Cagliari, Sardinia - Sardinia is the second biggest Mediterranean island, behind that other Italian beauty Sicily, measuring 130 by 70 miles, and like Sicily it protects its identity ferociously.
Residents are Sardinians first and Italians second, taking enormous pride in their food, dialect and traditions. Such a large island, seven times the size of Majorca, has a diverse geography. The 1 200-mile coastline has exceptional beaches and emerald waters, while the interior is rugged and mountainous, with granite cliffs that glow pink at sunset. There is excellent farmland: 1.6 million people share the island with three million sheep.
“Until two years ago the Sardinian property market had come to a complete stop,” says Ludovico Pignatti Morano, managing partner at Sotheby's International Realty Italy. “The recession coupled with a new tax imposed by the regional government on visiting yachts meant the yachts just went to cheaper places in the Med. When the authorities got rid of that tax, the yachts returned.”
Prices are still 25 percent below pre-recession levels but the market remains quiet.
Brits are coming
The north coast has the glamour, but Rebecca Lewis Lalatta of Casa and Country says: “We’re seeing a growing number of British tourists and buyers looking around Santa Margherita di Pula and Chia in the south. In this area there are lovely gated enclosures set in pine forests leading down to white sand beaches.”
The natural south
“The north coast likes to party, the south coast is local life,” says Michele Colaninno of Is Molas, a 27-hole golf resort where there are plans for 250 villas, two boutique hotels and a new Gary Player course. The first 15 homes are nearing completion, from £1.849 000 through Sotheby's. Prices this steep are less usual in the south, home to Sardinia's capital, Cagliari. The city has superb food markets, and a strong sailing scene helped by three marinas. Its international airport, with direct flights from London, is linked to the city by a new overground metro, so it is ideal for a car-free weekend break. Nearby are good beaches and championship golf courses. “Cagliari is a working capital with a holiday feel, with its Old Town pedestrian areas, pavement cafés and a year-round buzz,” says Lewis Lalatta. “Cagliari beach has clubs and live music and there is a healthy sports scene with coastal cycle tracks. Inland there are salt lakes with flamingos and prolific birdlife.”
Two-bedroom, restored apartments of 620sq ft in the Old Town start from £163 400, or from £129 000 in smaller towns around Cagliari. Casa and Country has a waterfront flat with five bedrooms in an elegant Twenties building on Cagliari's main promenade for £1.204 000 and outside the city, a five-bedroom detached villa with lovely frescoes, 30 minutes from the best beaches in the south, is £344 000.
The stylish north
The north is fuelled by elegant Milanese holidaymakers flying into Olbia airport and heading to the Costa Smerelda for 7 000 acres of waterfront and hillsides. Prime property prices are staggering in Porto Cervo – from £3.44m for four bedrooms with pool and sea views to £17m for top villas. But within minutes you can leave the millionaires behind for authentic Sardinia.
Casa Travella has two-bedroom flats in the north from £119 500 and villas from £301 000. On the Costa Paradiso, a four-bedroom villa an hour from both Olbia and Alghero airports is £430 000, while a five-bedroom villa five minutes’ walk from the beach and 20 miles from top-dollar Costa Smerelda is £688 000.