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Sir Donald Gosling's 5 favourite Sardinian destinations
Archipelago of La Maddelena
Sir Donald Gosling, former owner of superyacht Leander G, has cruised throughout the world but returns time and again to Sardinia; here he shares some of the islands best kept secrets and the reasons why he will never tire of it.
1. Archipelago of La Maddelena
Sir Donald Gosling's first recommendation is the Archipelago of La Maddelena in the north east corner of the island. 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."
Sir Donald and the crew of Leander G recommend trying out these particular spots:
A natural creek at the entrance to the harbour of Porto Massimo, sheltered from the westerly wind.
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.
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.
Also known 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, 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!
Picture courtesy of crazy82/Shutterstock.com
Sir Donald says 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 spot some of the world's largest superyachts, 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, according to Sir Donald, 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 are 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 Sir Donald suggests making a reservation at La Sasima, a 100-year-old renovated farmhouse just 20 minutes out of Porto Cervo, it is one of the best rustic restaurants in the Mediterranean. 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, a wonderful seafood restaurant in the centre of Porto Cervo. 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.
PIcture courtesy of Luciano Puddori/Shutterstock.com
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 than 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."
Picture courtesy of Philip Bird Lrps Cpagb/Shutterstock.com
Tavolara and Molara Island
Sir Gosling's next recommendation 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 Molaras 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 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."
Picture courtesy of Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
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. Favourite restaurants for lunch are Ristorante Semplicemente in the centre or Ristorante da Marino al St. Remy in the old centre.
Pula is also worth a visit. 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 Thermae del Forte Spa and wellness centre in the resort's garden are a must. If golf is your sport then around 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. "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."
PIcture courtesy of Levranii/Shutterstock.com