OH SARDINIA, MY NEW LOVE
I have a new love for a place that is not known by many, Sardinia. It is an Italian island off the west coat of Italy and for many years, an old University of Florence classmate, Luca, told me stories of his beautiful and ancient home. We decided to add Sardinia to our European summer because we wanted a sea experience without the crowds at Positano, the masses in Mykonos, or the Brits in the South of France. A quick Google on Sardinia, and the bluest sea and clearest water is revealed.
With such a positive experience last summer in Tuscany, we selected another private villa with online service, Luxury Retreats, for Sardinia. This time around, we were sharing it with our Australian friends Connie and Tony. Travelling with friends can turn a holiday into the best experience or the worst. But after our week together, we were even closer. We had common ground, we were all crazy about eating and wanted to ensure we had an authentic Italian experience.
Although it feels a million miles from the mainland of Europe, Sardinia is easily connected to major airport hubs for direct flights from Rome, Milan, and Geneva. We flew in direct from Milan's Malpensa airport after spending five days in Lake Como. We arrived past midnight and the villa owners welcomed us like family. They don't stay onsite, but they were only a phone call away and attended to a daily cleanings and prepared amazing meals on request.
Villa Zagara's main floor was open and airy, with an incredible 180 degree view of the Mediterranean. Four separate bedrooms (all air conditioned) and more bathrooms than I can remember gave us all the space and privacy we needed. Decor was simple and chic, white washed walls, woods, comfortable furniture, and natural linens. The gardens were incredible, carefully managed and trimmed. On the side of the house was our private pool, framed with giant sandstone boulders. But don't leave the property gate open, because the wild boars will get in and eat up all the vegetation.
The beaches of Sardinia are picture postcard perfect. My favourite was Spiaggia Li Cossi which is reached by a twenty minute cliff-side walk. Surrounded by more granite boulders and soft sand, this beach feels secret, rare, and protected. I heard only Italian on our walk and on the beach. Here at Li Cossi, our brave daughter made her first cliff jump into the sea. She was having the time of her life and so were we.
The last time I saw my friend Luca was in1995, and we decided to meet in Porto Cervo on Costa Smeralda for lunch all together. His gorgeous wife Concetta joined along with one of their three daughters, only ten but knows already she is going to study electrical engineering. Porto Cervo is a playground for the uber wealthy who dock their super yachts and head into shore to order the latest Rolls Royce. It's a town with Milan's luxury shopping, Michelin starred restaurants, and plenty of chic model types. Luca is a journalist and his wife Concetta is an attorney, they are not super yacht owners, but Porto Cervo was a good half way point for us.
The lunch was at Frades, a feast that started with the longest board of meat and cheese I have ever seen in my life. We ate little fried Sardo raviolis, and then I thought we were done. But it followed with beautiful plates of prawn crudo, tuna crudo, and octopus. I think we ate for four hours. Remarkably, we didn't feel overstuffed. Or that was just an excuse so we could have granitas later. After lunch we took a long stroll along the dock side, new Ray Ban sunglasses for the almost birthday girl, and Tom Ford sunglasses for the Aussies. We drove back to Costa Paradiso before sunset, happy to get back to our villa and small town.
One of our shared wishes in Sardinia was to get out onto the water in a boat. Originally we looked into taking a ferry across to Corsica. However most Italians said it wasn't worth it and it was only a lesser version of Sardinia, and it was French. Then we looked into taking a day charter around the small islands. Some of these charters take up to 300 people. Although the cost was only around 45 Euros per person, including lunch, the appeal of a sardine packed ship did not seem exciting.
After many phone calls and web searches, Connie secured us a sail boat excursion, where there was a maximum of ten guests only and around 75 Euros per person for the day, including lunch and wine. We set sail from Porto Palau around 10.30, we were five guests and the other five guests was a group of Italian friends. Lunch started with an antipasto platter of meat and cheese, followed by penne with mussels and fish, fresh tomatoes, and eggplant all prepared on board. The two-person crew brought out sweets and cake for our birthday girl. It wasn't cake by the ocean, like she hoped, but this was better. The day's sail took us to remote beaches, including the famous La Maddalena national park. The areas we visited were full of other day trippers, but everyone was respectful and cool. There were no beer chugging fraternity boys or speakers blaring loud music. We thought we couldn't have any better days in Sardinia, until we went sailing.
Our seven-day Sardinian adventure ended the next day, we flew onto Geneva where we would be driving down to Megeve in the French Alps. Our Aussie friends were flying onto Greece. Goodbye for now Sardinia, you are now in my heart forever.