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Sailing to Sardinia

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Launch Slideshow
Photo: Christopher Baker

Part Seven: The Perfect Beach

Embedded in the cliff-ringed cove surrounding Cala Gonone are a handful of spectacular beaches. You can only get to them by boat—there’s daily service from town. The first beach is called Cala Luna, a patch of sand and a tidal pond tucked into an opening in the sheer rock. From our boat, we swim to the beach, sun ourselves, and explore the nearby caves that empty onto the beach. In the famous Bue Marino cave, more than a hundred meters deep and almost half again as tall, it’s like being inside a calcified whale. Down the beach, there’s a spot to rent kayaks, now manned by two tanned locals skipping stones in the pond. Otherwise: no one. We tramp along the path that skirts the pond and find the small bar and restaurant that’s open only in summer, Su Nuraghe, where we eat fried mullet and spaghetti alla bottarga and drink a bottle of white wine. The beaches only get more beautiful, more quiet, less full-service the farther away you get from port. It’s not so different from those places up north, in the Maddalena Archipelago, only these you somehow feel you’ve discovered yourself.

Society Princess Redux

The night before we leave Sardinia, we return to the playpen of the Aga Khan, the Costa Smeralda. Probably the most famous (if not the best) hotel on the island is the Hotel Cala di Volpe, located on the folded coastline in the heart of the region. And it serves a buffet dinner in the main dining room, booked solid every night all summer long. We scrub ourselves in the outdoor shower at the back of the boat, unpack our fancy clothes, and get a taxi to the hotel, still reeking of salt water.

The cocktail-hour crowd breaks down into three distinct demographic groups. The first is old men with alarmingly younger women—like you think they might have a heart attack just looking at their dates. Near the table where we’re drinking our Negronis and eating big green olives is a man aged somewhere around 127, who looks not unlike an older Rupert Murdoch, accompanied by a woman in a short skirt with a heaving bosom and a bored expression that seems Eastern European. She looks like an extra from the Duran Duran “Rio” video, if I’m not dating myself too much. Group number two: handsome couples with well-scrubbed, strangely well-behaved children who are dressed like their parents. On the other side of us is a family of Italians with two beautiful sons, maybe seven and nine, in little Polo shirts with cashmere sweaters over their shoulders. They all would appear to sweat Acqua di Parma. Group three is men from Middle Eastern countries, some with what you have to assume are prostitutes. In fact, the guy just over my shoulder (I have to crane to see) appears to be with the twin sister of Rupert Murdoch’s date.

I could have stayed out here on the deck forever, staring at people, witnessing the behavior and mores and fashions of the self-identified rich (there are lots of reasons you might like to spend time at the Cala di Volpe, but keeping it real and meeting a wide swath of the socioeconomic spectrum isn’t one of them). Guests continue to pour in, on dinghies from giant yachts anchored in the bay and from the hotel’s private beach, not to mention the people like me who’d come to people-watch. Meanwhile, just inside the window, the waiters and chefs are putting out the buffet: countless antipasti, endless desserts. Then a woman in a bright flowery wrap dress is seated at the table Rupert Murdoch has just vacated. She waves hello. It’s one of the friends of the society princess we met at the wine bar in Rome. Her name will also remain untyped.

“Can you believe it!” I say.

She crosses her tanned, well-shod leg and fishes out her iPhone, which has just gently alerted her to an incoming SMS. “When I go to the Yale Club in New York,” she says, “I am not surprised to run into Yalies. When I come here, I am not surprised to see people I know from other places like this. I mean [Society Princess No. 1] even told you she comes to this hotel, right?”

“Yes,” I say. I sip on my Negroni. “You know,” I continue, ending the conversation as I have learned to in these situations, “next time you’re on the island, you should really stay on our boat. That would be a ton of fun.”

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