Tucked in from the Sardinian coastline, Su Gologone hotel is a creative enclave beneath the spiky Supramonte mountaintops. An homage to local crafts, the hotel showcases the bright colours and traditional textiles of the Italian island in whitewashed rooms that are a canvas for regional artists. Schedule art classes with an expert or retreat to the gardens, where staff can provide a canvas, should inspiration strike. The hotel also embraces the flavour of the island, serving Sardinian wine and dishes prepared by the family matriarch and served on a terrace overlooking the rugged natural landscape.
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A selection of fresh juices and Sardinian pastries
10am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £154.20 (€182), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include Continental breakfast.
Arrive ready to craft: the hotel is decorated in exceptional textiles, embroidery and paintings, and often hosts classes and demonstrations. Those with particular interests can arrange for one-on-one instruction.
At the hotel
Mini golf course, gym, tennis courts, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: coffee-maker, minibar, flatscreen TV.
Our favourite rooms
Each room has unique local art, but the aptly named Art Studio Suite was once the owner's atelier. Set in its own private rose garden with a courtyard and outdoor double bath, apart from other rooms, the Studio comes equipped with art supplies, an easel and canvas, should inspiration strike. Suite 86, inspired by the artist Francesco Ciusa, has a lovely terrace with views of the mountains.
Surrounded by grass and sunloungers, the unheated 25-metre pool is fed from a natural spring behind the hotel. Nearby, the seasonal gazebo bar offers snacks and games.
Don’t worry about sun hats and beach bags: the hotel has them available for guests.
Take advantage of spectacular sunset views from the Terrazza dei Desideri, where guests can write wishes on strips of paper to drop in two blown-glass bottles. On the other side of the hotel, the Terrazza dei Sogni hosts weekly stargazing.
On warm evenings, request a table on the edge of the terrace, overlooking the pool. If there’s a chill in the air, sit inside near the open fire.
Bright colours and breezy fabrics to match the island vibe.
Nido del Pane serves home-style Sardinian food, cooked by Franca. An island favorite that has become a destination of its own, the restaurant serves local produce, primarily from the the family’s own farm and gardens. One night a week each summer, the cobblestone 18th-century courtyard opens for a Barbagian banquet of spit-roasted meat, charcuterie, cheese and breads, paired with local wines.
The Magico Tablao bar is ideal for drinks in the early evening. Its terrace has prime mountain views and drinks showcasing fresh fruit and local herbs. The casual Pool Gazebo serves drinks and snacks throughout the day for poolside refreshment.
Dinner is available from 8:30pm till 11pm. The Pool Gazebo serves from 1pm to 7pm, and the Magico Tablao bar serves from 4pm to 11pm. Breakfast is served on the terrace from 8am to 10:30am.
The full menu is available for delivery during restaurant hours. Tapas and drinks are available at all other times.
Su Gologone is in Oliena on the east side of Sardinia, 8km from Tiscali Cave.
Sardinia’s primary airport is Olbia-Costa Smeralda, which offers flights from all major European airports. The hotel is a 100km drive; transfers can be arranged for €150.
You might enjoy hiring a car to explore the beaches and coves around the island; the hotel offers free valet parking.
Several ferries operate routes to the island from Italy and France. Su Gologone is located between the Arbatax and Olbia ports. Moby, Tirrenia and Grimaldi all operate routes. The fastest, from Rome, is about five hours.
Worth getting out of bed for
With mountain vistas to inspire even the most elementary of artists, Su Gologone is a lovely place for escape and relaxation, and it’s tempting to fill an entire stay with art classes, yoga and afternoons by the pool.
The grounds around the hotel are exceptional, including gardens and the local spring, which feeds the pool. For slightly more intrepid explorers, the nearby mountains are ideal for climbs and afternoon picnics. The hotel can also arrange for guests to visit local goat herders, and lunch on their cured meats and fresh cheeses.
Sardinia lures travellers from around the world for its beaches, and Cala Cartoe and Cala Luna are two ideal for day excursions.
Sample contemporary Italian dishes in nearby Nuoro at Ristorante Enoteca Ciusa, which showcases local ingredients in pastas, pizzas and hearty meat dishes. The intricate cakes are a marvel that would dazzle any first-rate baker.
