The mistral … past and present
It is a stroke of luck that the climate has changed, as the mistral that used to batter these shores for a week, filling the beaches with seaweed and beautiful pieces of driftwood, is a thing of the past. The mistral that used to blow for a week, unrelenting in the face of weather-beaten rocks and juniper trees that bent to its will, was unbearable unless you were a sailor, especially if you only had one week’s holiday. The north-westerly mistral that sweeps the coast of Gallura blows down from the Gulf of Lyon, picking up speed at the Strait of Bonifacio before descending upon holidaymakers at La Maddalena and Baia Sardinia, virtually clearing the sea and beaches at Porto Cervo, Poltu Quatu and of course Porto Rotondo…
You can spot the mistral right away by the small white waves that ruffle the sea, at which point you can save the day by strategically choosing the right beach. In this case, the most sheltered spot favoured by locals is Spiaggia delle Alghe, which is a sandy beach, in contrast to Punta Volpe, a pebble beach that is home to Tartarughino Beach. Other sheltered options are the beach at Punta Asfodeli, which can be reached by taking the road that connects the village to Olbia, and the Nuraghe beach known as Contro Ira, which you can reach via the little path leading from the bottom of the car park at Ira beach. Both offer spectacular views of the sunset over the San Pantaleo mountains and the Gulf of Cugnana.
Near Porto Rotondo, all the beaches after the crossroads for San Pantaleo along the Costa Smeralda are sheltered from the mistral: Rena Bianca, Long Beach, the spectacular Liscia Ruja, Capriccioli and the fabulous Principe beach. Other mistral-proof options are the beaches of Cala Moresca at Golfo Aranci, protected by Capo Figari; on the road leading from Golfo Aranci to Olbia, the Bianca beach and Cala Sassari are also suitably sheltered. However, if you start to feel like you are being sandblasted, perhaps it is time to call it a day! At 18- 20 knots, the mistral blows at 30 km/h, intolerable for most, so unless you want to end up bent like the juniper trees or weather-beaten like the rocks… beat a retreat! If it is Saturday, you can head to the Porto Rotondo Market held in Piazza delle Ginestre, otherwise take a stroll around the historical boutiques. Start from via Del Molo, now often referred to as “via dei Pesci”, and admire the food chain mosaic on the pavement created by Breton artist Chapalain, then wander down to Piazza San Marco, where you can visit the tasteful Gioielleria Condito; once the shop was owned by Maria Grazia Baldan.
Stroll down to the Marina and have a browse around Cose di Casa run by Bibi and Ofelia, widely acknowledged for their exquisite taste, so much so that homes furnished by the duo, who also provide invaluable interior design tips, are instantly recognisable! Check out the TripAdvisor reviews on the restaurant Da Giovannino while you enjoy an aperitif at Bar della Piazza owned by Gianni and Marisa, who run this fabulously stylish space designed by Andrea Cascella, before you appreciate Anna Romano’s fine cuisine at your leisure. In the afternoon, head for Piazzetta Deiana. Shopping for a pair of sandals in Sandalo Store, which also has branches in Naples and Palm Beach, is a great way of passing time although, with the mistral blowing, you can always take shelter in a hair salon too! You can join well-to-do Roman or Milanese ladies, countesses or actresses, because the mistral is a great leveller, democratically messing up hair without a care for social standing. Thus, you are all set for the evening, which can round off, as you prefer, at the piano bar of the Sporting with its quintessential charm, or at the Country Club where you can dance the night away until the early hours. In the hope that the mistral turns on its heels and gives way to the sirocco!
Text by N.T