Mario Cesare, Sardinia, Italy

Mario Cesare, Sardinia, Italy

This sensitively restored farmhouse in the village of Gergei makes a tranquil base for a go-slow Sardinian retreat

in the sleepy village of Gergei – just an hour’s drive
north of Cagliari – this traditional Sardinian farmhouse was once the home of local
artist Mario Cesare. Having been sensitively restored by Giulia
Lai, it today offers guests an off-grid abode in which to relax and
recharge. Lai, who spent much of her childhood admiring the
18th-century cottage, left a career in London to return to her
homeland and renovate the property, carefully preserving the
structural shell through replacing tired bamboo ceilings, nurturing
overgrown gardens and adding larger doors to allow for a better
flow of natural light.

Original furnishings such as straw chairs, wooden cabinets and
tables pay homage to Cesare, whose legacy the couple are also
upholding within the wider community. A recent collaboration with
local creatives saw playful murals honouring the late artist being
installed across town.

Arriving in the mid-summer heat, we welcome the cool, airy
set-up – think textured walls and ceilings laced with bunches of
dried lavender, corners filled with ceramics and glassware, and
tables topped with vintage lamps and the type of candleholders
you’d like to borrow for your own dinner party. In many ways, the
property feels like a museum, but thanks to Lai’s presence, the
vibe is very much one of a good friend’s house.

The farmhouse door, left, and host Giulia Lai with a plate
of freshly harvested fruit.


There are two spacious double bedrooms, notable for their rustic
charm – all bare-brick walls, exposed wooden beams, elegant
platform beds, antique furnishings and handmade ceramics. Airy
whitewashed en-suites have oval countertop sinks, casement windows
and walk-in showers made chic with dried plants, art deco tiles and
accent mirrors. It’s worth noting that while there are two
different rooms to choose from, only individual stays or group
bookings are accepted at one given time – meaning the second
bedroom is closed off to solo travellers. The main bedroom has a
private garden, kitted out with a hammock, plush cushions and

What’s for breakfast?

A seasonal breakfast spread is served in the leafy outdoor
courtyard, with sweeping views across the surrounding hills
accompanied by the distant chimes of church bells. During our stay,
we tried Italian peach pies, buttery croissants, organic yoghurt,
fruits at a level of ripeness we didn’t think possible and the sort
of cheese that melts in your mouth. The coffee? The tastiest
espresso we’ve ever tried.

How about lunch and dinner?

Lunch and dinner aren’t on the menu. But, rest assured, nearby
guesthouse Domu
(a boutique stay headed up by Lai’s brother) is on hand
to deliver the goods. There, a seasonally changing menu of
traditional, authentic fare is crafted by “Mamma” Maria Grazia,
whose courgette tartlets, gnocchetti, and creamy vegetable risotto
take some beating. Dessert is a fluffy dough confection filled with
fresh ricotta cheese, spiced saffron and orange peel – a marvellous
mix. Three courses will set you back around £30.

Mario Cesare, Breakfast
Mario Cesare, Breakfast Spread

The breakfast set-up, left, and a sneak peek at what’s on
the menu.

Is there a bar?

There’s no bar area as such, but Lai will happily whip you up a
glass of something great – at a reasonable hour.


There’s no gym, nor pool, but a stellar selection of books and
art supplies are at guests’ disposal. You’ll find us beneath one of
the fig trees, brush in hand.

How about their green credentials?

Most of the fresh breakfast ingredients are grown in the garden.
Should you opt to use the candles provided in bedrooms, you’ll be
doing your bit to help reduce electricity consumption.

What about accessibility?

There are narrow, crumbling stone staircases dotted around the
property, making it unsuitable for those with mobility issues.

What’s the crowd like?

Don’t expect to see anyone other than your attentive hosts
during your visit. Oh, and the odd wild boar might make an
appearance, too.

Things I should know

The town of Gergei is incredibly remote, with little in the way
of transport links. We’d strongly suggest renting a car if you wish
to explore the island.

Within a short walk I can find…

Nearby guesthouse Domu Antiga offers cooking classes. Led by chef
Grazia, foodies will learn some of the secrets of traditional
Sardinian cuisine. Bread-making courses and cheese and ricotta
workshops are available, too.

The town’s beautiful vineyard, Olianas, champions natural farming and
low-intervention winemaking. Make its rosé your souvenir of

The Lowdown

Doubles cost from £147 a night.

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