I was on a private yacht in Mauritius literally trying to figure out how many gin and tonics one needs to change a light bulb when suddenly I get a call from London. All I could remember was my colleague Jeff Armstrong at the Chelsea Monthly offices mentioning something about James Bond, the Spy and Sardinia. Well, in a state of heightened awareness I said ‘yes’ not knowing what i had signed up to. The next week, low and behold I was introduced to Alexa Withers, and the full team for the Sardinia tour which included Klaudia, Rachel, Kitty and Harry. We all exchanged the usual pleasantries and joined fists together in agreement that since we were on her Majesty’s Secret Service. …we will make sure this trip was one to remember and judging by the itinerary it was clear that we were all in for a treat.
Sardinia is a large Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. It has nearly 2,000km of coastline, sandy beaches and a mountainous interior crossed with hiking trails. Its rugged landscape is dotted with thousands of nuraghi – mysterious Bronze Age stone ruins shaped like beehives. One of the largest and oldest nuraghi is Su Nuraxi in Barumini, dating to 1500 B.C. 3. The island has an above average life expectancy of 81 years, and has the highest rate of centenarians in the world, with there being 22 people aged over 100 per 100,000 inhabitants. Interestingly, it is the only region of Italy without a motorway – a great indication of the island’s relaxed pace of life! Well, that was more than enough reasons to board the plane… imagining finding out what lies beneath the secrets to why inhabitants of this small region are so relaxed.
We all checked in to MeriDiana Airlines..Unfortunately, I kept thinking someone got drunk on a night out and started singing the Michael Jackson hit ‘Dirty Diana’ but switched the ‘Dirty’ for ‘MeriDiana’ ..Anyway, names aside and after my mind was randomly rescued out of the gutter. I relaxed and enjoyed the hospitality. Why? well, because you only live twice. My verdict? MeriDiana Airlines was actually really good. We landed at Oblia Airport the mission possible had commenced. A quick 30 minute drive and we finally arrived at the Cervo Hotel, Costa Smeralda which was set to become our host hotel for the first leg of our trip. The Cervo Hotel is situated right in the centre of Porto Cervo village, attractively designed with colour wash buildings around a maze of cobbled alleys and piazzas. With spectacular sea views, the marina is frequented by numerous large yachts in the summer months and home of world-class yachting events in September. The hotel is set alongside exclusive designer boutiques, jewelers and first class restaurants, frequented by glamorous clientele. Porto Cervo provides the perfect location to explore the stunning Costa Smeralda with beautiful beaches and clear turquoise sea, ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
Built in rustic Sardinian style to blend in with the surrounding scenery, the Cervo Hotel accommodation comprises of 80 Classic, Superior and Premium rooms and Suites, furnished by local interior designers with distressed pine furniture and Sardinian bedspreads and curtains. The guest rooms at the Cervo Hotel have been completely renovated within the last few years, and all have en suite bathroom with hairdryer and bathrobes provided, air conditioning with individual climate control, satellite TV, telephone, minibar and terrace or balcony (except some Classic rooms) with views over the harbour, piazzetta or pool.
After we settled into our rooms we were ready to explore. First stop was the Porto Cervo & Wine Festival to listen to a presentation by Marcello Coronini a writer, food & wine critic and founder of La Cucina del Senza brand . As well as taking part in the festival. He was also there to promote his book of the same name which showcases fat-free dishes, with no added salt and sugar.
From 12-14 May 2017, Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda welcomes guests from all around the world for the Porto Cervo Wine & Food Festival, the boutique event focusing on the best of Sardinian and Italian wine and food produce. The Cervo Conference Center was the main hub for the entire event and saw an array of producers – from world-famous makers to small, local producers – gathering together to showcase their produce to food and wine experts, together with tourists who are lucky enough to visit Costa Smeralda in May. During the event, we got to take part in many tasting opportunities combined with a rich programme of meetings, book launches and cooking demonstrations. The event, organised by the Hotels Cala di Volpe, Cervo, Pitrizza and Romazzino, is one of a kind.
