Last time I was in Italy, I passed large adverts on the airport walls for a land not too far off. A land of white sand, crystalline waters in shades of turquoise and emerald; happy, tanned people frolicking along the beach. I, too, wished to be one of these people diving off rocks into cerulean pools on the Costa Smeralda.
In a spur of the moment decision, with about 3 weeks notice, I booked a trip to Sardinia. Because why not. I had grandiose plans of visiting the caves and grottoes, seeing the ruins of Sardinia’s past and shopping in Cagliari. Well…
Turns out, there isn’t a lot of literature about this place, at least that I could find. And what I did dig up wasn’t very fruitful in terms of tourist friendly information. Is it possible I have found a land of relative seclusion? One where Americans are not the usual visitor? Turns out, yeah, I kind of did.
I flew from Rome into the most northern port, Olbia. And pretty much stayed there. Why? Because 30 minutes in any direction from my hotel was a beach. And not just a standard issue, regulation beach. But beaches so far into my wildest dreams, it was like I stepped clear out of my head and into those advertisements I saw on the airport walls. It is real.
From the road, you get glimpses of the coast line through the shrubbery, ragged and jutting into the sea. Vistas of navy blue water catching the sun, dotted by white – sailboats and yachts – mega yachts, even, that have dropped anchor just off the beach. Emerald and turquoise waters with gleaming silver tips, calling my name from miles away.
I had a hard time getting to the water each day. I was more compelled by the homes I saw, jammed into the cliffs overlooking. I wanted to pull into their ornate stone driveways and knock on the door, offer to be a live in maid or nanny. Whatever it takes. I don’t need a lot of space, really. Or perhaps these kind people would invite me in to have a look around. I imagined sitting down on the veranda scented with gardenia to discuss the things I really wanted to know. What are your property taxes? What do you do for work? Is it expensive here? Did you build this house new yourself? Do you stay just in summer? Do you have a landscaper for these ornate and perfectly pruned flowers of purple and pink and white that caress your custom made entrance gate? If not, do you want to hire me? Do you have any sons my age? Is that lunch?
But I don’t because I have no interest in visiting a Sardinian jail lest it’s waterfront or has an infinity pool.
Anyway. Sardinia. Wow. It is one of the most rustic places I have visited. Rustic land, like upcountry Maui or Sicily or Montana. To get to the beach, I drive through dry grass, hills, sheep, rocky, unpaved roads. It seems like such a contradiction in terms. But it is real and it is wonderful.
But the beaches. My first beach required parking in a dirt lot. And here I thought arriving around 9am guaranteed me first crack at parking and a spot on the beach. Well, I could not be more wrong. I left my car in the middle of the alleged lot, grabbed my bag, and began a short hike to the beach, along with tens of other people. It was packed! It’s SO early! Ugh.
I eventually found a spot, dropped my hotel towel (thanks, guys!) and marveled at how pristine the sand was, how clear the water. I walked in up to my ankles, and looked down. The sand glistened and glittered like actual diamond dust. With every step, I kicked up chunks of sparkling sand that billowed into shiny clouds of soft powder. It was so shimmery, had so much luster, that I felt I could sit down and pan for actual karats.
I looked around, the water was clear and turquoise as far as the eye could see. I watched the sun hit the gentle ripples in the water, and it looked like chunks of gold were washing ashore. The way the light reflected off the water made me feel like I was swimming in liquid gold. I stood there admiringly for so long my shoulders began to burn.
That picture doesn’t do it justice, you’ll need to really envision my description.
I spent a whole 8 hours on the beach, in the water, reading, rotating, like I was on a spit.
And for the next four days, I did pretty much the same. Laying about, admiring the view. Marveling over the water, the glistening, the warmth, the Italian spoken around me, the cloudless sky, the powdery sand, the yachts moored just off the coast inspiring awe and envy.
But doing all that nothing takes quite a bit out of you.
I can’t tell you how tired I was 10 – 11 hours later! The thing is this, the sun never seemed to set. I didn’t know what time it was, ever. The crowds never thinned out such to indicate a certain time of day or a certain meal is approaching. I suppose I would have known by my own hunger pangs, but I brought some stuff with me, so I never felt like I needed to eat. Not that it mattered, because I determined not to leave until I absolutely had to.
My first day was actually quite overwhelming, despite doing not a whole lot. I think I was so enamored of this island, the breathtaking beauty of it. The completely clear water and it’s warm yet refreshing temperature. I am not sure I ever considered such a place existed.