A travel guide to Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia’s ritzy resort towns are sought-after spots for a slice of La Dolce Vita. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg on this sun-drenched Mediterranean masterpiece…
What image does your mind conjure when you think of Sardinia? Sweeping golden beaches lapped by inviting turquoise waters? Plucked-from-a-postcard Porto Cervo, with its designed boutiques and upscale restaurants? Once sleepy marinas now dotted with mega yachts, each the floating playground of someone rich and famous? While all of these enhance Sardinia’s allure, it’s not all glitz and glam. There’s so much more soul to this central Mediterranean jewel.
Thanks to a new seasonal direct flight route with flydubai, accessing this breathtaking islet has never been easier from the UAE. The seasonal route, which operates three times per week until September 30, lands you at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport. This serves as a gateway to northeastern Sardinia, where endless glamour and rugged natural beauty are the surprise siblings that give this island its unique magic.
Where to stay
Hotel Capo d’Orso
It’s easy to see why the secluded luxuries of this five-star resort have the rich and famous flocking to its shores. Nestled within the picturesque Cala Capra National Park, its appeal extends from the verdant, landscaped grounds, to the rustic luxe aesthetic and the charming staff. Honeymooners dine on a romantic floating deck, couples relax lazily in hammocks that billow gently under the dappled shade of the trees, while the Thalasso and spa is a pampering oasis where guests can truly switch-off. For something with a little injection of Porto Cervo glamour (the glitzy town is a mere 20 minutes drive away), dining on the terrace of Il Paguro is a sensory voyage that encapsulates the sights, sounds, aromas and flavours of the ocean it overlooks. Its fresh oysters spritzed with lemon and giant bowls of lobster pasta are each excuses to cancel any further plans for a long, leisurely lunch.
Rates from Dhs1,935 per night. hotelcapodorso.com
Resort Valle dell’Erica
With its impressive array of restaurants, collection of swimming pools and best-in-class wellness facilities, you’d be forgiven for never leaving the resort when checking-in to Valle dell’Erica. Its sprawling 70 acres of private grounds and almost mile-long coastline are aching to be explored. Essentially two resorts in one – the newer La Licciola leads into the historic Erica – around each corner you’ll find saltwater swimming infinity pools that appear to drift into the sea, sandy beaches dotted with parasols, and some half dozen restaurants. The best way to soak it all in is by getting lost among it all, although electric buggies are on-hand to help you to your final destination should you wish. The resort’s aesthetic appeal comes from its ability to blend seamlessly into its surroundings, and local wood, cork and stone are large parts of keeping the traditional charms of this former tourist village alive. From the impressive culinary array, don’t miss an aperitivo in the picturesque square at Nemo, served up to soulful live music.
Rates from Dhs1935 per night, hotelvalledellerica.com
Designed to feel like a quaint Italian village wrapped around a central swimming pool, this family-friendly stay from Felix Hotels is a handily located spot whatever your vacation style. Both the high fashion boutiques and swanky bars of Porto Cervo, located 20 minutes away; and the array of natural trails and golden beaches that dot the coast, are within easy reach. Guest rooms are simply styled and sit in neat rows around the swimming pool, and the grounds are also home to tennis courts and a play area for little ones. A continental breakfast of fresh pastries and local fruits is a great way to fuel up for a day of exploring.
Rates from Dhs625. felixhotels.it
Where to eat
A taste of the local flavour at… Frades
A Michelin-pedigree celebration of Italian ingredients, Frades hails from Milan but packs its bags for a lofty terrace in Porto Cervo during the balmy Italian summer. The resulting restaurant is a near-faultless amalgam of stunning views, thoughtful Italian hospitality, and local flavours taking centre stage in dishes like culurgiones ravioli with black truffle and Milanese style turbot.
A global haute-spot… Zuma
Known and loved for its delectable Japanese fare, Zuma is a staple fine dining destination in the UAE. At its counterpart in Porto Cervo, it lands as a seasonal pop-up that pairs a cool and contemporary ambience with sweeping vistas of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Expect energetic DJ sets, a selection of aperitifs designed for the jet-set locale, and an exceptional array of sushi.
A stunning place to party… Phi Beach
Part-restaurant, part-beach club, part-bar – whether you go to Phi Beach to drink, dine or party, just make sure you go. The best way to experience this breathtaking see-and-be-seen spot, arranged around the craggy rocks of the Baja Sardinia coastline, is with drinks at sunset to watch the golden orb meld into the ocean, its sorbet hues illuminating the sky. But you’ll want to stay until late into the night, with a regular rotation of international DJs headlining some of the island’s biggest parties against the backdrop of the ocean.
Things to do
Go island hopping to La Maddalena
The impossibly aquamarine waters that flank the northeast coast of Sardinia are well documented on Sardinian travel itineraries. But it’s not enough to simply see the endless shades of azure. Hop aboard one of Poseidon Charter’s expertly-crewed boats and set sail on a tour of the unspoiled landscape of La Maddalena National Park. Make pit stops at breathtaking hidden bays like Cala d’Alga and Spiaggia Rosa (pink beach), where impressive rock formations keep Centuries-old secrets, before docking in the archipelago of marvels for an inviting dip in the cool waters.
Soak up the sun at Nikki Beach
A slightly more rustic iteration of the hedonistic beach club brand where every day is a celebration of life, Nikki Beach Costa Smeralda is set within the rugged Cala Petra Ruja bay. The adventure begins before you’ve event reached this stunning spot, which is accessible via Nikki Beach’s swish boat shuttle – or your own private yacht. Signature white day beds line the gently lapping shore, where guests happily while away afternoons soaking up the ambience and sipping on fresh Spritz. Beyond the beach there’s the restaurant, where energetic DJ sets provide the high-octane soundtrack to a menu of indulgent Mediterranean flavours.
Shop for local crafts at Cannigione Street Market
A sleepy Costa Smeralda town fronted by one of the best beaches on the island, visitors may be drawn to Cannigione’s untouched coastal charms for crystalline waters and golden sands, but you won’t want to leave without stopping by one of the markets. From June, the night market that takes place infront of the marina is a popular spot for picking up pieces that evoke memories of the island, from local ceramics to jewellery.
Flydubai operates a thrice weekly service to Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport until September 30. Return fares from Dhs3,000.
Images: Supplied/ Getty