I have been going to Sardinia every summer since I was nine months old to visit my maternal grandparents in Cannigione in the northern part of the island. When I was about 10 years old, my father decided to buy a shipyard, Nautor’s Swan, which has been organizing regattas here ever since. Now I live in Milan and find Sardinia to be the perfect weekend getaway.
I cruised all around the island – it’s a wonderful way to see the beaches and remote villages. I also explored the hinterland on a motorbike, riding 270 km along the east coast and then up the west coast. At one point, I was surprised to find myself in a mountain cabin in an area called Gennargentu, which has the highest peaks on the island. This is what makes Sardinia so special. You can find mountains, forests, beaches and lakes that are unique to this place. I particularly like cork oaks. They are durable because the cork is shaved off and then regrows; it’s a material that fascinates me. My grandfather used cork for his original wedge shoes and I would love to incorporate it into my jewelry designs.
The Costa Smeralda is probably the best known part of Sardinia – I know Porto Cervo in particular. There are of course beautiful beaches, restaurants and clubs here, but there are also quiet places with spectacular sunsets.
The port itself has been updated and now includes the new port as well as the original old port, with a ferry running between the two in summer. The new side – the Promenade du Port – is the perfect place to find wonderful shops including one of Franco and Giacomo Loro Piana’s Sease boutiques, for sailing equipment, and the Sardaigne space of the Milanese gallerist Rossana Orlandi . On the old side you will find the Yacht Club as well as a store run by the Italian sailing brand Slam. For fruit and cheese, the best market is probably the Thursday market in San Pantaleo, about 20 minutes away.
From Porto San Paolo you can see the majestic island of Tavolara, accessible only by boat. There is a wonderful restaurant called Ristorante da Tonino Re di Tavolara that needs to be booked well in advance and serves incredibly fresh crudo.
Another pretty port is Porto Rafael, a small village just 30 km from Porto Cervo, also easily accessible by boat. The bustling square is full of cafes and is the perfect place for an aperitif.
The south of the island is my favorite region. I like to stay at Faro Capo-Spartivento in Chia, originally built as a lighthouse in the 1850s. It is landscape friendly and its water is heated by solar panels. There are a few suites in the lighthouse as well as on the surrounding property, and it’s very private. Then there is the village of Villasimius, just an hour from Cagliari, known for its beaches and archaeological treasures. I always recommend a stay at the Falkensteiner Resort Capo Boi, located on a white sand beach in the Capo Carbonara marine reserve. The La Vela restaurant with its views over the marina at sunset is one of my favourites.
Sardinian cuisine is full of variety. In the town of Carloforte, on the island of San Pietro, they are famous for their tuna and the freshest bottarga. Everyone should try a Sardinian seada, a hot pastry made with cheese and honey. And I highly recommend trying the food at an agriturismo – these places have set menus and you start with cheeses, meats and pane carasau – a thin, crispy flatbread specific to Sardinia – followed by a Gallura soup (a kind of bread lasagna). You will open the door, but it is worth going there at least once.
April is a wonderful time to visit, as is November. And although the high season is of course hectic, even in busy August you can still find quiet places. The Rolex Swan Cup is usually held every two years and will reoccur in September. It’s wonderful to see 100 Nautor’s Swan sailboats in one place, racing around the Costa Smeralda. At this time of year, the crowds are thinner and the days are a little shorter, and the rocks of Sardinia appear even more pink and orange than usual.
British Airways flights from Heathrow to Olbia from around £115 and to Cagliari from around £78