Monday, February 21, 2011

Sardinia, Italy - Hotel Cala di Volpe (best Bellini cocktail)

Day 2 of Italy Week brings us to the absolutely idyllic island of Sardinia, in the middle of the Mediterranean. A veritable island of contrasts, one coast is full of lush vegetation, unspoiled beaches, serene peace, quiet and solitude amongst natural beauty, while the northeastern coast, known as the Costa Smeralda (the Emerald Coast) is home to complete and utter excess: beautiful designer-clad bodies, marinas lined with mega-yachts so monstrous they resemble cruise ships, home to the world's finest boutiques, luxury cars, sail boats, and a world class yacht club. In short, no one here would ever cast insult by asking what a price tag reads.
Nearby Spiaggia del Principe
Sardinia has the Aga Khan to thank for what it is today. He was the pioneer who bought a considerable chunk of property on the Costa Smeralda, when it was considered too remote for tourism, with the idea of creating an exclusive warm-weather haven for A-listers and well-heeled Europeans. Let's just say he knew what he was talking about. He built the magnificent Hotel Cala di Volpe, which is not just a hotel, but an architectural work of art, designed by the french father and son team of Jacques and Savin Couelle. The interior features chestnut-beamed ceilings, Sardinian ceramic tiled floors, beautiful little archways, frescoes, and secret nooks to explore, as well as Couelle's famous glasswork creations.
Hotel Cala di Volpe
Beyond all the architectural beauty of the hotel, its location and five star amenities, the reason I come to the Hotel Cala di Volpe is for their famous Bellini cocktail at the piano bar in the lobby. I have never had a Bellini this good anywhere else in the world. Pull up a stool to the massive slab of black marble that makes up this half-moon shaped bar overlooking the bay and watch the white-tailed tuxedoed bartender blend heaven in a glass.
The view from the lobby bar onto beautiful Cala di Volpe Bay
On my last trip here I made friends with the bartender (we came almost daily after a day at the beach and, at the equivalent of $25 a glass, he delightfully consoled us as we drank our monthly rent away) and he demonstrated how this amazing cocktail is made right in front of me. He took two white, juicy peaches, removed the stems and the pits and put them in a blender whole. Next, he added two heaping tablespoons of granulated sugar and blended on medium speed for about 15 seconds. From the blender he poured this peach nectar through a strainer and directly into a wine glass, then topped it off with chilled prosecco. The result is a frothy and fresh, slightly sweet peach puree with a hint of bubbles. Amazingly refreshing, I dream about this Bellini on a weekly basis.

If you are not staying at the hotel, do take the time to explore both the hotel and its grounds. There are six different restaurants and bars, an outdoor olympic size swimming pool, intriguing little porticos and art displays, beautiful pastel hues, an almost fishing village feel and sparkling turquoise bay views. Even the intricate patterns and vibrant colors of a flower arrangement are inspiring here at Cala di Volpe.
Glorious flower arrangements in the hotel lobby
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