Sardinia is an Italian temptation with low-cost flights all year

It's the second-largest island in the Med, with a colourful capital and great climate. Why don't more of us know about it, asks Cathy Hawker
On a warm autumn morning in Cagliari, Sardinia’s waterfront capital, there is a surprising lack of tourists. While other Mediterranean cities are still busy with late-season sunseekers, it is relatively deserted here.

Sardinia is often cited as having one of the shortest seasons in Europe, but exactly why is a mystery, because it has plenty to shout about. Low-cost flights arrive year-round from London and the temperature rarely dips below 12C.

East coast bay in Sardinia
© Alamy
One of the pretty beaches and bays of the island's east coast

The second-largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily, with a verdant, mountainous interior, dazzling waters and some of Europe’s most desirable beaches, is supremely Italian. It has fine local produce, from Pecorino cheese to seafood, and leisurely village life plus a raw, beautiful coastline.

“The tourist season in Sardinia is essentially a month, August, yet it could easily be 12 months,” says Andrew Graham, the British Consul to Sardinia, over a tuna carpaccio lunch in Cagliari. “About 250,000 British visitors come each year, most heading to Alghero in the north-west. Those who come to Cagliari and the south tend to be well-heeled travellers.”

Palazzata di Via Roma in the Sardinian capital's old town
© Antonio Saba
Palazzata di Via Roma in the Sardinian capital's old town

Cagliari’s cool culture


Ten minutes from the airport, Cagliari packs in high-calibre culture. It’s big enough to provide variety with regular jazz, classical and operatic concerts, and small enough to make everything easily accessible. Local entrepreneur Nichi Grauso has some 50 properties he is restoring in the city’s historic Old Town. Working only on entire buildings, he sells apartments carved from historic landmarks, city terrace houses, courtyard complexes and detached homes overlooking the sea.

Examples of his work include a conversion of the former post office, a 200-year-old building overlooking the marina. Ten newly finished properties range from one-bedroom apartments of 520 sq ft for £231,260, up to £877,200 for 1,900 sq ft homes, excluding kitchens and bathrooms.

Buyers can finish them to their own specification, but all have high ceilings and large windows.

Towards the beach in the modern centre, another local developer is selling Viale Diaz 146, with 19 one- to three-bedroom apartments from £224,000. The restored building is five minutes from the marina.

A sporty way forward


One way to extend Sardinia’s season would be to concentrate on golf. There are four courses on the island. Forty minutes north-west from Cagliari airport, Is Molas is a 40-year-old holiday spot and second-home golf resort. The course has hosted the Italian Open three times. Thirty per cent of Is Molas homeowners live there full-time, giving it a year-round community feel.

Developer Immsi, which has business interests that include Piaggio and Unicredit Bank, has spent seven years developing plans to extend the resort, adding a new Gary Player championship golf course, clubhouse, hotel and 100 two- to six-bedroom villas, in phases, priced from £1.27 million for 1,722sq ft.

Is Molas is the only residential project in southern Sardinia at present, but what really marks it out is the audacious and striking property design by Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas. There are curvaceous white walls, rooftop windows that let in masses of light, and living areas connected by outdoor terraces. The end result — on paper at least, as it’s all off-plan for now — is excitingly innovative and beautiful, with a Moroccan-meets-Mexican vibe. “The south of Sardinia is quieter, less built-up and greener than the north,” says sales director Luigi Candida. “Property is up to half the price of homes in the north.”

Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis came to Cagliari in 1995 and never left

A wonderful place for a second home


Rebecca Lewis came to Cagliari from Edinburgh University in 1995 to teach English — and never left. She lives centrally in Castello with her banker husband Gabriele and sons William, 13, and Thomas, 11.

“Britons buying in Sardinia generally look around Costa Smerelda in the north and not in Cagliari, but I think it is wonderful for a second home,” she says. “It is 10 minutes from the airport, has wonderful weather and is not a cultural backwater.”

Rebecca is now an events organiser mainly working in classical music. This summer, she arranged the transfer of 88 horses and more than 100 mounted carabinieri to Windsor Castle as part of the Diamond Jubilee.

“Sardinians are slow to tell the world what they have, but we live a fantastic life,” she adds. “I ride horses nearby and can go miles without seeing a soul. At night flamingos fly over our terrace and the sea and mountain views are beautiful.”


Golfing resort offers stylish new villas


Is Molas
At established golf resort Is Molas, 100 new two- to six-bedroom villas are being built, with curved white walls and private pools. From £1.27 million through Savills

CONTACTS AND FACT FILE


* Is Molas: 020 7016 3740; savils.co.uk/abroad
* Cagliari Apartments: 00 39 0170 650 824
* VAT on new build: 10 per cent
* easyJet flies from London to Cagliari year-round.
* Annual maintenance at Is Molas: starts from £1,590


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