Flying over Sardinia a gulp formed in my throat at the realisation that this was not , as I had suspected , a medium sized island. Far out in the blue between Italy and Spain it stretched sparklingly appealing but huge. Suddenly a week long holiday covering 3/4 of the island started to form “Amazing Race” proportions. I felt like a general with a mission.
Many generals apparently felt the same throughout the island’s history as Sardinia belonged to pretty much any neighbour that was strongest at the time and the balance of power changed hands often. Intruders were so persistant, violent and annoying in their attacks that the Sards largely just picked up and abandoned the coast for the rugged mountains inland, letting the victors spar each other in a never ending coastal war until the island was annexed to Italy in 1860. Add the endemic Malaria in the mix and Sardinia didn’t really constitute a joyful or enviable place to live for many thousands of years. It wasn’t until 1951 when the island was sprayed with tons of pesticides to eradicate the “sleeping death” that it’s tourism appeal started to hit the jackpot. In the early 1960s the free flyin’ Prince Karim Aga Khan IV fell under the spell of the island’s Costa Smeralda region and purchased miles of thinly inhabited coastal land. Instantly anyone from movie stars to monarchs wanted to visit and experience this new jet-set paradise.
First stop on the journey was Villasimius, an hour’s drive from Cagliari , where soft white sandy beaches spread languidly among sheer cliffs. The conflicted Sardinian heritage is evident in the architecture , a strange hybrid of spanish haciendas and more modern dwellings. Driving down the coast felt almost like being in South America at times and there weren’t many reminders of it’s Italian nationality.
Friends in the know told me hotels carrying 5 stars in Sardinia aren’t true luxury hotels, the 5 star status not being anywhere near the standards elsewhere yet it was still a shock checking into our room at Hotel Pullman Timi Ama. The hotel itself is quite pretty, the grounds are stunning and the restaurant and bar is great, however the rooms seem like they may have been luxury once, perhaps in the 60s, but in a shabby way and with unfortunate refurbishments. If you do stay here heed my words; you need to be in a large room with a balcony on the second floor. I know because I saw a few before settling. Still this place has it’s redeeming qualities- the beach is great, there is flamingoes on your doorstep, plenty of activities, and a buffet that is quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life . The desert bar stretched over 10 meters with joyfully delicious delicacies and the lobster was endless. Their á la carte restaurant on the beach was even better. It’s the kind of place where it is good to book in for a week and never leave the grounds, shuffling instead from bed to beach loungers to tennis to pool to restaurant , carrying only a book, towel and hotel key. People do put on their finest at night , from the kids to the adults , so do bring your holiday best even if it’s for a laugh because it can be a tad showy. It’s a grand place to showcase your love of anything Versace, gold or shimmery-all at once !
NEXT STOP CALA GONONE !