The Italian island of Sardinia has been on the map for wealthy holidaymakers since the Sixties, when Prince Karim Aga Khan bought 7,000 acres on its lovely north-east coast.
Today, for two summer months, that area of the Costa Smeralda and the town of Porto Cervo with its golf club and yacht club, is still one of Europe’s most elite destinations. However, there’s a great deal more to Sardinia.
It is the second largest Mediterranean island after Sicily, at 130 miles by 70, with 1,200 miles of coastline and a rugged interior of mountains and farmland. The south coast around Cagliari, the capital with direct flights from Gatwick and Stansted, is drawing new interest.
“The south is less developed and more natural than the north,” says Jeremy Onslow-Macaulay of Italian property agents Casa & Country. “It is less fashionable perhaps but also milder, less windy and much more family-friendly.”
On average, property in the south is at least a third more affordable, with Chia and Cala Caterina the priciest locations. Sardinia bans any new-build within 1.8 miles of the sea and beachfront homes carry a high premium.
Forty minutes from Cagliari airport in year-round Domus de Maria, the final seven of 50 two- and three-bedroom detached houses in a small hillside cluster cost from £183,000 to £218,000 for 1,022 to 1,151sq ft through Casa & Country. These are 10 minutes from Chia’s wonderful sandy beach, not isolated but with good rural views and space to add a pool.
In more seasonal Chia itself, a two-bedroom flat with generous terrace and views over the sea, a golf course and a flamingo-filled lagoon is £550,000.
Buyers who want the security of a gated resort should look at a delightful three-bedroom detached house for £698,000, also through Casa & Country, at Is Molas beside one of Italy’s best golf courses.
The property has been extended and updated by its current owners who live there full-time, and has a tranquil garden. Is Molas is a popular leisure resort with good facilities yet annual service charges are low at £2,620. Weekly rentals range from £2,600 to £4,400.
In Pula, 20 miles from Cagliari, Gate-away has a four-bedroom semi-detached house for £393,000 and a one-bedroom flat five minutes from Nora beach for £109,000.
Despite blue skies and warmth from April to October, Sardinia’s restaurants are often unprepared for tourists outside of July and August, says Rebecca Lewis Lalatta, of rental company L’e Marquis.
“Either side of high summer the weather can be wonderful, perfect for horse riding, biking or golf and you’ll find deserted white sand beaches and authentic Sardinian villages and towns. But Sardinians are slowly getting the message that they must be more commercially minded, especially as there are more flights coming in.”
Prime houses can still attract top-dollar rental prices. L’e Marquis has an exceptional fully staffed beachfront mansion in Porto Cervo sleeping 24 that is rented for July for about £800,000.
“We provide staff and extras such as classic cars and yachts for clients,” says Lewis Lalatta, a Briton who has lived in Sardinia for 20 years. “Sardinia is well-loved across the world and our guests come from across Europe, Russia, the US and Australia.”
WHERE TO STAY: SPORTY FORTE VILLAGE
Now in its 46th year and nearing the end of a ’33 million, three-year refurbishment, Forte Village Resort near Pula in southern Sardinia attracts a super-smart European crowd. Its enduring popularity is shown by a repeat guest rate of nearly 50 per cent.
The 120-acre beachfront resort 40 minutes from Cagliari is a summer family favourite with 21 restaurants and wide-ranging sport facilities including clay tennis courts, pools, bikes and even a Chelsea Football School.
Guests can choose from one-bedroom hotel accommodation up to spacious private and premium four-bedroom villas.
Prices at Forte Village start from ’532 a night for two on a half-board basis.