies up for a rub.
The hotel has the effect of making you want to dress elegantly for supper. How lovely is that? We return to our room to transform ourselves from frazzled travellers to chic women-about-Sardinia. A fly in the ointment is that the bathroom mirror/lighting makes for challenging make-up application. And I wouldn’t be doing my job as retail – or in this case, hospitality – advisor if I didn’t point out the frustrating socket situation: all plug points are used by the essential lighting or TV equipment, leaving none spare for phones or laptops. Maybe the hotel is just that determined that guests properly switch off?
To more uplifting matters: eating. Dining right here at Petra Segreta is definitely preferential. Apart from having heard the food (think lobster Catalana with pan-fried garden vegetables) is a highlight, the alternative is having to tackle that dirt road again and then navigate back in pitch black. No thanks – we’re here to relax. So our first meal is in the fine-dining area. While I find the dishes a little fussy for my tastes, with lots of complicated sauce reductions, my craving for great wine couldn’t be better satisfied. I’m a fan of red and having shared my preferences with our waiter, Giorgio; he delivers a wonderful local Syrah – a Nero d'Avola d'Allessandro if you demand the details.
Only twice do we venture out of the hotel during our three-day mini-moon, and day two sees us venture north to Baja Sardinia. Arriving in the beach resort village after a 30-minute drive, we realise it is, well, a resort. Not much rustic charm, purpose-built, with a sandy beach covered with multiple beds. But this is the Italian way – and that lends a certain charm. And a fabulously fun and entertaining lunch at coast-side L'Approdo makes it worth the trip.
That evening, we hit the second simpler-fare restaurant at Petra Segreta, sitting in the space behind the fine-dining area. Delicious! My Mrs Smith has carpaccio of octopus while I enjoy the wafer-thin cut beef. Spaghetti Vongole and sautéed veal and mushroom with fried potato and an arugula salad follow. And tonight’s ruby tipple? Cagnulari Cantina Santa Maria La Palma Rosso di Alghero – as lovely as the first recommendation.
Porto Cervo, the next morning, is our next excursion: this is essentially Bond Street in a Seventies’ mall, selling clothes for Nancy dell’Ollio and those dolly-bird Italian TV presenters, and their signore. Ralph Lauren and Tods for him, Dolce and Versace for her. Plenty of these very ladies seem to be cavorting around Porto Cervo in their five-inch Louboutins, micro-shorts, fake lips and big hair. We’ve heard they even wear their Loubis on the beach. My idea of hell. After discovering a brand-new Eres boutique (and a bikini each later), we take in some more edifying window-shopping care of art-filled Fumi and the Louise Alexander Gallery.
Happy to get back to our romantic hideaway, which is as genuine as Porto Cervo is phony, it segues to pool time again. Laid-back and unhurried, service full of warmth and charm – it's heaven. And Paolo, the therapist who performs our vigorous full-body massages in the spa, has our health and wellbeing at the front of his mind throughout. He is properly good. And should we desire more spa time, Turkish baths, a sauna and Jacuzzis are at our disposal.
For someone seeking a relaxed mini spa break, Petra Segreta has all the essentials for those fleeing city stresses. An isolated and soothing location, chic look and feel, great service, good weather. But, for me, the real touch of genius? An outdoor running machine. Pounding it in my bikini, Zola Budd style, overlooking the stunning surrounding hilly landscape, I realise this a place where I can enjoy my red wine and still know I am being good to myself. That’s Petra Segreta all over.