Sardinia Summer Travels
Sardinia is truly a land of milk and honey: it is pristine and lush, with clear, clean water, other-worldly topography, seemingly endless beaches, ancient history and modern night clubs. There are isolated enclaves where you can escape the crowds, villages with modest routines and ports of Babylonian proportions.
My travel companion, Casey, and I checked into La Coluccia, a tranquil hotel located in a natural reserve on the north coast of Sardinia, about two hours from the Olbia airport. The hotel is removed from the ports of glamour and activity. The property’s small beach, a short stroll from the building, is located in a cove flanked by tall pine trees. Coluccia is a design hotel, with beautiful, modern architecture that compliments the grounds. There is a romantic outdoor dining area overlooking the stunning pool and sea beyond. The spa and small, perfectly appointed Turkish bath are dreamy. If you are looking for a pristine romantic getaway, this is it.
The Coluccia is part of a small hotel group, overseen by Stefano Ugolini. Each is a creative study, grounded in Ugolini’s vision for hotels to be “experiences, like opening a box of assorted chocolates; you are not satisfied until you have tasted each and every flavor.” There are a total of seven different properties to explore in Sardinia, with properties on the Amalfi Coast and Puglia coming soon.
We headed back south to the coastal town of Porto Cervo, the heart of the Costa Smeralda region. The story goes that in the 1970s Prince Karim Aga Khan IV passed by this area on his yacht and fell in love with the natural beauty. Consequently, he single-handedly developed the port. Our hotel, the Colonna Pevero Hotel (www.colonnapeverohotel.it) was located slightly up the hill from Porto Cervo. A playground for the glitterati crowd, Porto Cervo is now a favorite of the Russian billionaires and their entourages, with a stratospheric scale of economy to match. During our stay, the Pevero Hotel was hosting a large show of original Andy Warhols for any guests interested in adding to their art portfolio while having cocktails before dinner, after a day of luxury shopping at Aga Khan’s port of rock star stores and restaurants.
The hotel has an excellent restaurant, multilevel swimming pools with private landscaped lounging areas. Looking for the beach, we walked down a path to the public beach that was lined by yachts and mega-boat. Needless to say, the people-watching was excellent. The next day, looking for a different groove, we took a cab to the clubby Phi Beach Club. Built on the majestic rocks, Phi conveniently turns into a sunset cocktail location and nightclub on some nights. Basically, its Nikki beach of Sardinia. For dinner, the Phi Beach set seems to migrate to the Sushi restaurant Zero.
Those looking for a more typical dining experience should head to the recommended Spinnaker in town. It was lovely Italian fare with good wine and excellent people-watching. We arrived without a reservation and the owner offered free drinks while we waited, which was really nice. Later, we went to one of the two preferred nightclubs in the hood: the Billionaire Club is frequented mostly by movie stars and moguls, so we opted for the Sotto Vento club next door. Either way, it helps to be flush: prices are calibrated to the economy of “money is no object.” The DJ was excellent and by 2am the dance floor was packed (granted, it was Saturday night, but I think this sort of thing goes on all the time).
Looking for the “other Sardinia” we asked our now-regular driver, Anthony, to take us to a typical Italian resort with a great beach. Anthony drove us back up the coast to the Grand Hotel Capo Testa located in Santa Teresa Di Gallura, on the northern coast of Sardinia. The hotel is a labyrinth of restaurants, bars, swimming pools and lobbies and a throw-back style reflective of its1921 birth-date. The property’s beach was to die for, as were the views. It was a world away from the five-star vibe of Porto Cervo and gives a sense of how “normal” Italian families vacation. Santa Teresa di Gallura town has a marina and some authentic fish restaurants and cobbled streets dotted with cafes. A family restaurant serving fish and fresh fare in town recommended is Azurra Ristorante Pizzeria on Via del Porto.
A word on getting there: the best way to arrive in Sardinia is by yacht, sailing regatta, or by flight. I took the ferry. While this means is an excellent way to observe how most Italians travel for vacation with their families, it is a ruckus ride. The ferry rivals any cruise ship with rooms for rent, restaurants of all kinds, a romper room with jungle gym for kids – it’s basically mayhem. The boat ride is approximately four and half hours but can stretch to endless depending on the high seas.