By Charmian

Where I go: Sardegna

The most common reaction I got when I first told people I was about to jump onto a plane bound for Sardegna/Sardinia was- “Is that where Sardines is from?” Not too far off, since the fish was named after Sardinia (Italian: Sardegna), also the second largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily. This beautiful Italian gem, with its gorgeous white sandy beaches and crystal emerald seas that belonged to the summer playground of Europe’s rich, epitomizes everything about la dolce vita: the food, the wine, and the people.

Wearing: Essential Spring/Summer wear- bikinis, shorts, cute wedges, and of course your favourite pair of shades because nobody in Sardinia is seen without them, especially while you’re sipping prosecco by a beachside café. Slap on plenty of sunblock as well- I always opt for Avene’s 50 spf protection, and Banana boat tanning oil for the even tan. For nights out, throw on a nice cardigan or spring coat to protect from the chilly sea breeze.

Reading/Listening: I brought two books (the Imperfectionists and Jitterbug Perfurme) with every intention of devouring them during my 10-day hiatus, but the company was so good that I had little chance to read past a few pages the entire time. Instead, we listened to plenty of music, and even cobbled together our own infinite playlist consisting mainly of Sigur Ros, Kid Cudi, and the Shins- perfect for chilling out by our balcony on relaxing evenings with some gin and tonic. Spring has also got to be one of the most joyous times of the year. At our cosy b&b in the town of Villasimius, we were lulled to sleep every night by the rhythmic crash of the waves and woken up every morning by a chorus of birdsong.

Watching: One of the best ways to enjoy Villasimius’ spectacular views is to go horseback riding, right into the heart of the mountains in the surrounding countryside and along its quiet beaches. Enjoy the fresh crisp air, soak in beautiful views of the town and its beaches from a bird’s eye view.

In Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, bask in the sun at an alfresco restaurant (I recommend Caffé Degli Spiriti) at the Bastione San Remy, an old fortification towering over the city that offers breathtaking views during sunset and a good spot for people watching.

Toting: brown saddle sling bag for going to the beach and my trusty large red tote (which I had to retire after Sardinia)

Trotting: Ultra comfy wedges from Trois, silver flats from Cotton On that have proved to be rather reliable against the elements, and sandals from forever 21.

Loving: 3-hour long lunches that inevitably involve at least 2 bottles of vino/prosecco, and long conversations ranging from elections and democracies, books and movies, to boys.

Where I Sleep: Hotel Mariposa – This small family run b&b is one of the most value-for-money hidden gems in Villasimius. The friendly and hospitable staff is always ready to help with anything you need, and rooms come with a balcony with a spectacular view of the sea- perfect for chillout afternoons/evenings.

What I bring: I tend to travel light, so essentials include the Canon s90 for quick easy shots to capture the beautiful scenery, good pair of shades, sunblock, the Economist for when I’m in the mood for some contemplative reading, the iPhone, and of course, GREAT COMPANY- the key to any great holiday.

Eating (and drinking): In a place with as rich a cultural history as Sardinia, where Byzantine and Catalan influences can still be seen, skip your typical Italian fanfare (read pizza) altogether and try their local dishes instead. Prosciutto e melone is a sure win, but opt for something a little different with octopus salad- guaranteed to be one of the best you’ll ever have, and if you don’t like octopus, this will definitely make you a convert. For secondi platti, a must-have in Sardinia is Malloreddus, a typical Sardinian pasta shaped like meal worms. Don’t worry, I promise you it tastes way better than it sounds, especially when cooked con bottarga, or with mullet roe. Also be sure to try their grilled fish, some of the freshest you will find in the Mediterranean.

Through the recommendation of a local Sardinian we met, we made our way to a cosy family-run restaurant Lilicu in Cagliari. Amazing food aside, it was easily one of my most memorable dining experiences ever. Just a note of caution: if you’re not ready for a loud, raucous, half-drunken good time with amazing Sardinian food and a gypsy maitre d belting out traditional Italian/Roma tunes on his guitar, then this might not be the place for you.

But if you are, then be sure to check out this little eatery and be prepared to let the larger-than-life maitre d dictate your entire meal for you. He whipped out 5 different dishes of antipasti just for our starters alone. Oh, and hopped over to our table every 15 minutes to help himself to a glass of our red wine to have toast with us. (But of course, he gave us another bottle of red on the house)

Four courses, two bottles of Cannonau (typical Sardinian red wine) and two hours later, we find ourselves in a tipsy high, chatting with other diners and random waiters using a curious mix of broken English-Italian-French-Spanish, coupled with crazy hand gesturing.

It was a scene that was to be repeated several times throughout the rest of our holiday, and it must have looked somewhat crazy and bewildering to any on-looker, but that’s what I love about Sardinia—the good food and wine, but more than that, it’s the random company and conversations you unwittingly find yourself stumbling into and the ensuing bouts of laughter, that makes Sardinia a truly unforgettable destination.