On a holiday to the Olbia region, you’ll be in the company of world-famous celebs. They flock here for the beautiful beaches, first-rate shopping and delicious food.
The Emerald Coast
There’s a reason this stretch of shore is named after a gemstone. Sardinia boasts some of Europe’s most sought-after beaches, and around Olbia you get the best of a good bunch. With hourglass-fine sand and sparkling see-through waters, they rival those in the Caribbean.
This coastline is so beautiful, in fact, that it’s a firm favourite among international superstars. The likes of Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Anne Hathaway have all been spotted holidaying around Porto Cervo. Show-stopping yachts drop anchor at the town’s harbour. And your regular souvenir shops are replaced by Prada and Gucci boutiques.
Set off into the countryside and it’s a very different scene to Porto Cervo’s glitz and glamour. In teeny, tucked-away villages, life is much more laid-back. Expect markets selling locals wines and cheeses, lobster linguine served at al fresco cafes, and rugged mountain scenery.
This region is the launching point for daytrips to the island of Corsica. Just under an hour’s ferry ride away, it’s a place to explore pretty seafront villages, hike through scenic national parks, and practise your French. Elsewhere, the Maddalena Archipelago is home to the pastel-pink Spiaggia Rossa Beach.
Things to See and Do in Olbia Area
The Costa Smeralda – AKA the Emerald Coast – lays claim to more than 30 miles of beaches. And with fine white sands and see-through waters, they’re as polished as their celebrity visitors. They come in all different shapes and sizes, too, from long, straight swathes, to small, secluded bays.
The big beach
Liscia Ruja Beach is formed of powder-like sand that gently unravels into turquoise waters. It’s not only the longest in the region, it’s also considered to be one of the best. You’ll find it in an out-of-the-way spot surrounded by thick woodland, 20 minutes’ drive from Porto Cervo. Its tucked-away location doesn’t mean a shortage of facilities, though. There’s a restaurant, a boat hire centre, and plenty of sunloungers where you can pull up a pew and admire the mansion-like yachts floating offshore.
The secret beach
For the Costa Smeralda’s most pristine beaches, take a boat trip to the Maddalena Archipelago. This cluster of seven islands, just off Sardinia’s northeast coast, is full of sandy stretches that are practically footprint-free. Spiaggia Rossa is known for its pink tinge, while Cala Corsara comes with ice-white sands and clear blue waters.
Porto Cervo is the swanky resort all the celebrities go to when in Sardinia. So it’s hardly surprising it comes with a shopping scene comparable to LA’s Rodeo Drive. Along the marina is where all the big designer names gather, ready for A-listers to snap up some goods on the way in or out of town. Expect the likes of Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Versace to name a few.
Olbia town’s main shopping street is called Corso Umberto. Along this paved avenue, you’ll find a good mix of stores, along with age-old churches and outdoor cafes. Everything from ladies fashion to home furnishings is displayed in the shop windows. Often, there’s also a range of knick-knacks up for grabs on pop-up market stalls.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to Porto Cervo’s designer stores, there are plenty of street markets along this coastline that won’t break the bank. Monday is market day in the seafront town of Cannigione, 15 minutes’ drive from Baia Sardinia. Spend a morning here and you can pick up all kinds of edible souvenirs, from spicy salami to pecorino cheese and olive oil.
If you like the sound of celebrity-spotting over a few cocktails, head for Porto Cervo’s harbour-front Piazetta. Here, you’ll find a clutch of swanky bars with plush white sofas spilling out onto the terrace. You might spot a few famous faces stepping off their multi-million pound yachts after a day at sea. But even if you don’t, the people-watching is still first-class.
Forget stuffy, non-air-conditioned dancefloors. Around here, the best clubs are on the beach. Nights start over rounds of colourful cocktails, sipped from the comfort of a four-poster daybed. Then, once the sun’s set, the party really gets going. Expect light shows, DJ-spun tunes and dancing on the sand until sunrise.
Sardinians are big meat eaters and they like it best when it’s roasted on a wood fire. At many restaurants, you can expect at least one item on the menu that’s been cooked over a sizzling spit. Herb-infused lamb and suckling pig are both popular choices.
Although considered a type of bread, this traditional Sardinian delicacy is more like a cracker. Thin, crispy and circular in shape, it was originally made for shepherds setting out on long journeys because it stays fresh for longer than regular bread does. These days, it’s laid out as a side dish on almost every restaurant’s table.
Sardinia’s answer to caviar, bottarga, is made from the salted, pressed and dried eggs of fish, like tuna or grey mullet. The locals eat it on bread, washed down with a cold glass of white wine. If you’re a first-timer, though, you might prefer to try it grated over spaghetti or chopped up within a pasta sauce.
With the ocean on the doorstep, it’s no surprise seafood is popular in the Olbia region. One of the tastiest lobster dishes is called aragosta arrosto. Order this and you’ll be served a rock lobster that’s been chopped in two, sprinkled with breadcrumbs, olive oil and parsley, before being baked in the oven.
When it comes to sweets, Sardinians love honey. Tilicas – AKA caschettas – are made from fine pastry, which is shaped into a parcel and then filled with honey and almond paste. Aranzadas, meanwhile, are honey-coated cakes with orange peel and almonds.
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The little town of Budoni occupies a spot on Sardinia’s northeast coast, just half an hour’s drive south of Olbia. The resort’s energy billows from its main road, where you’ll come across hordes of mama’s kitchen-style eateries and traditional pubs. The sun-bleached coast, meanwhile, spreads behind a screen of pine trees.
Porto Cervo is the creation of one of the world’s richest men, Prince Karim Aga Khan, who set up camp here in the 1950s after falling for the area’s beauty. Today, it’s a honeypot for international celebrities. The likes of Rihanna, Reece Witherspoon and Paris Hilton have all been spotted holidaying here.
The Emerald Coast is Sardinia’s crowning glory. And that’s where you’ll find the lively little town of Baia Sardinia. Thanks to its trademark white sands and translucent waters, it’s established itself as a popular holiday spot for beach lovers. And it’s just 10 minutes’ north of upmarket Porto Cervo.
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