Need to work on your tintarella? Feeling a little self-indulgent? Every hard-working stiff deserves a hot-blooded vacation at least once, twice (hell, three times) before they die. Whether you’re a glamour loving jet-set cat walker or lady-loving lothario, Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda is the perfect summer jaunt for you.
Located south of Corsica off the Italian coast, Sardinia is the Mediterranean’s second largest island and one of the most exclusive vacation spots in the world. Heavy with the scent of macchia; a heady mix of rosemary, lavender and pine, the island’s north east coast, known as the Costa Smeralda, is a small piece of sexy Italian heaven on earth. Thank billionaire playboy Aga Khan for the Porto Cervo of it all. One day, while flying his private jet overhead, Khan witnessed the emerald green coast and imagined jade green coves packed with yachts, Missoni, Bvlgari, and Prada; a tastefully chic getaway for wealthy Europeans and stylish Milanese. With six hundred million dollars and a vision, he set about transforming the thirty five mile stretch of mosquito infested, rocky beach into the now swanky Costa Smeralda.
Long known as the summer playground for European royalty like Princess Margaret, King Juan Carlos, and Princess Caroline of Monaco (who enjoyed not one, but two honeymoons here), Sardinia has, for several years, been the au courant stomping grounds for Hollywood ingénues in heat for a fast fling or saucy love affair with a Real Madrid baller or Formula One race car driver. Mariah Carey even chose the island’s tranquil setting, dotted with stazzu style villas, as her undisclosed location to recover from emotional exhaustion a few years ago.
Billionaire, Porto Cervo Sardinia
So Jaunt did what we do best. We headed there with a bevy of beautiful, brainy New Yorkers. Aside for the trials and tribulations of traveling with three women, it was truly the time of our lives. Great food, sleek parties, gorgeous men from Milan, and plenty of opulent yachts. It was heaven… for about a week. Then, let’s just say, you need a vacation from this jam-packed party of a vacation… so much excitement and activity around every gorgeous crag and corner.
From James Bond to Wertmuller, Sardinia’s rugged blue coastline has simply been the perfect cinema setting for unrestrained passion (see Swept Away). Remember the photos of Princess Di and Dodi Fayed floating on a yacht amid turquoise blue waters? One word: Sardegna. Di certainly knew how to live. She was shopping at the finest boutiques and lounging on a chartered yacht moored off Sardinia’s sandy crescents before that fateful Parisian accident.
Flavio Briatore, Benetton Formula One team boss (and Heidi Klum’s ex-baby’s daddy), owns Billionaire, the timeless Porto Cervo nightclub shown above, which might possibly contain the highest concentration of good looking people in the world. We’d be lying if we said it wasn’t a bit daunting… being faced with leggy models and dark sultry men (all wearing crisp white button-downs with initials on the sleeve, of course). Still, we do recommend finding a yacht or (be-friending one). We were lucky enough to meet some young Milanese men (bless their tanned shiny little hearts) who sailed us around Sardinia’s stunning Maddelena islands, not to be missed if you have a boat. We lounged on the deck laughing, drinking Vermentino, and eating handmade pasta with that perfectly salted Italian addition, bottarga. Imagine yourself there too… dripping in diamonds and champagne. It’s lovely, isn’t it? if only to realize two weeks later that it’s also rather silly and self-indulgent. Bottom line: it’s still the best place to meet and greet your inner Diva. At least once (or twice) in your life, right?
The breathtaking beaches may not be as lengthy as our favorite Caribbean brothers, but the water, along with the sunbathers, flickers with the sparkling blues and various shades of light and dark. There are also enough babes to earn yourself a neck brace. Long Beach, like its name, is likely the best/longest beach around, but there’s also some fun to be had at the more sheltered Petra Manna Beach, Piccolo Pevero, and Capriccioli. At Spiaggia della Rosa, rose colored sand falls between your toes and Cala Granu, La Dolce Sposa, Romazzino, Del Principe and Liscia Ruia, are a bit further from the Porto Cervo center, but worth a quick trip if you’re staying more than a week.
Even if you’re Daddy Warbucks, keep in mind that during the summer months, a ten-minute cab ride can run roughly $100. That is, of course, unless you speak Italian or have a loud mouth that cries out… ‘What? I refuse!” while your girlfriends call you crazy and pull you from the car screaming. A rental car and a cell phone is a must and the only way to see the island’s spectacular coves and beaches. Expect to pay at least $50-$55 a day for an economy car, but remember that the Milanese who take over the island also take over the roads. You better be handy with a stick with good reflexes. Another popular way to discover the beaches, particularly the Costa Smeralda, is by boat. If you’re women traveling alone, you can likely make some Italian friends who will take you out. Otherwise, local charter operators like Mala Kebir (www.malakebir.com) offer sailing trips with or without crew.
If you want to take a break from Porto Cervo’s gliterrati, head inland where the remnants of over seven thousand bronze age nuraghi (stone towers) dot the landscape, a reminder of the local resistance to their numerous invaders. The walled port city of Alghero is filled with medieval towers, narrow cobblestone streets, and shops selling jewelry made from local coral.
