While everyone else is elbowing for a beach chair in the Greek Isles or the south of France, this under-visited Italian island holds the promise of true Mediterranean bliss.
SARDINIA MADE SIMPLE
Ferries from Rome's Civitavecchia port to Olbia or Cagliari on the island take from five to eight hours and cost about $130 round trip (ilportalesardo.it). Alternately, round-trip flights from Rome to one of Sardinia's larger airports, in Cagliari, Olbia, or Alghero, start at $49 and take only about an hour. Several European airlines (including Meridiana and Ryanair) also fly direct between major European cities and Sardinia's airports.
Unlike in most of Italy, trains are scarce in Sardinia, and buses are inconvenient. Rent a car for about $60 a day (three-day minimum) from a consolidator like autoeurope.com; plan on spending at least twice as much time as you imagine you'll need to make any drive. Sardinia's roads twist and turn prodigiously (even for the Italian countryside), and it can take more than five hours to make the 210-mile trip from tip to tip.
Most beaches have small public lots that charge $3 to $4.50 per hour, but they're not always staffed outside the July–August high season.