Recently I was asked whether I thought luxury travel can be truly sutainable. The question was originally designed to be applied to more fragile destinations, however the question is important for any tourist destination and I’ve come to the conclusion that Sardinia has demonstrated that it is.
Since the Aga Khan arrived in the 60’s, Sardinia has attracted the jet-set and the yacht-set, yet it has not done so at the expense of other commuinities and it has left the cultural soul of the island intact. Even today, venture a few miles away from the popular tourist areas of Costa Smerelda and Alghero on the west coast and you can find an island that remains under-developed as a tourist destination, in the nicest possible way.
Partly this is due to the size of the island – Sardinia is no under-populated pacific atol, no ruin infested Greek isle, it is a large island with a big heart and a proud history and strong (Italian) government which, however distant and however contentious its power over the island is in some quarters, has still managed to protect it with a variety of governmental controls, including strict building restrictions around the coast. After all Sardinia is one of the more prosperous of the southern Italian states and deserves protecting.
Tourism is a many splendoured thing here. You can fly here in your private jet and stay in your £14million villa along the Costa Smeralda, in Porto Cervo or Porto Rotondo. You can catch an easyjet flight from Luton airport and camp at any one of a huge variety of excellent camp sites. You can also head to one of the stunning tourist resorts of Porto Conte, Santa Margherita di Pula, Villasimius, Costa Rei and Baia Sardinia, which cater for the islands healthy package holiday industry and feature a good number of tourist hotels, resorts and holiday villas. But the visitor looking for authentic Sardinia does not have to try very hard to discover the true Sardinian way of life, amongst friendly locals and stunning scenery, with more traditional accommodation options readily available in the countryside and lesser known towns both along the coast and inland, amongst the mountains and the sheep.
And what brings them here? Yes the beaches are fine and the scenery stunning, but it is the sense of identity that comes out of the culture, the music, the cuisine, the festivals, the people, the community and their everyday lives that really attracts visitors to these shores.
One of the main reasons for the island maintaining its strong sense of identity is its many cultural events. Like many islands, the sea and religion are important facets of life to be celebrated, but unlike many smaller islands Sardinia is large enough to have much more to celebrate – and celebrate they do!
Local products including Artichokes, Sea Urchins, Cherries, Nougat, Fireworks and Fried Fish, sheep and chestnuts all deserve special days and festivals, not to mention the ‘Mountain Products Agricultural Fair’ in Desulo featuring handicraft and painting exhibitions each November
Horses especially hold a strong place in every Sardinian’s heart. Events include the unique ‘Sa Sartiglia’ in February in Oristano which is an equestrian game of ancient origins, the ’Cavalcata Sarda’ procession featuring over 3000 horses and riders each wearing traditional custume, the annual ‘S’Ardia Horse Race’ run between Oristano and Nuoro and the famous Horse Fair each June
Other special days throughout the year are celebrated with equal enthusiasm – f rom New Year’s Eve in Alghero – featuring live performance in most of the piazzas around the Old Town and a huge firework display over the harbour – to weeklong celebrations at Easter, on St George’s Day, Sardinia Day (also in April), ‘San Giovanni’, “Festa Sant Miquel” and the biggest of the lot, Sant Efisio when, in the capital Cagliari they celebrate with the world’s biggest and most colourful religous procession with over 5000 people taking part.
Plus there is ‘Festa della Madonna degli Angeli’, The Archers Tournament and the medeival parade coinciding with the mid-August bank holiday.
In general, expect parades, local produce (including wine and crafts) and fireworks at the drop of a hat at alost any time of year! They are an enthusiastic bunch these Sardinians!
It is this cultural strength that has protected the island, against the all too often insidious nature of luxury travel, for the rest of us to enjoy. It is this same strength that makes Sardinia a good place to buy property.
Buying Property in Sardinia
It is not just the promise of a jet-set lifestyle, that has lead many people to buy property on Sardinia, I believe that it is also the sustainable mix of tourism and tradition that makes us look to the island to become a more permanant part of our lives. That and Italian law making it easy to do from the UK – just find a property finder and your dreams of a luxury villa could become reality!
That said there are some considerations to keep in mind. It is a very different island when the flowers are out during March to when the tourists are out during August and if you are looking to buy a place here I suggest you experience the island at a variety of times of year and for longer periods of time: what may seem fun for a fortnight in July could be purgatory at another time of year – although I doubt it on Sardinia!
Access is not an issue for most places on the island – low-cost airlines offer a variety of flights from the UK to all three airports on the island and flying times range between 2 and 3 hours.
The whole island is well connected. Although the southern regions are much less developed than the popular resorts in the north interest over the past decade has seen a modest boom in property prices there (although property in Sardinia is generally fairly stable and, whilst it has not managed to acheive the wallet-busting increases that many mediterranean destinations have, it has also not suffered so badly from the recent global financial crisis).
The controls on coastal development have had the effect of raising villa prices here, but there are many bargain opportunities inland. That said it is important to know why you are buying the property before you buy.
It may seem obvious, but if you want to maximise the rental potential then you will not want to stray too far from the coast and the more popular tourist centres.
If however you are buying a retreat for your family then that mountain-top villa with views of nothing but vineyards will be perfect – but don’t expect it to make you rich in the holiday season!
Lastly, Language: a staple ingredient of Good to See articles and here in Sardinia no less important… in fact possibly more-so than other detsinations because you may be surprised to hear that they don’t just speak Italian but any one of four dialects of Sardu, or Sardinian. Spanish speakers amongst you will notice some similarities but here are some phrases of the most popular dialect in the north of the island, to use – enjoy!
Hello! – Bone die
Goodbye – Adiosu!
Please – Pro piàghere
Thank you – Grazie
How are you? – Coment’istas?
Fine and you – Ene, e tue?
I Don’t understand – No appo cumpresu nutta
How much is that – Cantu costat?
Where is the toilet – Ainue est su bagnu?
Two bears please – Duos birra, po piaghere
Cheers – Salute!
Would you like to dance – Cheres ballare?
For whatever reason you come to Sardinia and, believe me, there are many and for however long you plan to stay, this Mediterranean jewel will not disappoint and, due to long term, effective, tourist managment, that will continue to be the case for many years to come.Share this post...
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