If the expenses on the island start to get you down, drown your worries with the superlative wines Sardinia has to offer. For under $5.00 at the local grocery, you’ll find some of the best wines you’ve had in years. Wild, independent, and exotic, the coastal dry plains and hills of Sardinia offer an idyllic climate for the likes of the vine. Sardinia produces some of the smoothest well-structured reds and aromatic, high-acid whites. Occupied by both the Spanish and the ancient Phoenicians, they brought over some of the best varieties around, including dry white Vermentinos, soft floral Torbato, the flavor rich Grenache called Cannonau, and traditional Moscatos from the western part of the island. An unspoken gem of vivid blue-green waters, Sardegna also has over sixty wineries on the island.
Jim Perry, owner of Sardinia Vacations has spent the last few years living on the island learning about the culture, the wine, and the lifestyle of the locals. His recommendation, “The Cannonau. It’s a nice hearty red that’s fantastic paired with the local specialty, suckling pig, or lamb, goat, beef, and cinghiale (otherwise known as wild boar).”
PS. Cinghiale is also a fantastic insult. Just make sure you pronounce it correctly.
That said, the food in Sardinia is as tasty as the wine and ranges from rustic pane carasau (literally meaning ‘music paper’), a thin unleavened flat bread brushed with oil, soaked in broth and topped with tomato, a poached egg, and grated pecorino to the more refined malloredus (shell shaped dumplings) and gnocchi with grated pecorino, saffron, fresh ricotta and mentuccia, a mint-like Mediterranean herb.
Mama Orsa (Tel: 078-999-462), Pepero (Tel: 078-994-434)
Sotto Vento and Sopra Vento (Tel: 078-992-443) all serve delicious fare, but don’t expect to start eating until ten at night.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, sip some Limoncello, start planning, and get ready to party until seven am. While heavily researching her own trip to Sardinia, Editor-in-Chief, Layla Revis, discovered that the best deal and more comfortable accommodations could be found renting a villa. Keep in mind, you need a car and a decent proximity to the nightspots listed below. For your handy reference, we’ve also included a rundown on the fancy schmancy hotels, most of them run by Starwood (just in case you, or your lover, is a real bonafide baller).
Who doesn’t want to do it like an Italian? Rent a spacious villa along the coast, perfect for families and a group of friends traveling together. Igluvillas.com offers holidays to over 30, 000 villas in Europe with four hundred properties on Sardinia alone. Their selection of properties includes both villas and apartments, ranging from simple accommodation to luxurious villas with private pools. Holiday bookings are for 7 or 14 nights and all departures and arrivals are on Saturdays.
Residence Porto Piccolo
Porto Piccolo, ten minute drive from the Porto Cervo center is bright and peaceful village. In traditional Gallura style, granite rocks and wood are joined to form balconies facing the sea that overlook La Maddalena and Caprera islands. Two restaurants are available on the property with both terraces facing the blue green sea, 3 tennis courts, and a swimming pool.
Residence Chrysalis Bay (Piccolo Pevero)
Nestled next to the Pevero Golf Course, this spot is ideal for meeting other young, traveling, jet set single Milanese.
Residence Capriccioli (Capriccioli)
Cala di Volpe Hotel
This 125-room Starwood hotel has rooms for up to $960 per person, per day during July and August where you can stay in Aga Khan’s own signature tower for a few clams more. It’s a quiet, lazy get-away with an Olympic sea-water swimming pool, trompe l’oeil wall paintings, romantic piano bars with wood beamed ceilings, and endless Bvlgari cosmetics in your room. The presidential suite occupies the entire third floor and contains an open-air swimming pool and pool-side cabana for the exclusive use of the suite’s guests. From $536 per person, per day, including meals. It’s nice, but again, we likey the villas. http://www.starwoodhotels.com
Tel: (39)(0789) 976111
With its’ elegant whitewashed walls and simple, delicate rooms with private terraces, the 90 room hotel’s many arches and pergolas surround the property with flowers and a green lawn that folds to the sea. The most family friendly of the hotel’s in Porto Cervo, the Beach Club at Romazzino Beach is a great stop for lunch. http://www.starwoodhotels.com
Tel: (39)(0789) 977111
Hotel Le Ginestre
A warm four star pink Mediterranean granite facade, this property is nestled into the mountainside and cozyyyyyy.
Smack dab in the center of Porto Cervo village, you couldn’t find a better location to be in the mix. Expect to spend the bucks.
http://www.starwoodhotels.com Tel: (39)(0789) 931111
Hotel Pitrizza (Liscia di Vacca)
North of Costa Smeralda, The Hotel Pitrizza’s 51 rooms and suites consist of several stone bungalows on a slope sweeping down to the sea with views of the Mediterranean and islands below. The hotel’s saltwater pool is carved out of the rocks and blends into the sea for the perfect afternoon swim.
Su Gologone Hotel (Oliena)
Madonna stayed here. With limestone peaks and a hundred year old fireplace, it’s far from the nightlife and more for the yoga traveler. A solid favorite of Italian and European travelers who come to this bucolic country inn for the tranquil surroundings and a menu of roasted meats and sharp Cannonau wines.
Restaurants and Clubs
Porto Cervo Yacht Club
Country In (Porto Rotondo)
Spago (Baja Sardinia)
Tana dell’ orso (hostera dell’ orso) Poltu quatu