The area where I was born, the Emerald Coast, in Northern Sardinia close to the town of Olbia, used to be only a rich man’s paradise. But with a bunch of new direct flights linking Olbia to London, Germany, Spain and a variety of other European cities, the Emerald Coast is now also starting to appeal to millennials. Since I’m here for a while, to visit family and detox from a busy year in London, here’s a travel, pole and fitness guide to the area.
Getting To The Emerald Coast
Olbia has a port and an airport. It’s a key stop of a variety of Italian and international cruise ships (e.g. MSC Cruises, Silver Sea or Riviera). It’s also a destination now covered by EasyJet, British Airways, Air Italy, Vueling and more. In short, chances are that if you live near a main European town, you’ll be able to fly here directly or with just one stop.
Where To Stay
AirBnb has come to Sardinia, so chances are you’ll be able to stay somewhere nice and close to the beach without spending a fortune here too.
The cheapest bed & breakfast locations are around the areas of Olbia and Golfo Aranci, which are about 20 minutes, or half an hour’s drive away from the main Emerald Coast hangouts. Although beach bed and breakfasts or AirBnbs will give you your share of the beach life, central Olbia and Golfo Aranci are within driving distance from the main beaches and also offer more restaurant and bar options in a picturesque, Italian village setting.
If you want to splurge however, there’s a variety of beautiful hotels in the Emerald Coast and Olbia area. Right in front of Olbia’s main beaches, hotels like Il Pellicano D’Oro offer some of the most beautiful beach-front accommodation and dining in the area, complete with SPA. Closer to the airport and to the surf beaches, Hotel Cala Cuncheddi is favoured by English and American tourists for its beautiful views, cocktails and quiet surroundings.
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In between Olbia and the super extra Porto Cervo, Porto Rotondo is a classy, lively and quaint beach village with a variety of restaurants and hotels. Hotel Colonna San Marco is in the village’s centre, close to the port, and features typical Sardinian decor and a pool.
If you want to be like Bey & Jay, you can stay at Hotel Cala Di Volpe in Porto Cervo. Last time I checked, a double started at over €1,000 a night, but Cala Di Volpe is one of the most luxurious spots in Sardinia and Italy, so you get what you pay for. Slightly cheaper but equally luxurious, Hotel Cervo and Hotel Romazzino are also based in Porto Cervo and close to some of Sardinia’s most beautiful beaches.
Emerald Coast Beaches
Emerald Coast beaches are within reach from Olbia. You can drive to most of them, and even take a bus to some of them.
There are “city” beaches, like Pittulongu, Il Pellicano, Bados and Porto Istana, where you will see Olbia and nearby locals. Then there’s the beaches closest to holiday villages where oligarchs go on holiday, Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo.
La Spiaggia Del Principe (the Prince’s Beach), Liscia Ruja, La Celvia, Romazzino, Pevero, Capriccioli and the like are all quite close to each other and about 20 minutes, half an hour’s drive from Olbia.
Chances are you’ll be able to get great cappuccinos and nice pastries for €2.50 per person or less all around Olbia, so I’ll stick with night-time recommendations. But if your breakfast costs more than €5.00 and you haven’t had more than two items, they’re ripping you off.
Happy Hour in Sardinia changes depending on where you go. There’s the traditional bar aperitivo, easy to find in most bars, where with a fixed rate you can have drinks and a buffet. My favourites are however In Vino Veritas, by Olbia’s town hall in the main centre, where you’ll be able to taste Sardinian wines with cheese, charcuterie or Sardinian cookies.
Another one of my favourites is the Rock & Beach bar in Mare Rocce. As its name implies, the bar offers beers, wines, typical Sardinian snacks like octopus sandwiches or wine and cheese boards with a rock n’roll soundtrack, plus live music every weekend and beach views.
The Emerald Coast is all about beach dining. By Olbia’s main beaches you’ll be able to find classy spots with a view and a seafood-based menu. Pittulongu Beach boasts the 30-year-old Trattoria Rossi, a tradition. Close by, Lo Squalo Restaurant also offers beach-front dining and pizza.
