Welcome to Sardinia

By on January 20, 2014
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Blessed with some of the most dazzling landscapes in the Mediterranean, Sardinia is a powerfully captivating bit of Italy. Not just a playground for the yacht-and-jet set, the island offers homes for every budget, says Fleur Kinson.

The Mediterranean’s second largest island (after Sicily), Sardinia is a unique and endlessly beguiling place. It contains extraordinarily colourful landscapes, unspoilt and unchanged for thousands of years. It shelters wildlife so diverse and exotic that the island has sometimes been dubbed ‘the Galapagos of the Med’. It has an intriguing history involving mysterious ancient peoples and it sprouts prehistoric ruins of a kind seen nowhere else. And today it’s home to exceptionally kind people, who speak one of Italian’s strangest dialects. Clearly there’s nowhere quite like Sardinia. Clean, uncrowded, elemental and distinctive, Sardinia remains one of Italy’s most special places.

It’s worth spending a moment considering some of the island’s jaw-dropping landscapes. Beaches here are so beautiful that Sardinia has sometimes stood in for the Caribbean in television commercials (the Bounty-bar ads of the 1980s being a famous example). The island variously offers white or golden sand lapped by bright turquoise water, vineyards and olive groves sprouting from paprika-coloured soil, sun-blonde plains backed by low hills cloaked in cork trees, pine forests flanked by fragrant herbal undergrowth, and high mountains rising decoratively in the far distance.

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With such astonishing physical beauty, and such gentle, generous inhabitants, you’d expect massive numbers of tourists to have trampled Sardinia to dust long ago. In fact, the crowds are still small, and their coming hasn’t generated the usual tourism-eyesores such as ranks of high-rise buildings. It’s just not that sort of island. And careful laws protect it from ever becoming that sort of island – which, in turn, protects the value of property here. The truth is that clean, sleepy Sardinia is way off most tourists’ itinerary of Italy. In fact, many people have still never heard of the island. Or if they have, they couldn’t exactly point to it on a map. A thoroughly contented place, Sardinia doesn’t feel much need to advertise itself.

It was the Aga Khan, no less, who first drew foreign visitors’ attention to Sardinia. In the 1960s, his yacht was forced to shelter from a storm off the then little-known island’s exquisite northwest coast. Amazed by the beautiful liquid-emerald water and the serried rocky coves he found here, he bought up a stretch of seaside with a consortium of businessmen, sensitively developed the area, and established the ‘Costa Smeralda’ as a quietly opulent holiday area for the rich and famous.

The yacht-and-jet-set were soon buying villas in this chic northeast, but this did nothing to encourage the more financially-average buyer – who wrongly concluded that the whole island was an expensive playground for the super-rich. Besides, without a boat or a private jet, how could the average buyer hope to get here? Thankfully, budget airlines began opening up Sardinia from the year 2000 onwards, and delighted visitors realized that there was far more to this island paradise than the fabled Costa Smeralda in the northeast. New property hotspots grew up in and around Alghero on the northwest coast, and later along the island’s southern coasts either side of Cágliari.

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Today there are properties available on Sardinia to suit every budget – from lush villas to smart townhouses to inexpensive apartments to country homes large and small. For as little as €25,000 you might get a country house with land in the island’s centre. For €80,000, you could get a nice one-bedroom apartment in a family-friendly beach resort, or a two- to three-bedroom village house or country home a few miles inland (€40,000 to buy plus €40,000 to restore). €150,000 could get you a two-bedroom seaside apartment or semi-detached house. A studio apartment on the gilded Costa Smeralda could set you back by as much as €400,000, but just a few miles away you could get a small seaside villa for half this price. €300,000 or more gives you a wide choice of villas or country houses on Sardinia. And if you’re lucky enough to have a million euros or more to spend, you can choose from some truly gorgeous homes. This island is still the haunt of the rich and famous, and there are plenty of properties here that reflect this.

Sardinia has a particularly stable property market, generally characterized by very slow, steady growth. Buyer numbers on the island dropped quite a bit during the recent international recession, but property prices generally responded by remaining static rather than going down. Sardinia is not a place of jittery market booms and busts. In fact, it’s not a place of instability of any kind. The pace of life is supremely gentle and easy-going, and levels of crime are rock-bottom.

Holiday rental prospects are very good on the island, especially for properties on or near the coast. A one- or two-bedroom apartment sleeping four people can be rented from €500-€600 per week in mid season, €800 in high season and up to more than €1000 per week in peak season. Proximity to the sea is important, but not essential if the apartment is situated in a complex with a pool. Sea-views are obviously a plus.

Wherever you choose to buy on Sardinia, you can be sure that you’ll find yourself bewitched by this island’s unique personality. Culturally quirky, geographically stunning, sensitively developed and very warmly welcoming, this is truly one of the Mediterranean’s most magical places.

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