Sardinia (it: Sardegna) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily. On the northeast, you'll find Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), a stretch of 20-something kilometers full of white sand and crystal clear water beaches.
After catching the attention of Prince Karim Aga Khan in the 60s, Costa Smeralda started to be developed. For this reason, it's far from an "authentic" place and it doesn't have much history, but you will find plenty of stunning, secluded and picturesque beaches to make up for it.
The closest airport for Costa Smeralda is Olbia (OLB). It receives direct flights from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, UK and obviously, mainland Italy.
Renting a car is absolutely necessary. There are trains that cross the island to the main cities but you won't be able to reach the great beaches with it. So when planning and booking, don't forget to include a car rental.
You can find all the major car rental companies at Olbia Airport. We chose Europcar and had no issues but I guess they are all similar, so just go with the best deal you find.
CHOOSING YOUR BASE
The main towns and villages in Costa Smeralda are Porto Cervo, Liscia di Vacca, Capriccioli, and Romazzino. Porto Cervo has plenty of hotels but they can be quite expensive. Fortunately, the area is full of great alternatives.
We chose and recommend Porto Rotondo as it was a great base to explore the area, just 30 minutes away from Porto Cervo. Additionally, this town also has a certain structure, so we could sometimes go for dinner or evening walks without having to drive.
You have lots of options for hotels but considering it was a long-ish stay of 1 week, we chose to get an apartment. Having a living room, balcony, and kitchen, to be comfortable and not obliged to go out for every single meal is a set-up we enjoy more in this situation.
We stayed at and recommend Lovely Apartment in Porto Rotondo, which we found on Airbnb. The owner, Giorgia, is very gracious and the apartment was exactly what we wanted, with a spacious porch with dining table, sofas, and seating area. Within the gated community you have a pool, while shops, cafés and a supermarket are right outside. The Porto Rotondo marina is at walking distance too. We were very pleased with our stay.
Fish is obviously a big part of Sardi cuisine but there are many more typical foods in Sardinia. You cannot leave without trying these three, though, all easily found in Costa Smeralda:
- pane carasau, a thin and crispy flatbread;
- malloreddus or gnocchetti sardi, literally "little Sardinian gnocchi";
- porceddu sardo, suckling pig roasted on the spit, Sardi style.
The last two make for a perfect first and second course, so you don't even need to choose 🙂
The places I can recommend are:
This is a restaurant adjacent to a Residence, for candlelight dinners by the pool and panoramic bay views. If ordered with 48h of notice, they could prepare a porceddu exclusively for your table. This was in summer 2016 but hopefully, they still do that!
Another restaurant serving typical Sardi cuisine. Depending on where your table is, you'll have great views as well.
For a more laid-back pizza night, without the car. Nothing particularly special but a nice ambiance and presentation, right by the Marina di Porto Rotondo.
This is the reason why anyone visits Sardinia. You could visit two beaches per day and you would see only a fraction of the island, you'll really be spoiled for choice.
For one of the days, we hired a gommone accompanied by a skipper to take us around the Arcipelago di La Maddalena and it was worth every cent. Our skipper and tour guide was Rodolfo (from NatourSardinia), who was incredibly knowledgeable about the nature and history of the archipelago. Being a private tour, we had total freedom to stop for a swim whenever we wanted, it was great to not be tied to the big boats' schedules and enjoy at our own pace. They also provided a light lunch on board, so we could make the most of our time. I only have praises for Rodolfo and NatourSardinia and will definitely hire them again next time I'm in the area.