La Costa Smeralda – Sardinia, Italy

Coastal Glamour and the Interior’s Mystique

An ancient crossroads between East and West, Sardinia emerged from mystery and obscurity in the late 1960s. The Costa Smeralda, a 34-mile tract of pristine boulder-strewn coast, was wild and unblemished when it was purchased by a consortium of interna­tional businessmen headed by Prince Karim, the Aga Khan, whose goal was to create a Xanadu playground for the consortium’s members and friends while maintaining the area’s pristine beauty.

The tasteful five-star development they created transformed the island’s traditional economy of shepherding and agriculture. Sardinia is now considered one of the world’s most glamorous spots for the super rich and world famous.

Two sequestered deluxe hotel enclaves are landmarks, erected on the choicest stretch of coastline. The won­derfully romantic Hotel Pitrizza harmonizes beautifully with the rocky coast and is home for those seeking seclusion and serenity.

On the other hand, the rustic-elegant Hotel Cala di Volpe is pure theater, a cross between a self-contained medieval village and a colorful Bedrock minus the Flintstones. Its largely Italian clientele epitomize la dolce vita: hand­some, fashionable, bejeweled, suntanned, and exuberant, filling this private corner of the coastline with glamour and brio.

Elsewhere, in the island’s harsh and wild interior, the once-persecuted Sardi—their island coveted by every major maritime power of the Mediterranean—still live and maintain their traditions, folkloric costumes, and a unique dialect (close to spoken Latin).

This is the other Sardinia, light-years beyond cosmo­politan Costa Smeralda, where only intrepid travelers need venture. The rough moun­tainous interior is dotted with more than 7,000 mostly conical nuraghi, stone structures dating back to the Bronze Age that are unique to Sardinia. Little has changed here since D. H. Lawrence’s 1921 visit when, astonished, he described the island as “lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere.”

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