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The Slow Traveler Goes to a Resort

Letizia Mattiacci (madonna del piatto)

Seven days on the East Coast of Sardinia

I swear, I did not know how it works. I mean, a resort holiday. All my life I used travel agencies to book a flight, and then we would do the rest on our own. This was of course before knowing Sally Watkins, and realizing that some agents/travel consultants are angels, and it is a privilege to have your holidays organized by them. But I digress.

We used to organize our holidays using the Lonely Planet or similar guidebooks. We gathered information on small, quiet B&B or guesthouses, family run restaurants serving unpretentious but authentic meals, atmospheric cafes on some dream-like piazza, etc. Of course, after the revelation of the Slow Travel, I started to use review sites. Then, four years ago, our adorable daughter arrived and that, quite naturally, changed our lives.

Fine with that, marvelous actually, but we had no idea how her arrival would have shaken the very fundamentals of our way of traveling and going on holidays. The "lovely", our 4 year old, really hates to travel!!!! She has been, and still is, sweet like candy as long as she does not have to change hotels every few nights, which is what we have always done. Eating meals in two different restaurants in the same day triggers a dangerous reaction of deep disgust, not really for the food, but towards the unwise parents. After a few days of "unsettled" life (we used to call it "exploring"), the little monster, formerly known as the "lovely", gets as cranky as she can be, and punishes us with endless complaints, multiple visits to any public restrooms in sight, high frequency of headache-inducing "why questions" and the like. Even a seemingly harmless day trip can turn out so badly that we end up longing to be home working rather than visiting something new.

Don't take me wrong, we love her, really we do. And that's why we booked the first week of September at the "Villaggio Calamoresca" in Arbatax, Sardinia. From the painstakingly studied catalogue, this seemed like a children's paradise with ample opportunity of relaxation for the parents. Available to the guests are two swimming pools, a Jacuzzi pool, a private small beach, two restaurants, a shuttle bus to a large beach and the utmost important feature - the Children's Club (Miniclub in Italian). This particular word was as pleasing to our ears as beautiful music would have been.

The Villaggio is an attractive looking, medium sized (710 bed) resort, perched just below the lighthouse of the village of Arbatax, midway down the east coast of Sardinia. The architects did an excellent job at designing the resort in the style of a typical village of the area. There are small alleys, stone arches, wrought iron balconies, and luscious vegetation. And to add to all this, this charming resort is set on a beautiful little bay of red rocks.

We, the poor innocent lambs, thought the "lovely" could go to the Children's Club every day, while we would relax on the beach, and everybody would be happy. Didn't this sound like a good plan?

Digression #2: While I am writing, the singer at the pool/piano bar is singing from the top of his lungs, in observance of the rule of silence between 2:00 and 4:00pm It is about 3:00pm now. We call him "the idiot".

We soon discovered that our plan seemed to clash with the rules of the house, which are as follows (annotated list):

  • Thou shall have breakfast each morning between 8:00 and 9:30am.
    At 9:15 all the food at the buffet is gone, so no lazy mornings.
  • Thou can go to the beach each morning only between 9:00 and 10:30am.
    The private beach is so small, space for 15 beach umbrellas, that one has to run for the shuttle to the larger beach.
  • Thou must come back by 12 noon because the Children's Club closes at 12:30pm, so one has to run to pick up one's child.
    So if you do the math, only 2 relaxing hours are allowed.
  • Thou shall have lunch between 12:30 and 2:00pm, because the buffets are actually cleaned up at 1:40, and the best food disappears within the first 20 minutes.
    There are not really two restaurants available. Actually, one has to crowd in a very busy canteen-like place for the pre-paid 12 of the 14 meals, and as a bonus one can get two meals in the nice second restaurant that has views and a grill menu. No local food whatsoever is available at the main restaurant. The dessert is the same every day, a sponge cake with cream. Every night the color of the cream changes: white, pink, brown, orange, yellow, and so forth. On sunny days one is allowed to select a table in a relatively quiet area (think quiet corner of an Autogrill cafeteria). On rainy days though, we were herded together and made to sit at tables that were occupied by other people. This way the resort can maximize the space available, the service goes faster, and the personnel can go to bed early. Excuses such as " I have a headache and I must sit at the small table on the balcony," are not accepted.
  • Thou shall have rest between 2:00 and 4:00pm.
    Try to take a nap with the above idiot yelling his songs at the pool bar, the cleaning and maintenance staff hammering around, and the hellish Ape (small trucks on 3 wheels used to cart around garbage and laundry) speeding up the small alleys!!!
  • Thou shall take your child to the Children's Club 4:00pm and 6:00pm.
    Although this sounded like another chance of daughter-free relaxation, it was not possible to nap any further, and one could not enjoy the Jacuzzi because the water spouts were 10 cm above the water level. One could do some exercise with the two antique machines and one cyclette at the gym (not many facilities for a full up 700 guest resort, although surprisingly underused). Going for a drive was difficult, because with the winding roads of Sardinia, one gets nowhere in two hours. Arbatax and the main town Tortoli are discouragingly ugly and uninteresting. In fact, actually, I didn't see any typical village that the resort was styled after.
  • Thou shall have dinner between 7:30 and 9:00pm.
    See lunch, above.
  • Thou shall participate in the evening entertainment.
    Evening entertainment consists of more of the above idiot yelling songs at the piano bar (which is the only bar) and the baby dance, which actually is the fun part. All the kiddies capable of walking and up to 10 years old do a guided dance for half an hour. It is the only time of the day we think all this has been worth it. The "lovely" adores it. And there was the cabaret, which we did not experience, because we were running back to our room as fast as we could.

So, with all these rules telling us how to enjoy ourselves, the week went by fast.

The positive side is that the "lovely" loved it, even though when we went back home she mentioned that she actually preferred to go back to school rather than to Calamoresca.

However, if one looks at it objectively, we did get away from our 500 year old farmhouse with its breathtaking views of Assisi, the perfect silence of our countryside, the delicious non-industrial foods we buy from small shops in Santa Maria degli Angeli - but it was only for seven days. Yes, it was good to have a break from all we have!


www.wsvillaggi.it: Villaggio Calamoresca

Letizia owns the Agriturismo Alla Madonna del Piatto, near Assisi. www.incampagna.com
Thank you to my friend Kay for improving the English in these notes.

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