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Italy: Sardinia

Sardinia is the ur-beach vacation spot for Italians, who are the masters of seaside lounging. The second-largest island in the Mediterranean, it’s small enough to drive across in half a day, large enough to provide some mystery, if that’s what you’re looking for. But you’ll always be close to a beach and a hotel and a tanned Italian enjoying them. Destination No. 1 for Sardinian vacationers is the Maddalena Archipelago, northeast of the main island. It consists of seven mostly uninhabited islands: an encyclopedia of blues—azure to midnight—and a dictionary of beaches. At Spargi there’s a giant rock that looks like a bulldog—you can climb up and dive from it—and Manto della Madonna has some of the clearest water in the Mediterranean. To be honest, the beaches all kind of blend together, each more perfect than the last. The 45-room Coluccia Hotel & Beach Club, in the small town of Santa Teresa di Gallura, is ideal for couples who crave undisturbed together time and can handle tough decisions, such as whether to sunbathe by the free-form pool, take a boat to Maddalena Island for a lobster lunch at La Grotta restaurant, or build sandcastles beside the sea. —Devin Friedman

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