Coronini’s presentation was filled with typical Italian passion geared at making sure we all understood that healthy eating should never compromise taste. With that being said, and due to the fact that my level of speaking and listening to the beautiful Italian language is limited. We had to quickly bring forth an exit strategy known in the business as “shake head, smile, get up and move”. We went into the main hall were the actual activity of tasting was going on. It was like wine and food heaven with hundreds of wine experts, food brands, and more nestled in one big hall desperately trying to get you to taste their wine and culinary food from the region. My idea of bliss, we tasted some amazing locally produced wine which is when we encountered the infamous Alberto Ugolini from Santa Margherita Wines who had more personality than Paddy McGuinness on a good day. Alberto was full of jokes as he gave us a history lesson in wine from Sardinia and especially his brand of wines which obviously as he clearly expressed ‘it’s the best’. Well, if you don’t blow your own trumpet no one will do it for you! Later that evening, we enjoyed a welcome dinner at Cervo Hotel with wine & food producers featuring a few music performances by leading local acts. Alberto showed up again offering us the best of his collection of Santa Margherita wines. The night ended with an amazing fireworks display which obviously put the spark out to an early night for all.
The next day, we enjoyed lunch at an authentic Sardinian restaurant, Il Pomodoro which is located in the center of Porto Cervo, a few steps from the main square. It has two dining rooms and two outdoor patios. Rustic and casual styles give the restaurant its distinctive look. It’s the classic Italian restaurant that offers only the best of the tasty Mediterranean cuisine; obviously Pizza and Pasta are in pole position on the menu. After a delightful lunch we all made our way back to the festival to catch Bruno Gambacorta interviewing Luigi Moio, Professor of Oenology at the University of Naples Federico II and President of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine. One of the leading experts on Italian wine, Moio is also the author of “Il respiro del vino” – a fascinating journey to discover the invisible ‘sphere’ of the nose of wines. All the talk of wine coupled with all that Italian passion made us opt again for an exit strategy back to the building to partake in the actual tasting of the wine itself. Obviously, my favourite part. All talk and no taste could never be a combination any sensible human should advocate.
Later that evening we transferred into the Hotel Cala di Volpe. The Hotel Cala Di Volpe is beautifully situated in a small bay on the island of Sardinia, Italy. In the movie The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), James Bond (Roger Moore) and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) stay at Hotel Cala Di Volpe on the Italian island of Sardinia. After meeting Q at the small port of Palau, Bond and Amasova drive to the hotel with the white Lotus Esprit. They walk through the beautiful lobby and check-in under the name Sterling. They take “suite A5, a sitting room with two bedrooms”. The hotel can be seen clearly in the next scene when Naomi (Carolina Munro) arrives on the speedboat to pick up Bond and Amasova and take them to Karl Stromberg’s (Curd Jürgens) hideout Atlantis.We see the hotel again briefly when Bond and Amasova drive away in the Lotus, unknowingly on their way to a spectacular chase which ends in the famous scene where the Lotus dives underwater and reappears on the beach.The luxurious hotel suite where Bond and Anya stay is actually a bar of the hotel, so even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you might be able to visit the room while enjoying a bottle of champagne or a Martini with a view of the bay.
Cala Di Volpe is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, a favourite of many celebrities and as we attended the gala dinner later that night for a specially themed Sardinia meets Japan: Four – hands menu by Executive Chef Maurizio Locatelli and Hirohiko Shoda- Chef Hiro. It made perfect sense to order a gin and tonic shaken not stirred… in keeping with the 007 theme of our surroundings.
The next day was our final day in Sardinia, we joined the festival for the last time to catch journalist, Giuseppe who was talking about the 15 native grapes of Sardinia. Joining him was Gianluigi Bacchetta, director of the Botanical Garden and professor at the University of Cagliari who offered an insight to the vines dating from the Nuragic civilisation. Perfect! I wish my Italian was at least basic as it all sounded amazing. However, the final taste of wine and food in the main hall sounded even more exciting as we left for our final wine tasting session and returned back just in time to catch husband and wife team Clara and Gigi Padovani, writers, journalists, wine critics – and authors of many bestselling books in the wine & food world. Their most famous titles include “L’arte di bere il vino evivere felici”, an easy guide for readers first approaching the world of wine. Say no more! We departed for London, armed with the knowledge of wine and clued up in the art of Bond espionage. All in all, Sardinia was certainly one for my favourite locations i have been to this year and this had nothing to do with the wine, wine, and more wine.. Honest!
Cala di Volpe
Stays at Cala di Volpe start from €420 / £360 per room per night in June and September and from €1,360 / £1,160 per room per night in July and August, based on two people sharing a Classic Double room on a B&B basis. www.caladivolpe.com; (39)(0789) 976111
Grazie mille to Francesca Ragnedda – PR & Digital Marketing Coordinator Area Costa Smerald , Claudio Cadeddu – Director of Sales and Marketing Area Costa Smeralda, Franco Mulas – Area Manager for Costa Smeralda & General Manager of Hotel Cala Di Volpe and last but definitely not the least, Alexa Withers (Mango PR) for putting on an amazing itinerary!!