San Pantaleo, Sardinia

Photo: Petra Segreta Resort & Spa
Photo: Petra Segreta Resort & Spa

Heading to Italy this spring? Your packed itinerary already includes exploring Rome’s ancient ruins, eating pizza in Naples, and driving the romantic Amalfi Coast. But to really experience what Italians call la dolce vita—the good life—you also need time to relax. So after cramming as much sightseeing as possible into the first half of your trip, spend the second half soaking up the sunshine in Sardinia.

Sardinia, the Mediterranean’s second-largest island (after Sicily), is an autonomous region of Italy 115 miles from the mainland. The mountainous island changed hands many times throughout history. The Arabs, the Portuguese, the Catalans, and the Spanish all fought for its strategic position only 10 miles south of Corsica. Today, most of the island remains rural. Shepherds tend to sheep roaming the rolling hills, and farmers export olive oil, tomatoes, and artichokes. But the tourists come for the beautiful beaches: La Pelosa, Spiaggia Rosa, and Berchida, to name a few.

You arrive in Olbia, a busy port on the northeast coast. You’ll start exploring the rugged coastline tomorrow, but first, you just want to find your hotel after a long day of traveling. Drive north, through the Buddeo valley and into the granite mountains. You reach San Pantaleo, a small village loved by artists. You’ll return to see the little church, the Thursday market, and Caffè Nina, a cute wine bar with outdoor seating. For now, your sights are set on the Petra Segreta Resort & Spa.

Photo: Petra Segreta Resort & Spa
Photo: Petra Segreta Resort & Spa

The small resort feels like a rustic farmhouse. The traditional stone buildings are set against the mountains. Garrigue, olive trees, and holm oaks line the property. You smell juniper and rosemary, then myrtle, as you walk toward your room. It’s adorable. Wooden beams, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a huge bathtub are inside. Outside, the verandah has a little table, wicker chairs, and a bamboo roof. It’s shady, peaceful, and perfect.

That’s just the beginning. After unpacking, check out the spa in the granite grotto. Make an appointment for a salt-and-oil massage tomorrow, and leave time to relax in the Turkish bath, the Roman sauna, and the jacuzzi. Walk over to the pool. You don’t even make it to a sun lounger before the view stops you in your tracks. You can see over the valley, into the Gulf of Arzachena, and out to Caprera and Maddalena islands. Corsica is in the distance. And it’s all surrounded by blue-green water.

You stare at the view—from the lounger and the pool—until a breeze announces the evening’s arrival. Watch the sun set with a glass of Moscato on the pool bar’s verandah. It’s one sunset you’ll be talking about for a long time. Take a long bath in your room before returning to the outside dining area. The smell of rosemary is now mixed with fresh seafood. Order a bottle of local Vermentino and the fregola ai frutti di mare. Like the sunset, you’ll remember this seafood risotto forever, too. La dolce vita, indeed.

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