Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Seasoned travelers love a secret place, somewhere in plain view that others pass by or fail to notice. I’ve spent time on Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, Mallorca, Ibiza, Formentera, and even Elba, the tiny Italian island where Napoleon was once exiled, but Elba’s big brother, Sardinia, had never been high on my must visit list. It may be the best-kept secret in Europe.

It came out of nowhere when two friends invited us to their wedding. We had been planning to spend two months in Rome and a wedding in Sardinia at the end of June might just be a special way to finish our stay in Italy.

I knew almost nothing about the island except that the Riviera-like Costa Smeralda was beautiful, that the Aga Khan and friends created a super luxury resort there in the 1960’s, and that it was the site of the $2 million birthday party Dennis Koslowski threw for his then wife on his way to Club Fed, I had no idea the rest of the island was so remarkable.

Sardinia 1

While it’s obviously surrounded by water, the landscape is harsh – rocky, hilly, dusty, covered with giant granite boulders and jagged mountain ridges. The vegetation is desert-like, at least in the north, with tall cacti and thorny mesquite crowding the boulders. At the same time, the roads are lined with 15’ tall water-thrifty oleander bushes that add color and fragrance as you move around the island. It takes roughly an hour to make the 30-mile trip from Palau in the north to Olbia, site of the island’s main airport. The roads are good but narrow and twisty with no shoulder and car window high steel guardrails crowding the edge. We saw a number of bicycle riders on these roads but concerns about drivers would take the joy out of it for me. Italian drivers are used to cyclists but there are stretches on this 30-mile road where they might not be able to pass for 4-5 miles – a true test of patience for drivers and anxiety producing for cyclists.

Sardinia 2

The 300’ yacht above is an invasive addition to the nature and beauty of the Sardinian landscape. but following the Aga Khan’s development of Cala di Volpe the jet set moved in and made their outpost and Europe’s best kept vacation secret.

We stayed in a tiny bungalow at a campground called Acapulco Camping. Don’t’ ask me where they came up with the name, but for almost a week M and I lived there on the edge of the luxe life. Our friend’s wedding took place in a small wealthy residential enclave called Porto Rafael, the ceremony in a tiny picture perfect chapel just big enough for the bridal party. The rest of the guests stood in the plaza outside surrounded by riotous magenta and torch-red bougainvillea.

Sardinia 3

The bride and groom, Marghe and Johnny, live in Paris. He’s American, she’s Italian, and they both work in fashion and design. He was dressed in a light tan suit and she in a gauzy slim-fitting dress designed by a Spanish designer friend. Needless to say it was a fashionable event, with the women in elegant, mostly long dresses, the men in suits, and a shoe wardrobe exceptional under any circumstances – especially considering the rough stone plaza and steep cobblestone path to the reception. As far as I know there were no injuries.


Prosecco was the drink of choice and it started flowing at 4:30 p.m. outside the chapel. They were still pouring it at 11:30 as we were leaving and the dancing just getting started. Dinner at the Porto Rafael Yacht Club was a classic Italian five-course meal served over four hours at tables set just above the water in the marina. These are the secondi piatti courses (fish and meat):


And then there was the cutting of the cake complete with sparklers:

Sardinia 4

It was a Town and Country Magazine worthy event – beautiful setting, fashionable people, wonderful food, full of high energy fun from the first drop of Prosecco to the bridal couple’s arrival by boat at the reception and on to the DJ’s eclectic disco mix.


Our memorable week in Sardinia was capped off with a dinner the following night on the lawn of a lovely outdoor restaurant overlooking the harbor where we were transfixed by a constantly changing sunset for more than half an hour. It was our last night in Italy and a fitting end to our two-month visit to Rome. I’d go back in a heartbeat – even for just one more dinner and sunset at La Gritta Ristorante. I don’t know where we will spend spring next year, but Rome and Sardinia will be hard to beat.


Arrivederci Italia! Grazie per tutto!


  1. All right Jack, let’s get serious. You showed two photos of beautiful female tootsies. Now let’ see what north of those views.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *