The Sultry Charms of Sardinia
Sardinia’s translucent waters, golden beaches and relaxed, but sophisticated atmosphere make it one of the most alluring yacht charter destinations in the Mediterranean. Costa Smeralda (the Emerald Coast) is usually considered the jewel of the coastline for its swish beach clubs, five star hotels and designer shops, but there are also acres of jagged, wild inlets that are only accessible by boat and tiny, ancient villages with traces of the island’s mysterious ancient defense structures (nuraghi) to explore.
There are numerous luxury resorts built into the sprawling coastline and lush hill-scape. The globetrotting crowd tend to favour the Costa Smeralda residences for the summer social scene, in particular, Hotel Cala di Volpe, a magical beach resort set in a deep bay surrounded by islets. Designed as a faux-Sardinian village, the terracotta arches and turrets, and white cave like interiors give the hotel a rustic appearance, whilst the postcard perfect views, contemporary facilities and award-winning restaurants tick all the five star boxes – it was here at the piano bar that scenes from James Bond The Spy Who Loved Me were famously filmed. Enjoy a wine tasting in the hotel’s renowned La Cave wine cellar followed by an al fresco dinner by candlelight at the Barbecue restaurant. The more boutique style Hotel Sporting in Porto Rotondo is also a popular day spot for its private, white sand beach and large saltwater swimming pool, but if you’re searching for complete seclusion, Le Dune Piscinas is a unique property to visit. Occupying the warehouse of an ex mine-works on a remote corner of the island’s Costa Verde, just metres away from the lapping waves, the hotel is a calm, understated retreat that really comes into its own under the silent, star-filled sky. The hotel’s homemade ice cream is divine and the food all organic, seasoned with herbs from the vegetable patch.
Inland, there’s no setting more romantic than hotel La’Agnata di De Andre, buried within a thick wooded valley and enveloped almost entirely in a blanket of ivy. Sitting at the base of Monte Limbara, the northern region of Gallura’s largest peak, the hotel enjoys prime location for those interested in exploring the rugged countryside, but is still near close enough to the prime beaches. The style is traditional, with local art works displayed on the wall and an eclectic mix of antiques fashionably scattered throughout the interiors, whilst the gardens are refreshingly wild spilling over with sweet smelling lavender and wisteria. The hotel is also well known for its cuisine and wine; the dinner is a four course set menu heavily focused on meat, and regularly featuring the region’s special of roast suckling pig served with a heap of rosemary crushed potatoes.
Back in Porto Rotondo, Da Giovannino is easily the best of the top-range restaurants. Elegant without being flashy, the menu specializes in fresh seafood dishes that come perfectly cooked and lightly and simply seasoned. Sardinian wines are considered among the best in the world and Da Giovannino boasts an impressive selection. For local gastronomy, Lu Stazzu serves especially excellent chisuoni (gnocchi pasta) with mussels and cannellini beans, but really exceptional cooking is usually found in Palau (the jumping-off port for the neighboring island of La Maddalena). Stop by Del Porticciolo for authentic antipasti at the harbor-side before boarding the yacht for a day trip cruise round the sun soaked scatter of islands the Maddalena archipelago, or better still, arrange for local delicacies to be packed up for a lunch of ham, sausages and Pecorino cheese on deck.
The fine sand beaches are Sardinia’s main attraction, more like the Caribbean coastline than Europe with warm, enclosed swimming areas many of which remain largely unspoiled thanks to the lack of signposting and limited land access. Cala Gonone was one such beach resort until recently when a road was chiseled through the wall of the mountains though it still remains largely undeveloped. Aside from its beaches, the settlement is renowned for its deep marine grottoes. The most famous of these is the Grotta del Bue Marino, an extraordinary luminescent gallery filled with remarkable natural coral sculptures. There’s an abundance of nightlife too, with smart, laid back coastal bars, such as the laid back Roadhouse Blues, where glamorous guests and locals sip martinis in the summer breeze. Conveniently close to the port, Su Recreu nearby is well known for its live Cuban music and artisan ice cream. The more lively end of the island though is typically Porto Cervo, in particular the Il Portico located right on the Piazzetta, which draws a stylish crowd for its spectacular views. However, there’s no better or more peaceful place to appreciate the glowing warmth of the setting sun than on board a yacht skimming gracefully over the surface of the water.