Seafood is the name of the game at Il Pescatore, which has served fresh catches with prime water views since 1970.
Meat juice hisses as it hits the hot coals in the fireplace at Su Gologone. It takes up the whole wall in the restaurant and is tended to by a chef who heaves the heavy cast iron spits, threaded with half a pig. No wonder that diners flock from far and wide for the roast pork, veal, wild boar, kid and sirloin steak.
In this part of Sardinia you can forget picking over a light salad in a seafront bar. It’s about serious walks and serious sustenance. The mountain retreat is surrounded by hiking trails: deep canyons carved into the Jurassic rock, shepherds’ paths which wind up craggy peaks and intricate networks of caves and grottos.
Days here start with a breakfast which can only be justified by a reasonable level of activity afterward. Platters of cured meats and cheeses are laid out in the dining room. There are local jams, fruit and nuts as well as a separate table laden with pastries: fruit sponge, almond croissants and lattice-topped fruit tarts.
It’s easy to string-out breakfast so it runs into several courses on the open air balcony where views stretch for miles. Each plate becomes more elaborate than the last – I pace myself, building up to soft goats cheese drizzled with a dark, fragrant honey and oily walnuts. Coffee flows freely, decorative urns overflow with red geraniums and the terracotta tiled roof creates a homey, backyard vibe.
It’s all part of the hand-crafted feel at Su Gologone, which is part boutique hotel, part folk museum. There are antique kitchen utensils hung-up in the restaurant, glass cabinets containing artefacts and a gift shop heaving with trinkets. No doubt the curiosities intrigue most – though minimalists would, perhaps, find it one scatter cushion, one tassel, one mosaic too much.
Still, it would be a waste to shuffle round Su Gologone all day though. There’s an unheated pool fed by a nearby spring and tennis court – but the hotel is best used as a luxurious launch to explore the area. Mr Smith and I swing by reception where we’re given a map and list of activities: ‘A Tour of Pinnettos’ along the ancient paths of goat herders, or perhaps ‘Punta La Marmora’ – a ridge walk that leads to the summit of the highest peak in Sardinia (1,834m).
We decide to head to the coast after being recommended a day excursion to Cala Luna. The road winds down to the sea before coming to a sudden end. We park up and descend steep limestone cliffs to the beach at Cala Fuili. There, a scrambling trail hugs the coast for a couple of miles before spitting us out at a secluded beach where crystal clear, turquoise waters easily make the coastal hike worth breaking sweat for.
The following day we decide to stick closer to the hotel. Its namesake, Su Gologone springs, are just five minute’s walk down the road. There, water powerfully surges past at 500 litres per second, erupting from underground cave networks which have long baffled explorers – in 2010 Italian Alberto Cavedon set a record when he dived down 135 metres, but he still failed to reach the bottom.
The springs mark the start of a signposted eight-mile route which loops up to a cavern at Grotta di sa Oche. It’s a walk which takes us through lush pastures where the tinkle of cow bells soars on the breeze and wildflowers burst from the grass verges. We gently snake up into the Supramonte mountains, and explore the cool mouth of the cave – where the stalactites and steady drip of water reminds us of the underground labyrinth below us.
Back at the hotel, Mr Smith and I cool down in the pool, before driving five minutes to the nearby town, Oliena, for a sundowner. The Roman settlement still has a biblical feel, with dark alleyways snaking off the main road. The church of Santa Maria marks the centre of the hillside town and there are a handful of bars which are good for an aperol spritz – but it’s really about the stunning views which stretch out across the valley.
The setting sun throws a soft pink light over the white cliffs as we head back to Su Gologone for dinner. Our legs feel heavy and used from the day’s walking, which helps justify several more courses to bookend the day.
There’s salty pane carasau bread – crisp like communion wafers – and local vermentino wine, then an exquisite fennel pasta and roast kid from the fire followed by traditional savera deep-fried cheese with honey. It’s a meal deeply rooted in its surroundings. A reminder of how untouched this special and secluded part of Sardinia is – up in the mountains where time stands still.