Superyacht Leander cruising in Sardina | courtesy of Leander
Sitting with Sir Donald Gosling at Leander House watching the Thames flow past is the perfect spot to reminisce with this experienced owner about where he loves to go cruising. He has taken his 75m superyacht Leander all over the world, but if there is one place he returns to time and again it is Sardinia. His love affair with this island has been a long-term one, and if a busy diary enables a retreat early in June it’s quite often to the shores of Sardinia that he will go.
‘It has this incredible combination,’ Sir Donald says. ‘On one hand it has thousands of little bays and anchorages you can choose from and on the other perhaps the world’s greatest sophistication, created on the Costa Smeralda by the Aga Khan.’
‘We love going into the heart of the island and just sitting at a trattoria where there are no menus, and eating what they have to offer for 12-15 euros. Then before you leave they present you with a great big paper bag full of vegetables from their garden,’ he recounts. ‘That’s the sort of mentality you get there.’
Sardinia is a rugged and mountainous island with the Gennargentu Range cutting a jagged swath right through its heart. The most northerly point of the island is narrowly separated by the Strait of Bonafacio from the neighbouring French island of Corsica, and the whole is totally detached from the rat race of Europe. The second largest island in the Mediterranean, it is easily reached from the Italian mainland, the Balearics, Corsica and the Côte d’Azur, and Tunisia.
For Sir Donald and his guests, Sardinia’s real draw is its people, the food, the local villages and the magical rugged landscape which in the evening light glows pink against glistening clear waters. Suffusing this is the divine smell of the early summer flora when everything is bright and fresh. Here we take you to some of their favourite haunts.
Archipelago of La Maddelena
Our trip begins in relaxed mode right in the north east corner of the island in the national park – the Archipelago of La Maddelena, an area of outstanding beauty comprising a myriad of small islands in a protected area bedecked by hundreds of tiny, white, perfectly formed natural beaches. Entrance to and anchoring in this area is restricted and vessels have to anchor 300 metres off the coast of the main island and tender in. Permits are needed for scuba diving from the National Park Authority.
‘It takes a lot of beating for its crystal water,’ enthuses Sir Donald. ‘There is the lovely island of Santa Maria, where I took Jimmy Tarbuck and his wife, just off the coast. We went by tender to the marine reserve – you are not allowed to anchor there – and it is magnificent. I even went down and fed the fish. I have never seen anything like it in the Mediterranean – the Med is a bit short of fish, but because this place has been protected (you are not allowed to fish of course) it was teeming! You get in the water and they take the food out of your hand – a bit like Norman Island in the BVIs.’
You could spend a whole holiday just exploring this area in the tender, but Sir Donald and the crew of Leander recommend in particular trying out these spots:
Cala Lunga (41 degrees 15’28.09”N, 9 degrees 25’32.73”E): a natural creek at the entrance to the harbour of Porto Massimo, sheltered from the westerly wind.
Cala Napoletana (41 degrees 4’31.16”N, 9 degrees 27’47.16”E): beautiful white sand and deep turquoise water in a perfectly formed horse shoe bay to the northwest of Caprera, sheltered from southerly winds. Here you can bathe, fish and scuba dive with a permit.
Relitto (41 degrees 10’53.03”N, 9 degrees 28’32.98”E): a stunning white sand beach in the south of Caprera named after the old shipwreck of a vessel that carried black diamonds. The bay provides shelter from the prevailing westerlies, however fishing, scuba diving and navigation are forbidden, and only tendering guests to the beach for drop off and pick up is allowed.
Cala Coticcio (41 degrees 13’09.28”N, 9 degrees 29’05.55”E): also know as ‘Tahiti’, one of the most beautiful calas in the archipelago is found to the northeast of Caprera. It is surrounded by rugged rocks, and has white sand and crystal clear blue water. If you want privacy we suggest you go early in the morning to enjoy this little paradise, which is sheltered from the westerly wind. Drop off and pick up only are allowed – there is no fishing, scuba diving or navigation.
Cala Corsara is south of Spargi island (41 degrees 13’47.33N, 9 degrees 20’35.71”E), sheltered from the westerly winds and offering white sand inviting, clear water. Of particular note are the huge boulders which have been fashioned by the wind – there is even one known as the ‘Head of the Witch’!
Porto Della Madonna (41 degrees 17’13.43”N, 9 degrees 21’52.62”E): is a mini paradise nestling between three islands – Budelli, Razzoli and Santa Maria. Because it is one of the most spectacular in the park, entrance is only allowed by non-powered vessels.
If you want a private oasis with fine sand, blue water and fine food for lunch then you should head for the island of Santa Maria and the restaurant La Casitta. Originally a shepherd’s home, this oasis of rustic calm offers seafood and suckling pig among its specialities. Dining is on a terrace overlooking the gardens where the produce is grown for the restaurant. Booking is essential. Another lovely place to have lunch is La Gritta at Palau, opposite the island of La Maddalena, where stunning sea views from the terrace can be enjoyed. Seafood is a speciality.
You can’t come to Sardinia without at least popping into the next stop along the coast – Porto Cervo. Built by the Aga Khan it is the hub of Sardinia and the place to be seen, with designer boutiques at every corner, and restaurants offering everything from the finest dining to delicious local cuisine. Nearby there are seemingly endless islands, beaches, golf clubs, hotels and spas – and, of course, infamous nightspot Billionaire. Stop for lunch in the heart at the restaurant Il Pescatore with a terrace overlooking the sea.
