Just Back: Sardinia

Just Back: Sardinia

New York-based Virtuoso advisor Jack Ezon reports back on his trip to Sardinia.

Bay view at the Romazzina.
A pool at Cala di Volpe.

New York City-based Virtuoso advisor Jack Ezon just returned from Sardinia.
Here, he reports back on the Costa Smeralda, Sardinia’s Emerald Coast.
Why Go:
The second largest island in the Mediterranean (after Sicily), Sardinia is one of the world’s most exclusive and expensive playgrounds, where billionaires park their yachts each summer to hobnob while enjoying the best sandy beaches in Europe. All migrate to the northwest part of the island known as the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), famed for its shimmering emerald waters and beautiful coastline. And though it’s where the jet set gathers, it feels wildly remote, with a visually stunning rawness.
Costa Smeralda is a European summer destination on a par with Saint-Tropez, with world-class shopping, great restaurants, and fantastic nightlife. The main port, Porto Cervo, is a sprawling village of top-name shops, boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. The hotels built in the 1960s by Prince Karim Al Husseini, the fourth Aga Khan, feel as though they have existed for over a century, with strong personalities and a sense of place.
Aside from the “see and be seen” vibe, travelers can expect:
  • White sand beaches
  • Sparkling emerald water
  • Majestic vistas with mountains flowing into the sea
  • Action, nightlife, shopping, delicious Mediterranean dishes
  • Beach clubs with a truly elite crowd
Consider combining the Costa Smeralda with southern Corsica, just a 45-minute boat ride away. The modernist Hotel Casadelmar, set in a quiet area with a spa, gardens and colorful decor, is an ideal spot to unwind after partying in Sardinia.   
Where To Stay:
Rates on the Costa Smeralda are some of the highest in Italy, and it’s important to set your expectations. You are not going to get a room with marble bathrooms at entry-level rates. The top hotels have an old-fashioned luxury about them, with impeccable service, fine fabrics, and classic Mediterranean food.
The top three hotels – the Pitrizza, Romazzino, and Cala di Volpi – are all quite different but equally appealing. Rates are pretty much the same in all three and one is not considered better than another, just different. Because they’re part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, guests get full privileges at all three, and most rates include all meals, which you can take at any of the hotels. Here are the highlights of each:
Cala di Volpe
The grand dame, Cala di Volpe is where the scene is set in July and August. Snagging a coveted seat for lunch at the famous poolside Barbecue Restaurant, where the buffet begins at 200 euros per person, is a coup. Waitstaff in white jackets serve classic Mediterranean dishes on silver trays and ceramic plates. You probably wouldn’t peg this hotel as the billionaire magnet that it is. The limestone façade was built to resemble a Sardinian fishing village with porticos, archways, and turrets.

  • Cala’s sprawling pool is where it all happens.
  • Though there is no beach on property, Cala’s private beach club is a 10- to 15-minute walk away, or a 5-minute boat ride. The club has limited food and beverage options.
  • Try to stay in the newer section, which has larger rooms with a separate shower and tub.
Hotel Romazzino
The most “contemporary” of the Costa Smerelda Luxury Collection hotels, the Romazzino feels most like a proper beach resort. Whitewashed walls and cool travertine floors are popped with bright blue accent pillows that make the place feel approachably relaxed yet chic. Where the Cala is more rustic, Romazzino is more of a classic seaside resort. Indeed, it boasts one of the best beaches in Europe, a long, wide white sand beach serviced by charming Italian waiters. Magical views include a backdrop of towering mountains and small islands in the bay.
  • The outdoor beach restaurant is fabulous for a quick break from the sand. Though just as pricey as the Cala’s restaurants, the vibe is much more relaxed. 
  • Romazzino attracts the most families, and has the best kids’ club on the island, with direct pool access.
  • The villas, all recent additions to the hotel, are the most amazing on the island, with their own private gardens and heated pools. Design is more colorful and whimsical than the standard rooms, showcasing hand-carved wooden doors, Sardinian crafts and artwork, Loro Piana fabrics, and heated bathroom floors.
Hotel Pitrizza
Hotel Pitrizza is one of the ultimate romantic beach getaways in Europe. Rooms are set in small, one-floor buildings with no more than three rooms in each, giving the resort a very private feeling. The grass-topped, rock-walled cottages feel right out of a scene from The Hobbit. Walking along the meandering pathways of the Pitrizza, it’s sometimes hard to believe that you’re just 10 minutes from the bustle of the Cala di Volpe.

  • The hotel has a private beach and two of the villas - Villa Pino and Villa Corbezzolo - have their own small private beaches. 
Memorable Experiences:
  • No matter where you stay, don’t miss lunch among the yachting set at Cala di Volpe or the Barbecue Restaurant at the Romazzino.
  • Experience the island’s sexiest beach bar, Phi Beach, at sunset.
  • The hottest nightspot in town is Billionaire Club, with a small indoor-outdoor terrace that is surprisingly chic.
  • Sample traditional local cuisine under the stars on the terrace of Lu Stazzu, set in a 19th-century building with views of the bay at Porto Rotondo.
  • Explore Sardinia’s stunning interior by hiking into the Gola su Gorropu, a stark gorge with limestone walls up to 400 meters high .
Tour ancient ruins: Sardinia’s 7,000-some “nuraghi” are the remains of round stone fortress towers dating back as far as 1500 B.C.
Best Beaches:
• Reef Beach Club
• Liscia Ruja
• Capriccioli
• La Celvia
• Romazzino
• Portu di li Coggi - This is now called Principe, in honor of the Aga Khan, it’s his favorite beach
• Pevero
• Rena Bianca
Posted by Jack Ezon on June 13, 2016.
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