Italy’s majestic Mediterranean island comes alive when you experience it on two wheels with Butterfield & Robinson.
BY JACKIE CARADONIO
Before there were vacationers and tourists, yachties and cruisers, before the Aga Khan and A-list celebrities, Sardinia had the Phoenicians and the Romans. Human civilization in this age-old Mediterranean gem goes back at least 50,000 years—and it’s not that hard to believe. If you take away the gleaming ships in port and the chic cafés lining the craggy coastline and the occasional summer home (sprawling and fabulous though it is), it almost appears as if nothing has changed for millennia. The enigmatic nuraghi—beehive-shaped stone megaliths built by the first people to inhabit this picturesque Italian retreat—still dot the isle from coast to coast. In the main city of Cagliari, baroque churches and stone palazzi appear downright modern by comparison. And when the wind blows the sculptural pine trees on the beach at sunset, it’s easy to imagine that this scene has played out day after day for longer than human history itself.
“The Costa Smeralda is home to almost every shade of blue imaginable.”
This is the Sardinia that you come to know when you experience the island on two wheels. Traversing its famously rugged landscapes on foot— or by Ferrari—certainly has its perks (especially that Ferrari), but the pace of a bicycle truly brings the fabled Costa Smeralda to life. Butterfield & Robinson, the Canadian company that has been taking clients on walking and cycling adventures for more than five decades, knows well the secrets of Sardinia, both old and new. During my first time in Sardinia, here’s what I found on a roving journey with the outfitter.
Between the sky and the sea, the Costa Smeralda is home to almost every shade of blue imaginable. Cycling along its idyllic shores, stretching some 12 miles across the northeastern portion of the island, I discover secluded beaches and charming coves. Of course, there are plenty of spots to see and be seen— luxurious hotels among them—but our guide knows a few places where we’ll share the landscapes with only a few travelers (if any). After a long ride in the warm sun, I strip down to my bathing suit and dive into the cool, blue sea.
MADDALENA AND CAPRERA
It’s still early morning when I hop a ferry—bike in tow—to the Maddalena Archipelago and Caprera, a remote and stunning island off the coast of Sardinia. There, sailors in the know anchor as close to the sandy coves as possible, but I’ve got full reign of the granite formations and winding roads inland. By sunset, I’m famished, and it’s a good thing: A special dinner has been arranged for me, and I dine on handmade pasta and sip Cannonau, Sardinia’s light-bodied (and almost too easy to drink) red wine as the sun disappears behind the horizon.
Today I ditch my bike and head out on a Zodiac with a local skipper to the Supramonte range, where I discover firsthand that half of Italy’s sheep population call Sardinia home. The mountains themselves are magical— chalky-white granite monuments spackled with vibrant green trees—but it’s a visit to a nearby farm where I truly appreciate all that cattle, with extra helpings of cheese and more Cannonau.
COSTA SMERALDA, 2.0
I’ve come so far! Having logged mile after mile on the hilly and circuitous roads, I’ve no doubt earned one last indulgence back at Costa Smeralda. Thus, I head to the chicest of the chic: Hotel Pitrizza and its fabulous restaurant. There’s plenty of people-watching as guests pour in from the yachts and resorts nearby, but it’s the antipasti and aperitivo that leave me wishing there was more time to explore Sardinia—old, new, and everything in-between—for just a few days more.
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