Sardinia is one of those exotic-sounding places that few Americans can locate on a map, but should. This large island in the middle of the Mediterranean has Italian roots and would top off a mainland Italy itinerary in style. Flights from Rome are frequent and fast.
With over 1,000 miles of beautiful coastline, there’s a little something for everyone. The Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) to the north, the island’s most popular port of call, attracts a buzzy and fashionable crowd in peak season, while the south of Sardinia has a relatively unspoiled coastline with spectacular beaches, fewer people, and fewer hotels. Inland, you’ll find a rugged landscape lined with hiking trails and dotted with nuraghi – mysterious Bronze Age stone ruins shaped like beehives, for a different kind of buzz.
The secret to accessing Sardinia’s best beaches is to go to the surrounding outer islands by boat. Santa Maria Island on Sardinia’s La Maddalena Islands is a good one, where you’ll find the surprisingly sublime restaurant La Casita (advance reservations needed), offering high quality service and local cuisine. If you’re looking for an equally good but livelier lunch spot, consider Ristorante La Corona on the island of Tavalora, where you can also sun bathe, snorkel, and watch the mega yachts loll in the sea.
And where to stay? Petra Segreta is the perfect resort for honeymooners or anyone looking to escape the crowds of Porto Cervo. It’s near the cute town of San Panteleo, which is home to a fun weekly Thursday market and some nice local shops. Ristorante Giagoni and the restaurant at Petra Segreta, where drinks come with a view overlooking the coast below, are the two best places to dine.
If you want to be in the thick of the action, then consider Hotel Cala di Volpe, which is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection and Sardinia’s most famous hotel. It was designed to resemble a fishing village, but is inhabited by the jet set who flock here each summer. You’ll pay a premium to be part of this scene.
About an hour south is the new Baglioni Resort, a nice option for families and those wanting to relax away from the main action on Costa Smeralda. With the local marina just a mile away, it’s easy to take to the water for fun.
Those looking for high-end shops and dining should head to Porto Cervo. Porto Rotondo, a 30-minute drive south, attracts almost as many super yachts and celebrities, but feels a bit more authentic. Chic shops are plentiful, but the restaurants have a more casual vibe.
Even though the Costa Smeralda is now a haven for lavish hotels and superyachts, there’s more to Sardinia than meets the eye (or makes the press). I hope you’ll consider visiting this beautiful island, Italy’s best kept secret. Sardinia’s true gift is her beauty and multi- faceted personality. She’s a must for your travel list!