LIFE'S A BEACH IN SARDINIA. If you’re after some sea-and-sun relaxation with a big dash of Italian chic, you can’t beat this alluring island in the sun.
There are hundreds of beaches on Sardinia, and all the clichés apply: these really are the most gloriously pristine beaches in Italy. You’ll find startlingly turquoise water with flashes of deep indigo lapping exquisite stretches of pale sand that could almost have come straight from the Caribbean.
Discover quiet coves with rockpools where you can escape the summer crowds and devour your holiday paperbacks; buzzy beaches jostling with bikinis and bronzed signorinas; and the ultra-glam hotspots of the Costa Smeralda, where you can count the swanky yachts at anchor. It’s a tough job picking your favourite spot.
DH Lawrence once described the island as “lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere.” Sardinia now belongs in a big way. Forty years after the Aga Khan poured money into the once-wild and untouched Costa Smeralda, it ranks as one of the Med’s most glitzy stretches of coast. You can brush past the sleek mahogany tans of Europe’s glitterati, and give your plastic a thrashing (while star-spotting) in the aptly-named Billionaire Club.
The Italian paparazzi hang out here in summer to snap some of Europe’s aristos and Hollywood big-shots on holiday. And while the wealthy owners who moor their yachts in swish Porto Cervo and Portorotondo may tut-tut at the higher berthing fees they now pay to play here, things are unlikely to change much on this nautical millionaire’s row with prices to match.
Of course you don’t need to be a big spender to have a great time in Sardinia. Wander through Porto Cervo’s maze of alleyways or Porto Rafael’s sleepy piazzas. Climb one of the old Spanish watchtowers dotting the coastline and clock the views across to the Maddelena islands, or head for the diving mecca of Cannigione; a great place for a bike ride.
Drive to the top of Monte Mora , where the views stretch to the islands of Tavolara and Caprera. Trek or ride in the Nuoro mountains, discover inland gorges and valleys, or cycle across plains of wildflower and maquis.
Scenic Sardinia is not a culture-free zone, either. There are Roman relics to uncover, and some of the towns are as appealing as the beaches. Be sure to linger in white-walled Alghero, with its medieval citadel and imposing Catalan-Gothic cathedral with an octagonal bell tower. Visit the remarkable sea caves by boat before whiling away an evening in one of the quayside bars.
Down south, Cagliari has a floodlit medieval citadel above the bay, a magical Castello and a grand town hall complete with Pisan towers, not to mention cobbled streets with wrought-iron balconies trailing flowers.
Fresh fish and seafood not surprisingly dominate Sardinian menus. Wild boar, spit-roast suckling pig and lamb roasted over hot coals are other big treats, together with local pane carasau, brushed with rosemary and olive oil. Don’t miss seades, the island’s signature dessert – pastry filled with melted pecorino and smothered in melted honey.