A Tale of Two Sardinian Cities

by  Jim Sherman | Jul 20, 2009
Porto Cervo, Sardinia
Porto Cervo, Sardinia / RomanBabakin/iStock

We anchored off Porto Cervo, Sardinia, and were on our way to Porto Rotondo by sunset. Porto Cervo is perhaps the swankiest gathering of mega yachts in the world. (The only other contenders might by Monaco, the Cap D'Antibes, or perhaps some ports in the Caribbean). I can't decide if I love this place or hate it.

There is no understatement here – yacht owners want to be seen and measure themselves against others according to whose boat is bigger, taller, or more stylish. I prefer the sailboats but most here are motorboats.

We took a dinghy to port and passed noteworthy boats including the "A" boat (perhaps the largest ever built) and Lady Moura. These yachts and others cost, I read, over 200 million dollars (basically, one million per foot is the rule of thumb).

As I walked around town during the day, I noted how quiet everything seemed. This was likely because most people were out at area beaches; it was too hot to spend much time in town. By the early evening the town comes alive, and if you want to see the latest fashions, just watch the people taking a promenade. The Italians take great care to wear just the right sunglasses, shoes, pants, or whatever else.

The town of Porto Cervo was built up as a wealthy tourist enclave and dates back to the 1960s. It lacks the authenticity of other Sardinian coastal or inland towns, and certainly does not have the charm that exudes from Bonifacio (Corsica) where we were earlier. Cervo is basically all high-end designer boutiques (Gucci, Armani, Iceberg, Valentino, Malo, Tods, and many more), plus a smattering of hotels (e.g. The Hotel Cervo, a Sheraton property) and bars. The town looks newish and somewhat manufactured. Many told me that Cervo is nice to visit for a day or two but that I should stay somewhere else. Going out to party at "Club Billionaire" (which no doubt gets its fair share of billionaire guests) was not my scene. I did buy a pair of shoes in Cervo and grabbed a 14-euro Coke on the piazetta before heading back to the boat. The costs here are truly out of this world; perhaps this, along with the town's almost exclusive focus on shopping, made me feel that this place just wasn't for me. Nice to see once and spend a couple of days though.

We then sailed on to Porto Rotondo and anchored outside the marina, where we spent our last evening. The seas were quite rough. The dinghy into port left us all soaking wet! This town is more relaxed, prettier, and less monied than Porto Cervo. If one stays on land in the Costa Smeralda region, then Porto Rotondo or Baia Sardinia (see below) are good choices. Either would make good launching points for visiting other places in northeast Sardinia. 

Our final dinner on board was the best of the trip. After the sunset over the hills, we sat on deck to eat fresh pasta and tasty swordfish. I kept wondering why pasta in the States rarely tastes like this! The captain joined us (which is tradition for the final evening's meal).

For most, the following day meant disembarking and taking a taxi to Olbia airport. Flights left from Olbia to mainland Italy, with international connections from there. But just as I was leaving, I already began thinking about future boat trips – I was sold on this being the best way to visit a series of coastal towns around the Mediterranean (or "the Med" as folks say here).

Next potential itinerary: Monaco, Antibes, and St. Tropez.

P.S. I stayed over for 2 nights in Porto Cervo (would not do again) and visited San Teodoro (south of Porto Rotondo). This is a charming seaside town with amazing crystal blue waters and fine white sandy beaches. Worth a day visit; have lunch at Restaurant La Margherita for fresh pasta, pizza, or fish. 

On another day, I visited Baia Sardinia, which is a must see. This was a wonderful, really charming town – definitely worth staying in for at least one night. We had a superb dinner, with beautiful sea views, at Corbezzolo restaurant just off the main square. The waiter came by after our main dish with a dessert liquor, "Just for Sex." It was like a very soft chocolate pudding, liquor-filled sweet drink. Liked it so much I bought a bottle later at the Milan airport thinking I'd drink it in New York and reminisce about this unique Sardinia/Corsica cruise.

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