Italy’s Hidden Gems: Sardinia
Seafaring on a vintage sailing yacHt
While Porto Cervo — the seaside bastion of privilege on the Costa Smeralda in northern Sardinia — guarantees prime parking for your superyacht, the island’s appeal extends far beyond its premier port. For a more earthbound experience, head two hours south along the east coast to Cala Gonone. Virtually isolated from the rest of Sardinia until the late 19th century (a tunnel connecting the town to Dorgali to the west first opened in 1860), it’s the gateway to seriously spectacular beaches, with waters so blue and clear they seem photoshopped.
The quintessential Sardinian day at sea begins with chartering Dovesesto, an impeccably restored, 75-foot sailing yacht that departs daily from Cala Gonone’s port during summer. Originally built in 1941 in Varazze, a town known since the Middle Ages for shipbuilding, the schooner’s current owners discovered it languishing in disrepair 16 years ago, then spent a year painstakingly bringing it back to life.
Dovesesto will take you and it guests along the Gulf of Oresei, cruising past limestone cliffs and caverns and stopping at a half-dozen unspoiled beaches accessible only by boat (and in some cases, a death-defying hike). You’ll explore the deep, luminescent waters of Grotta del Buc Marino, with stalactites, stalagmites and other wonders.
And by day’s end, you’ll arrive at the awe-inspiring Cala Goloritze, a UNESCO World Heritage site capped by the famous Aguglia di Goloritze, a natural monument that soars nearly 500 feet into the sky. At Grotta della Contessa nearby, don’t be surprised if the crew reaches into the cavern’s rocky overhang and mysteriously produces a bottle of mirto — a Sardinian digestif — to toast the voyage.
The Dovesesto is also available for a longer jaunt northward to the La Maddalena archipelago, a five-day excursion for six guests that hits pristine ports like the island of Tavolara — a divers’ haven that also happens to be the smallest inhabited kingdom in the world — and Budelli, whose Spiaggia Rasa (“Pink Beach”) owes its blush to a microorganism that colors the sand.