Thursday is a good day to go ashore to visit the local market at San Pantaleo, a picturesque village set against a stunning granite massif that overhangs it. The traditional one-storey houses and villas built in the style of the Gallura area which surrounds the church is delightful. Visit the vineyards of Surrau or Capichera in Arzachena and on the way back enjoy an aperitif at the Café Nina in the square. Lunch or dinner can be taken at the Giagoni restaurant which specialises in local lamb dishes.
For Sardinian specialities make a reservation at La Sasima, a 100-year-old renovated farmhouse just 20 minutes out of Porto Cervo. This unique experience is really worth the effort with delicious traditional Sardinian food including spit-roasted suckling pig accompanied by local wines.
If you prefer chic, elegant dining then head for Gianni Pedrinelli, five minutes from Porto Cervo. Don’t be put off by the car park outside – inside it is a haven of elegant calm with superb, beautifully served Italian food. Also, look out for Madai, which opens in the centre of Porto Cervo this summer. Run by the ex chef of the Bulgari Hotel in Milan, the cuisine is said to be traditional with a twist, and diners will enjoy a view over the old port.
Porto Cervo is the perfect canvas for sailing events and important regattas take place all year, beginning in June with the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. With a large number of the world’s finest sailing superyachts doing battle on the water, it is a sight to be seen.
Cala di Volpe
A hugely popular spot for a Sardinian sojourn is the Cala di Volpe, headed by the exclusive Hotel Cala di Volpe. The bay can get crowded during the peak weeks of summer, but at other times of the year it can offer a haven of relative tranquillity. ‘Cala di Volpe is a place we like to go to out of season,’ says Sir Donald. ‘We had the most wonderful time in Cala di Volpe because all the waiters were fresh, the service was great, and there was just us and some Milanese. The buffet on the beach is a great place to lunch overlooking the bay.’
Of course, there is more to this stretch that the Hotel Cala di Volpe. ‘Our favourite lunch buffet is at the Romazzino,’ recalls Sir Donald, ‘where they serve local food with influences from Phoenician to Spanish.’
Tavolara and Molara Island
Next stop is Tavolara and Molara Island – an area of outstanding beauty and designated a national marine park. There is a good anchorage at Cala Spalmatore on sand, and a must-do is to dive and snorkel off Molara’s Island. A good lunch spot is Da Tonino, a simple restaurant right on the beach which serves seafood and has fabulous views.
Your explorations shouldn’t stop at the usual hotspots though. ‘We really try and get to Cala Gonone at the eastern midpoint on the coast of Sardinia as often as possible,’ comments Leander’s captain, Jules Cope, ‘as it is usually utterly devoid of yachts. It is simply deserted and such a spectacular coast –one can cruise very close to it, with the mountains towering above.’
The small harbour, with its archetypal Sardinian village, can be visited by tender, or you can enjoy its stunning beaches: Cala Luna, Girgolu, and Golortitze.
The caves at Grotta del Bue Marino and Grotte di Ispinigoli are really worth seeing by tender, as they have with some of the tallest stalagmites in Europe. ‘For the guests that want to explore you can take a 4×4 tour to the Lanaitto Valley including the Grotto Corbeddu, visit the home of a shepherd in a Pinnetos, trek in Tiscali – an ancient village hidden in a grotto – and visit Su Gorroppu, a deep canyon,’ Cope continues.
‘Dinner at the Su Golugone restaurant is an experience and can include tapas in the traditional wine cellar and cheese, olive oil and wine tasting in the winery. Dining is either in front of a 100-year-old fireplace where specialities are cooked on huge spits, or on the charming terrace which is enclosed by cascades of flowers – a place that always pleases our guests.’
Deep in the south of the island is its capital Cagliari, an ancient city with a long history spanning several civilisations. Take time to look at the art nouveau architecture and monuments in the old town ‘Castello’. Restaurants for lunch are Ristorante Semplicemente in the centre, Ristorante San Remy in the old centre and, if you prefer a beach view, Ristorante La Paillote.
Next stop is Pula. Its pearl of the Mediterranean, the Forte Village of Santa Margherita di Pula, is well worth a visit as is the Cala Domestica – one of the most unusual and picturesque places in Sardinia, where the sheer cliffs create a dramatic spectacle.
For those who want to relax, treatments at the Thaermae del Forte spa and wellness centre in the resort’s garden are a must. If golf is your sport, then a round at the Molas Golf Club comes highly recommended.
For the final night, why not enjoy a completely different dining experience in a converted lighthouse? The Lighthouse of Capospartivento, built in 1856, is still in operation today warning mariners of the dangerous rocks below; guests are served candlelit meals on a raised open terrace.
Sir Donald offers one more piece of advice before we part company. ‘We rent a car and we go inland to sight-see,’ he says, ‘but the best thing is not to have a strict itinerary. The joy of yachting is that we can do what we want, when we want…’
LEANDER FOR CHARTER
Sardinia is one of the yacht’s favoured charter destinations and Leander is a well known sight to the islanders.
Leander is available for charter in Sardinia through Peter Insull’s Yacht Marketing. For more information contact:
For more information on motor yacht Leander go to www.myleander.co.uk
Sardinia Yacht Services
Renato Azara and his team at Sardinia Yacht Services are always on hand to assist any yacht requiring their services in Sardinian Waters, with offices in Porto Cervo, La Maddalena and Cagliari. Sardinia Yacht Services employs a highly qualified multilingual team, skilled within all the aspects of assistance requested by superyachts.
Available to its clients 24 hours a day, Sardinia Yacht Services provides an assortment of high quality services, ranging from berthing reservations, general provisions, bunkering, technical assistance, custom clearance, transportation, travel arrangements, restaurant and hotel reservations, VIP services and virtually all personal requests.
This strip of Sardinia’s north-east coast packs in beaches, coves, its own capital, a world-renowned yacht club and some of the most beautiful sailing waters