The Costa Smeralda evokes Sardinia’s classic images: pearly-white beaches and weird, wind-whipped licks of rock tapering into emerald seas. The dazzling coastal strip that the Aga Khan bought for a pittance is today the playground of millionaires and A-listers. Come summer, scandal-hungry paparazzi haunt the marinas, zooming in on oligarchs cavorting with bikini-clad beauties on yachts so big they eclipse the sun.
A few kilometres inland, a very different vision of the good life emerges. Here, vine-striped hills roll to deeply traditional villages and mysterious nuraghi (Bronze Age fortified settlements), silent cork-oak woods and granite mountains. Immune to time and trends, the hinterland offers a refreshing contrast to the coast, best appreciated during a multiday getaway at a country agriturismo (farm stay).
Further north the Gallura coast becomes wilder, the preserve of the dolphins, divers and windsurfers who splash around in the startlingly blue waters of La Maddalena marine reserve.