Boris has chosen well – Sardinia is the greatest island in the world

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The Sardinian village of Bosa, situated in the north-west of the island - getty

Former prime minister Boris Johnson and his family are, very sensibly, taking a break in Sardinia. It’s the perfect destination for those with young children, with dozens of beautifully clean sandy beaches, crystal-clear water, and almost guaranteed sunshine throughout the summer. It’s not exactly Clacton.

I was first introduced to the island more than 20 years ago when my sister, who lives in Italy, bought a holiday home on the east coast, and now I go back at least once or twice a year. I’ve been writing about Italy for decades, especially Naples, which I’ve always felt an affinity to as it’s so close to where my dad’s family lived, but Sardinia is something else. It’s Italian, of course, but firmly Sardinian. It’s an autonomous region, and, while Italian is the official language, Sardinian (Sardu) is widely spoken. Sardinians are fiercely proud of their culture, and it’s a fascinating one that I’ve gradually learned more about over the years. But first? The sea. Impossibly turquoise, limpid, wonderfully clean, and, according to my brother-in-law, as good as the Maldives (only closer, and a lot cheaper).

Cala Goloritze in Sardinia is a typical example of the island's pristine turquoise waters
Cala Goloritze in Sardinia is a typical example of the island's pristine turquoise waters - The Image Bank RF

There are hundreds of beaches along the almost 2,000km (1,200 miles) of coastline, so if you have a car, bike, or strong legs (for beaches at the foot of a mountain, and unreachable by road) your chances of finding a deserted one are much increased. If you have access to a boat, even better. Or choose a hotel that has its own beach.

Sardinia is also a Blue Zone – it has an unusually high number of centenarians, thanks in part to the food, walking (those hills again) and a focus on family life. Sardinian cuisine is simple, fresh and usually local, with many foods that are particular to the island, such malloreddus pasta, a bit like gnocchi, often served with a tomato and sausage sauce; and porceddu, a spit-roasted suckling pig flavoured with myrtle and rosemary. And then there’s the pompia, an ancient citrus fruit grown in eastern Sardinia. The rind can be candied, and covered in honey. Delicious.

As in much of the Mediterranean, Sardinian cuisine is simple, fresh and usually local
As in much of the Mediterranean, Sardinian cuisine is simple, fresh and usually local - alamy

The rich culture of the island is fascinating, and relatively easy to discover with a visit to one its Nuragic sites that feature standing stones and cave systems that date back to the Bronze Age, or one of the many museums (the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Cagliari is especially interesting thanks to its collection of Nuragic Bronzes that pre-date the Chinese Terracotta Army).

But perhaps the best way is to attend one of the many festivals that take place year-round all over the island. Most offer food, drink and traditional Sardinian music featuring polyphonic singing and the traditional launeddas, a three-pipe instrument that sounds a little like the bagpipes. For my money, the best of them all is Sant’Efisio, in May, a four-day extravaganza featuring Sardinians in traditional dress who come from all over the island to process to Nora - 60km (37 miles|) away, making it the longest Italian procession. The festival is to give thanks to Saint Ephysius, who is believed to have brought an end to a plague that struck Cagliari between 1652 and 1656.

Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
Cagliari, Sardinia's capital, from where the Sant'Efisio procession embarks - Ellen van Bodegom

And what is there for young people? Plenty, in fact. Active kids can enjoy spectacular walks, and sea sports, such as kayaking, kite- and windsurfing. Teenagers love the buzz of the town beaches, such as Cagliari’s Poetto beach, with its host of cafés and bars. And for those a shade older, Sardinia is fast becoming a destination for anyone looking for some Ibiza-style action. Sardinia’s Phi Beach in Arzachena, on the famous Costa Smeralda, has just entered DJ magazine’s Top 100 DJ Clubs in 2024. This year its music festival will feature some of the hottest names on the electronic music scene, like Black Coffee, DJ Tennis, Carl Cox, Bora Uzer, Themba and Peggy Gou.

So there is really something for everyone but, despite this, the island is still rather underappreciated by British tourists. In summer 2023, according to OAG statistics, there were 1,138 flights from the UK to Sardinia, compared with 14,907 to Majorca, 7,920 to Tenerife, and 6,900 to Cyprus. Why is that? At first guess, I’d suggest that those who fly to Majorca, Tenerife and Cyprus are looking for sun, sea, sand and perhaps something familiar; the possibility of getting an English breakfast, say, or a pub where you can hang out with a lot of fellow Brits. Which is fine, of course. But it’s not for me. Besides, it means a better chance of finding peace and quiet in unbeatable Sardinia.