Sunday, 3 August 2008

Cala di Falco, Cannigione, Sardinia

Commanding panoramic views over the Golfo di Arzachena, Cala di Falco is a modern and comfortable resort-hotel sprawling up a hillside near Cannigione's small beaches. The rooms, suites and self-catering chalets are very spacious, but modestly furnished and garishly-decorated in pastel colours. The air-conditioning can be noisy and the showers small, but the beds are okay and there is typically a good mini-bar and safe. If you don't have young children, try and get one of the few upstairs rooms, which tend to have better views and you won't be disturbed by the echo of footsteps through the ceiling.

Prosperous Italians
The low-rise accommodation, which is surrounded by verdant, but slightly scruffy, gardens, circles a couple of swimming pools. The main one, which sits just below the restaurant and bar, is large and deep, but it is bordered by coarse paving stones which are hard on bare feet. The large piano bar, furnished with comfortable wicker chairs, off-beat pictures and an ancient wooden chest, has a bit more character and class than the rooms. The guests are typically a mix of prosperous Italians and Brits with a sprinkling of other Europeans and the odd wide boy. Held in the downstairs restaurant and the adjacent terrace, the breakfast is a large, but uninspiring buffet. The coffee is lackluster, the fruit juice artificially sweet, the scrambled egg too runny, the bacon swimming in fat, the croissants tired and there are too many chocolaty options to tempt the kids. Still, the fresh fruit is ripe and tender.

Something special
By contrast, the four-course evening meals are often something special. By default you eat in the large downstairs restaurant or you can try and book the smaller upstairs dining room, where the service is more polished and there are romantic moonlit views from the outside terrace. One of the highlights of the weekly cycle is the Sardinian buffet, which begins with a wide selection of tasty sea food, followed by a variety of excellent pasta dishes, including a local version of lasagne loaded with cheese, fine gnocchi and mouthwatering, succulent ravioli. Next-up is a lamb carvery, which can be a little lean and dry, roasted pig ears and other gruesome cuts of pork or more palatable white fish. Finally, there are Sardinian deserts, including some sickly sweetmeats wrapped in colourful paper and other pastries. While not all the meals are quite so memorable, the Arrevederchi Dinner on a Friday evening features half a lobster. The very dry house white and red from Alghero, on the other side of the island, are pretty good for 12 euros a bottle, but there are plenty of other more pricey Italian wines on the menu. You will also need a big bottle of water (2.50 euros).

Engaging folk musicians

After dinner, the charismatic young student staff lead the kids in dance routines or even stage an amusing sketch show in the small outdoor theatre. On some evenings, professional entertainers, ranging from engaging local folk musicians to tired juggling acts, take over. During the day, the student staff also run free kids club sessions in a dedicated room, the swimming pool or on the beach. There is also an underground gym and a dilapidated games room with arcade machines and free table football. Cannigione is well-placed for exploring Gallura's scenic and varied coastline, but it is a long drive to see much of Sardinia's traditional culture. Still, a week at Cala di Falco is a rich and entertaining experience. 8/10