The Mediterranean Island Billionaires Can’t Get Enough Of
Parking a 150-foot super yacht must be a pleasant-looking nightmare at the best of times. Sure, super yachts seem glaringly glamorous no matter what they’re doing, but somewhere up there is a skipper struggling with a task as gargantuan as parking a sky scraper in a high-rise car park.
In Sardinia, however, it must be even tougher, because you can’t skim a stone without dinging the hull of some giant pleasure barge on this hugely high-priced and high achiever-hosting island off the coast of Italy.
Despite its relatively small dimensions – at just 24,000 square kilometres, it makes Tasmania look big – Sardinia is home to some of the world’s most spectacular, and pricey, hotels. At one stage, it was home to five of the 10 most expensive hotels on the planet. It’s also worth noting that it has 2000km featuring some of the whitest sandy beaches you’ll find in all of Europe.
Yes, this craggily beautiful island smells mainly of salty air and sizzling seafood, but there’s also a distinct smell of money about the place, and nothing makes the wealth of the clientele clearer than the number of mega-yachts sitting prettily in every bay, harbour and massive marina.
It’s easy to see why those with big boats – each of them stocked and stacked with under-water scooters, jet skis and other floating toys – would like coming here, or course. The water of the Tyrrhenian Sea (if that sounds like something out of Game of Thrones, it is, because some of it was filmed here), particularly when seen from a few stories up, is the most brilliantine blue, washed through with greens of almost Avatar-like luminosity.
It’s also spectacularly clear, meaning you can look down from one of the many picturesquely placed cliffs on the island and see the ocean floor, even if the water is several metres deep.
While it’s hard for those of us who live on an island like Australia, battered on all sides by oceans that are anything but pacified, just how blissfully calm the water here is.
There’s not the slightest suggestion of swell, on most days, from the sea to upset your Aperol spritz, or unbalance you on your titanic high heels.
If you’re not quite super-yacht rich, of course, you’ll have to stay in one of Sardinia’s many amazing hotels, which isn’t a bad option. (Unless, of course, you happen to be friends with Italy’s colourful former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who has a multi-million estate on the island, featuring a 4000-seat amphitheatre, an underground disco and Turkish baths.)
The very best of the five-star options is Le Dune Forte Village Resort, on Sardinia’s southern coast, which was once rated the most expensive hotel on Earth, with room rates starting at $2500 in high summer. Today, depending when you go, you could get a room from as little as $1200 a night, but what a room, and what a hotel.
The beach it sits on is beyond spectacular, the rooms are more like posh bungalows than hotel suites and you can enjoy the diving centre, tennis courts, an Aveda hairdresser, a selection of 21 restaurants and bars and its 5000-seat Arena, which has hosted everyone from Tom Jones to the St Petersburg Ballet.
A slightly more affordable, but still dripping with money (the on-site jewellery store is so shiny and expensive that it has two security guards on site, full time) option is the Cervo Hotel at the Costa Smeralda Resort.
While the Costa Smeralda sounds like an angry Italian aunt, it’s actually a particularly stunning swathe of Sardinia at its north-eastern point.
What the Cervo Hotel (rooms from $400) shares with the many other five-star options on Sardinia is a relaxed, open feel, with lots of raw stone, large cobbles on the floor, airy open terraces and big, beautiful swimming pools, with outdoor workout equipment, so you can sweat while taking in the views.
And, most importantly, it offers mouth-watering Italian food (from eight different restaurants and bars), which seems to be a point of pride all over Sardinia. As much as people come here to look good in bikinis, it must be a challenge with this much pasta, risotto and seafood to tempt you.
Short of hiring a boat yourself, the best way to see Sardinia is to hire a car and drive around the lot of it, because it really is a rolling selection of picture-postcard vistas. There’s something about the contrast of the soaring, rocky cliffs with the soft sand and lush ocean that makes this island feel truly unique, and special, which – along with its location (you can get a car ferry from Italy or France) – is clearly what makes it so popular with the luxuriantly rich.
Sure, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it.
(Lead images: Massimo Virgilio / Unsplash)
Published 16 May, 2019