The Jet Set’s Best Kept Secret
12 January, 2016
Granted, the seaboard of the Emerald Coast is a haven for anyone seeking idyllic beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters. And one might be forgiven for forgetting to visit the town of Olbia. However, we are determined to sing the praises of this charming locality in the north of Sardinia, and of the Emerald Coast and environs. Touring here during the summer months is obviously a surefire bet, but we intend to persuade you to make an off-season visit, to discover the area’s true DNA, over and above any touristic conditioning.
On the opposite side to its industrial precinct lies an attractive town with a historical centre dotted with shops, wine bars and café-packed squares. But, above all, the authenticity of Olbia stands in stark contrast to the more touristy areas on the north and south sides of the island.
Located on the Emerald Coast, Olbia is clearly evocative of a classical Sardinian picture postcard – white sandy beaches, wind-sculpted rocks projecting into the blue sea and luxury tourism galore, with yachts moored off the many coves along the coastline. However, inland Gallura seems to be in the antipodes, with its vineyards, pretty villages, mountains and mysterious nuragas – the most prolific megalithic construction on the island dating back prior to 1,000 BC. The northern Gallura coastline is rugged, its waters an exclusive sanctuary for dolphins, divers and windsurfers delighting in the marine reserve of La Maddalena. The Maddalena National Park includes an archipelago made up of seven islands, known as “the Seven Sisters”: La Maddalena – the largest of them – Caprera, Santo Stefano, Spargi, Budelli, Santa Maria and Razzoli. All the islands are granitic, set close to one another and surrounded by shallow water. This, added to the chromatic fluctuations of the sea and the marvel of nature here make for an incomparable setting well worth discovering. The town still has the appearance of a former fishing village and its sights include the town hall, the parish church of Santa Maria Maddalena, as well as restaurants and shops offering all kinds of products.
The Emerald Coast, which stretches for 55 km from Porto Rotondo to the Gulf of Arzachena, is the island’s most sought after tourist destination, a flashy preserve of luxury hotels, hidden beaches and pleasure harbours accessible to a chosen few. Ever since the Aga Khan acquired the coast for a sou in the 1960s, it has attracted the jet set from all over the world and, of course, a swarm of paparazzi, too. But, despite such trifles, the fact remains it is a well nigh perfect setting, with granite mountains bathed in emerald-green waters and a string of coves, each of them different yet perfect in its own right.
Its capital is Porto Cervo, an unusual seaside resort in that it resembles a mock-up, with Moorish-style buildings and squeaky-clean streets. Jaunty, rakish and worldly, this sophisticated spot is a veritable paradise. From June to September it is the hub of high-class partying, with tanned beauties posing in the Piazzetta and oil millionaires ambling about the big name stores. But, the coast is very quiet for the rest of the year and it is unlikely you will bump into anybody, apart from the odd bunch of locals.
A westbound excursion would be in order. You will come to Baia Sardinia, an expanse of exquisite sand, while in the south, near the Hotel Cala di Volpe, lie the spectacular beaches of Capriccioli and Spiaggia di Liscia Ruia. Hard by the Hotel Romazzino, the beach of Spiaggia del Principe fans out in the shape of a crescent moon, its white sand bathed by the deep blue sea. But, let’s press on with our dream. And, not all the region’s treasures are sited along the coast.
Not to be missed in the interior is the village of San Pantaleo. Further inland, the town of Arzachena reveals a number of interesting archaeological sites, notably Nuraghe di Albucciu, alongside the main road to Olbia, and Coddu Ecchju, one of the island’s most important tombe dei giganti – funerary monuments made up of communal burials dating from the Nuragic period (second millennium BC).
Eager to discover the marvels of Olbia and the Emerald Coast during the quieter months? Check out our flights here.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Images by Gabriel Garcia Marengo
12 January, 2016