To be honest I’d never heard of Elba before I started searching on the internet for somewhere to go and just laze about on a beach for a few days after a stay in Rome but now I’ve been I’ll be recommending the island to everyone I know. That goes for Hotel Barsalini as well.
As I say we just wanted a few days of doing nothing but relaxing and that is exactly what Hotel Barsalini provides. The hotel is located an hours drive from the main port of Portoferraio so if you’re not planning on taking or hiring a car you should definitely consult the owners on how best to arrive. While you won’t need a car when you’re there unless you want to explore the island further, which is well worthwhile as some of the scenery rivals the Amalfi coast for beauty, I’m not sure how great a bus service there is.
However your mode of transport you won’t be disappointed upon arrival. Set only a few metres back from a charming little blue flag beach the hotel is in the perfect location for spending your days sunbathing, swimming, boating and even hiking and biking should you be so inclined. You have the Mediterranean to one side of you and the lush green Elba hills and countryside to the other, paradise!
The hotel itself is recently modernised with a bar terrace, swimming pool, restaurant including outdoor seating area, indoor bar, a ‘garden of wellbeing’ and even a duck pond. There’s obviously been a lot of love gone into the design here as the personal touches and features are many and really add to the ambience. It really feels more like a good 4 star boutique hotel than a 3 star and without doubt were the owners to desire this status they could, with minimal changes, attain it. I’m not complaining though as the value for a stay here really is phenomenal and when you remember that this is Italy where hotels are generally very pricey this makes what is achieved in Hotel Barsalini all the more exceptional.
Which brings me to the food. We’ve never stayed anywhere on a half board basis mainly because we anticipate that the quality of the food won’t be up to scratch and also because we like to try local restaurants rather than staying in the hotel. But half board is the norm on Elba so we reluctantly went with the flow and thank goodness we did as the meals here are of a seriously high standard. Every night we were offered a completely different menu comprising of 4 (I think, maybe 3) starters, mains and deserts all comprising of some of the most fantastic local ingredients I’ve come across in Italy. It really was that good and for the price we were paying again makes this a fantastic achievement. I hope the owners read this and pass my compliments on to the chef as he/she is a real asset.
Another member of staff who deserves a mention is the bar man Daniellie (apologies for the spelling). Before dinner he runs a cocktail hour on the terrace complete with complimentary antipasti along with a (not complimentary) cocktail of the day, which my wife reliably informs me were all delicious. Again this is a touch which there is no need for the hotel to provide but really goes a long way to making the place really special.
So, what did I not like I hear you ask. Well not much is the answer but I’ll there are a couple of small things that keep this at the 3 star level rather than 4 (and even 5 if they really went for it).
The service while being excellent is slightly thinly spread so you can sometimes find yourself waiting at reception or the bar looking out for someone to serve you. This is particularly notable just before cocktail hour when the staff have their own dinner. The bar also closes at 11pm, slightly early for us Scots but they will prepare you something just before the shutters come down and there’s a late bar just across the street.
The free wi-fi while appreciated does not extend to the rooms. This seems a bit odd nowadays and I don’t think it would take much or any great expense to sort this out.
My last point can be taken as either a positive or a negative I suppose depending on your situation. You should note that the hotel is very much ‘family friendly’ which you can take to mean that children are allowed to run wild everywhere. When we were staying this meant that the pool area was rendered pretty much out of bounds for us as kids would always be playing there. They’re also allowed in the bar area at all times which for us, not having children, was annoying especially after dinner when I personally think they should be kept away. But this is as much the parents fault as the hotel and like I say I’m sure they’d have a very different view on this than we do.
Finally on this point the Garden of Wellbeing is supposed to be paying adults only but this doesn’t seem to be policed very effectively. On one occasion one small child stood at the gate for about 15 minutes crying and begging it’s father to let her go in the hot tub with us, serene it was not!
Anyway I’m not going to finish on a low note as I’m just nitpicking now. Overall this is a fantastic hotel in a fantastic location at a fantastic price. Credit should also go to the staff, in particular the lady owner, who made every effort to help us with translating the Italian into English on an island dominated by Italian and German tourists.
Lastly I would also recommend the local men’s and woman’s fragrances by Acqua dell’elba which you can purchase at reception just to take a bit of this beautiful island home with you.