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May 20, 2008

Sardinia in May

Maddalena Archipelago.

by Ondine Cohane

I'm just back from Sardinia for a Conde Nast Traveler feature story (I won't say what the subject is, but for now let's just say it involves the sand and sea). I used to go to this Italian island every summer when I was a kid during the days when my parents had delusions of grandeur (i.e., they thought we should keep a sailboat in Porto Cervo in summer and ski for a month in the Alps come winter, despite the fact that we were far from affluent) and I have both fond and scared memories of boating into secret exquisite coves and to other islands like Corsica. The scary memories involve my father heading off into obvious storm conditions--I think he was an eternal optimist--while my parents' three dogs and I were put into life jackets and tied to the mast (no, I am not kidding) as the waves grew bigger.

Anyway, the trip back was nostalgic, of course, and the beaches were still incredible--stretches of white sand and Caribbean-like aqua water. But the whole time I was there I couldn't believe that the season doesn't really get going until June. People don't go to Sardinia in May (except for thrifty Germans and nature-loving Brits). Huge marketing mistake. The landscape is particularly lush this time of year with gorgeous wildflowers everywhere (poppies even grow in the sand), no crowds on the beaches, and a whole different feel than in July and August when it becomes chockablock with Italians and boats making the scene along the Costa Smeralda. I stayed at La Coluccia, a design hotel that provided a nice base for exploring the National Park of Maddalena, an archipelago where it's definitely worth renting a boat to tool around. I had delicious grilled prawns and local wine at Locanda del Mirto, which I happened to find off this dirt road on Maddalena. (I couldn't believe my luck in discovering it; it had a very relaxed atmosphere, and I loved the design and delicious food.) The other hotel I liked was Su Gologone, which has a slight Sardinian Wild West feel--the interior of the island where it is located has a completely different vibe from the coast--very undiscovered, rugged, starkly beautiful, with amazing hiking. I hope to return next May!


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