No one ever plans to go to Porto Cervo,
but inevitably it's where you end up wishing you spent longer when
doing the yacht-hop around Sardinia and Corsica. Known as the Costa
Smeralda and invented by the Aga Khan in the late-1960s, this glittery
harbor town on the northeastern span of Sardinia bills itself as the
Mediterranean's priciest party town and attracts Saudi royalty, UK
heiresses and American media elite come late-July and August. It's best
to stay at sea in Porto Cervo, preferably in one of the closer births at the Porto Cervo Yacht Club or in residence at one of the private villas by Charming Sardina just to the west of town where arid rock formations jet into the sea outside your own private compound.
If you do hotel, there's only the Cala di Volpe. With its yet-to-be-retro silhouette that recreates a traditional fishing village, it's the social epicenter of Porto Cervo summer with glam events like its monthly Gala Dinners with acts like John Newman on July 29th and the Black Eyed Peas come August 12th. It's also home to the summer-long pop-up of Novikov for Cala di Volpe that offers Moscow restaurateur Arkady Novikov's infamous menu of sushi, carpaccio, and Japanese grilled specialties - a lovely perk for neighbor Vladimir Putin. Over at Cervo Hotel, Coya does its first-ever pop-up with interiors by Sagrada Studio. By day, Porto Cervo happens mostly at sea with trips to nearby beaches like Spiaggia di Romazzino and Pevero Beach. Late lunches linger past 5pm at La Gritta in Palau with its seafood platters and grilled vegetables plucked from the chef's personal garden. Along the main port, look for Madai and its elegant terrace overlooking the harbor - that's also walking distance to this season's Andy Warhol exhibit, unless you're pulling up anchor to Phi Beach for its nightly sunset parties that roar come late-July. Arrival by boat is always preferable.
By night, the boats of Porto Cervo come alive with doting staff and uniformed crew as dressy silhouettes emerge from their 200-ft. mega-yachts. Dinner at such yacht harbors are always best at smaller haunts like Spinakker, with its one-room eatery and bustling terrace that serves the best seafood pasta in town. There's also Fratti I Rossi that requires a bit of a drive, but is well worth the effort for its incredible family recipes. And for the most adventurous, a drive inland to San Pantaleo reveals real life Sardinia as families flock to the town square and more elegant types set-up for 4-hour dinners at Giagoni in piazza with its impressive crudo, cuttlefish linguine and traditional stews that is one of the best dining experiences on the island. And while the poshest of party visitors will miss Cipriani, absent from the Billionaire complex this year, there's always Sottovento that proves the hottest nightclub in town even after 20 summers in Porto Cervo.