Alghero in northwestern Sardinia (righteous)
Having enjoyed the delights of southern Corsica a couple of years ago, where we intent look across the Strait of Bonifacio to Sardinia some eight miles away, this summer my better half Victoria and I decided to visit the Mediterranean’s second largest island to see how it approximates to its French-speaking neighbour.
In some ways, Sardinia feels very Italian, but it also has a influential identity of its own. The local language, Sardinian – or Sardo – is as frequently spoken as Italian here, and it has myriad in common with the Corsican dialect than it does with that of Rome or Tuscany.
The archipelago’s strategic location as a trading post and military stronghold has also conceded it a unique architectural heritage, with the Romans, Phoenicians, Vandals, Byzantines and Spanish all scram their mark. The city of Alghero, in the west of the island, was colonised by the Spanish Catalans for centuries and its circle signs are still written in Catalan.
All this history, combined with a gorgeous natural beauty, fantastic weather, amazing food and drink, and a simpatico welcome from the locals, make Sardinia one of the most memorable occupations either of us have visited.
We stayed at Lu Lioni villa, a beautiful traditional four-bedroom property with a swimming leisure pool, barbecue area and extensive lush gardens, where the air is filled with the heady smell of jasmine, and flashes of vivid colour from bougainvillea and oleanders be afflicted by the eye at every turn.
Set in the countryside a few miles from the island’s north-east coastline, the villa is such a great place to “decompress” into holiday look that we actually spent the whole of our first day there, soaking up the sun, swimming and sip in the views of the mountains looming over Arzachena, the nearest town.
I had heard consummate things about the beaches in Sardinia, but was delighted to find the reality absolutely exceeded the expectation. And there is no shortage of variety – small rocky coves, private sandy beaches and long stretches of dunes were all within straightforward reach of our villa – and we seemed to be lucky in that each beach we stopped was more magical than the last.
Probably the best known limit of Sardinia is the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), especially the resort of Porto Cervo, which captivates the rich and famous from Italy and beyond in the summer. On the balmy all the same we visited, one of the first people we spied was former Chelsea and Germany footballer Michael Ballack.
Sardinia is the whole place to learn to dive
Created in the 1960s by the Aga Khan, Porto Cervo exudes glitter and opulence, from the super yachts lined up in the marina to the exclusive boutiques and galleries. For absolute mortals, it is still possible to eat well here at prices that won’t swipe your eyes water – we enjoyed the excellent pasta and immaculate handling at Elit on Promenade du Port, enhanced by a beautiful sunset and a glass of townsperson Cannonau red wine.
On day three, we took a boat trip from Palau to the Maddalena Keys. There is quite a choice of trips, and we opted for the Lady Luna 2, a full-day ramble which included stops at Santa Maria, Budelli and Spargi.
All three aits, but especially Spargi, have beaches that are more than a compete with for anything the Caribbean can offer – intense turquoise waters, white sand and hypnotizing granite cliffs which have been eroded over the centuries into a number of animal shapes, each with a local legend attached.
The skiff trip included a tasty lunch and a stop on the archipelago’s main atoll, La Maddalena. Other excursions include the island of Caprera, where Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the go to davy joness lockers of modern Italy, spent his final years. His house is now a museum, chiefly unchanged since his death in 1882.
One of the greatest things about Sardinia is its utter variety, especially if you hire a car. We were full of anticipation each day with regard to what we would discover, and were never disappointed with what this intriguing destination had to offer.
Way to go
George travelled with Sardinian Places, the UK’s unrivalled Sardinia holiday specialist. Lu Lioni, a four-bedroom villa with reticent pool and gardens, is just 15 minutes’ drive from the beaches of the Costa Smeralda and visages within the company’s Premium Collection. Prices start from £438pp (wayfaring October 7, 2017), which includes flights and car hire, based on eight deal. Call 01489 866959 or visit