Ever slept in a volcano?
Then head for the 300-year-old, family-run Albergo Diffuso Antica Dimora Gruccione in the medieval village of Santu Lussurgiu located in an ancient crater in central west Sardinia.
Along a warren of narrow cobblestone streets then through an old wooden double-door and suddenly you’ve escaped from the modern world into rustic bliss. Before us stood an enclosed stone courtyard resplendent with a tree heavy with ripe lemons, flower boxes and a climbing rose bush in bloom curling its way up to a wrought-iron ‘Romeo and Juliet’ style balcony. One corner of the courtyard was filled with boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables and tables and chairs were scattered here and there for guest relaxation.
This is the former home of an entrepreneurial man who produced a potent brandy and enjoyed a brisk trade with France. It is now managed by his great-granddaughter, Lucilla, a delightful host. Recently expanded to 19 rooms across four buildings, this charming property features a cozy library, restaurant, sitting room, internal gardens, wine cellar and a games room. It is a member of Albergo Diffuso, a network of old preserved properties, and Arco del Gusto, an organization started in 1990s to highlight traditional products and cuisine such as bue rossa (local red beef) and cassizzou (traditional cheese). A follower of the ‘slow food’ concept, it hosts cooking classes and fine leisurely dinners.
Handed a set of old fashioned keys attached to a ‘philosopher’s egg,’ we located our room on the top floor of one of the buildings. Cozy and intimate, it featured a narrow balcony with cane armchairs and a small table and wonderful views over the terracotta roof-tiles of the town and forested hills beyond. Fixtures and furnishings were homey, with an open fireplace, soft-fabric armchairs, a coffee-maker and TV.
A highlight of a stay Albergo Diffuso Antica Dimora Gruccione is dining in its spacious ground-floor restaurant under a high chestnut wood beamed ceiling from which hang chandeliers and sturdy stone arches. Everything was home-made or sourced locally. Our multi-course dinner started with courgette carpaccio with homemade pork terrine cut into small cubes, sprinkles of potato crumble, all decorated with petals of wild flowers.
A red wine, Pusole 2012, made from the indigenous grape, cannonau, by young winemaker Roberto Pusole was a fine accompaniment. Next came what on first glance seemed like a poached egg sitting in a nest. Instead, it is much more complex thing of culinary beauty – a slow steamed organic egg on a bed of red cabbage mousse crowned with spinach leaf within a border of piscotu, traditional bread. A pasta dish of fussili with beetroot, ovinfort (a Sardinian sheep cheese), rocket and prosciutto presented a nice blend of earthy flavor. Dessert proved equally as tasty – ingots of ricotta with apricot and ginger inside.
Santu Lussurgiu itself is a quiet village of sloping streets and a local museum that houses around 2,000 items reflecting the way of life there for generations of families is worth a visit. Being inland, it is clothed in verdant countryside which offer fine trekking trails that lead walkers past groves of oak, cork and chestnut trees, a waterfall and remnants of old windmills.
For a relaxing, rural Sardinian experience, an historic, family-owned setting and authentic homemade food of high quality, try Albergo Diffuso Antica Dimora Gruccione.