You can’t really go to Italy without having artisanal ice cream at least once, and Olbia and the Emerald Coast offer plenty of options.
Now, the issue with Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo is that you might pay double the amount for eating out. So I’d recommend getting ice cream in Olbia or Golfo Aranci, where small businesses have been thriving and coming up with great flavour for tiny prices for ages.
The Smeralda Gelateria is a staple of Olbia’s main centre, while Panna e Caffè in Viale Aldo Moro comes up with innovative flavours and has three huge counters full of them. If you want your ice cream with a stroll by the port, Paradice Cream in Golfo Aranci also has unique, yummy flavours like Pavlova, figs and walnuts or basil and mint. All of the above sell two-flavour cones from €2.00 to €2.50.
During the summer, quiet Sardinia turns into a huge party playground.
One of my favourite clubs is Baia Sardinia’s Phi Beach, a beach and lounge bar during the day, a club and restaurant by night. With the most stunning sunsets in the area and a few dance shows and pole dance performances by night, it’s an unmissable party spot even if you’re not a party animal.
Cala Sabina is a gorgeous beach in between Porto Rotondo and Golfo Aranci. Its waters are crystal clear and the railway that connects it to the Olbia and Golfo Aranci stations makes it a super Instagrammable spot. The Cala Sabina Sunset Bar & Restaurant is set in these wonderful surroundings and attracts millennials and people of all ages for happy hour and a dance.
I’m not a massive clubber, but if I feel a little crazy or some big name is coming to my area, chances are they will be either at Country Club Porto Rotondo, or in San Teodoro’s Ambra or Luna Glam Club. Get ready to start at 1 AM and go home at 6 though. I’m too old for this shit.
The Emerald Coast hosts a variety of events during the spring-summer season.
In late Spring, the Wine & Food Festival comes to Porto Cervo with talks and tastings of local and Italian wine.
This July, the Olbia Tattoo Show will bring international artists to town, together with fire-eating performances and gigs by local rapper Salmo and more artists.
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In August, the Mirtò Festival brings Sardinian street food and drinks to the forefront, with tastings of local liqueurs mirto and limoncello.
Pole Dance and Fitness in Costa Smeralda
When I’m away from my usual pole studio in London, I train at Sardegna Poledance Fitness, a lovely boutique studio close to Olbia’s airport. Its owner, Nicole Viquerat, brings poles to Pittulongu Beach during the summer – so that’s where all the pics of me poling at sunset come from.
Sardegna Poledance Fitness offers mixed level pole fitness classes, together with exotic pole and stretch classes. They have kids’ pole courses too. However, beach classes tend to be only for pole fitness, not exotic or stretch.
Sardegna Pole Dance fitness will be hosting its first pole camp this August, with world famous pole athletes Anna Valfsson, Claire Francisci and Valentina Domino.
Stand-up Paddle Boarding
If pole is not your vibe, you can find stand-up paddle boarding courses at Mare Rocce beach, near Olbia, during the week. TripAdvisor reviews also recommend SUP Sardinia at Marinella, near Porto Rotondo.
My windsurfer friends tell me the Emerald Coast isn’t great for windsurfing because here you don’t get giant ocean style waves. However, loads of hopefuls still try. Beaches like Marina Maria and Le Saline, not far from Olbia’s main airport, have a lively windsurfing and kitesurfing community thanks to the Marina Maria Surf Center school. Course fees include five one-hour lessons and they appeal to a wide range of audiences, from 6 to 60-year-olds. The course price includes all the equipment.
The same company that runs stand-up paddle boarding in Marinella, Buenaonda Surf, also runs windsurf and kite surf classes in the same area.
Closer to Olbia, Sailboard Beach Club in Pittulongu also offers stand-up paddle boarding, kite-surfing and surfing lessons.
Beach yoga is very much a thing here, and you can find drop-in classes or moonlight meditation at Mare Rocce, near Olbia. Companies like Sardinia Yoga offer beach yoga retreats in the nearby village of San Teodoro. Yoga Quartochakra even offers classes on the beautiful island of Molara.