Sardinia started out a bit rough for us. We landed on the western side of the island, ready to grab our rental car and begin the three-hour trek to the opposite side, but the car agency (cough, Dollar, cough) had other plans for us. I’ll spare you the long and dramatic story, but just know that we paid full price and never ever received a refund or a car. Although, we did indeed receive some of the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced in my life! Believe me when I say I’ll never, ever look Dollar’s way again, especially since this was my second awful experience with them in less than two months.
We took some deep breaths, gave Dollar a sassy one-fingered wave goodbye and booked a car with Avis instead. Since we were delayed by Dollar the Devil for two hours, we found ourselves unexpectedly driving off into the sunset, which made for quite a complicated journey. Sardinia has some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen. As in they twist and turn around steep mountain cliffs, with no street lights and little to no road markings. I’m still dumbfounded as to how we made it to our Airbnb, but somehow we took all the right twists and all the right turns and arrived safely to Mercedes’ apartment around 10 p.m.
We were starving, stressed, annoyed and quite frankly a bit hangry (you know, when you’re so hungry you’re angry…) when we pulled up to the duplex, but Mercedes and her sweet mother greeted us in the driveway with refreshing, welcoming smiles.
They led us up to our floor to find the most wonderful spread of food displayed on the kitchen table. Hot tea and cappuccinos, homemade bread, freshly sliced prosciutto, cheese made from their goats, and grapes and persimmons picked from their garden. Now the only problem we had was finding a way to properly express our gratitude–although I think the looks on our faces said it all. It was such a small, genuine gesture that honestly meant the world to us on that frustrating day.
One of my favorite things about arriving to an ocean-side destination after it’s dark is waking up to discover the views and surroundings that were hidden the night before. It’s like waking up on a different planet– one with the most spectacular sunrises I’ve ever seen.
Before we began our day, we were again offered some hot tea and cappuccinos. Although communication was a struggle in a mixture of Spanish, Italian and broken English, we couldn’t help but adore Mercedes and her gracious family. They pointed to maps, tried to give recommendations and directions and ensured that we had everything we needed.
We spent a stunning day at Cala Goloritze, a World Heritage Site only reachable by boat or a two-hour hike, and returned to the duplex to find more cappuccinos and a tempting offer on the table.
Mercedes’ brother, Andre, speaks a very small bit of English and runs a tour company on the island. He didn’t have any tours scheduled for the next day, but had to travel down the coast to pick up some SCUBA equipment. He offered to drop us off on a beach (only reachable by boat due to the surrounding cliffs) and pick us up several hours later. We, of course, enthusiastically accepted his offer.
That night, we wandered around the little coastal town, tried some Sardinian beer and chowed down on some scrumptious pizza and pasta. As we walked around, we were not only enthusiastically greeted by every single one of Mercedes’ neighbors, but also by every other local we encountered. I honestly believe Sardinians are some of the friendliest people in the world–well, besides the ones that work for Dollar.
As planned, we met Andre at sunrise the next day. What I expected to be a simple seven to ten minute boat ride, was actually a 35 minute ride down the coast. Andre maneuvered the boat into every little cove along the way, sure to show us all of his favorite coastal nooks and crannies.
Eventually, he pulled the boat right onto Cala Mariolu’s shore, handed us some snorkel gear and promised he would return to pick us up in two hours.
As we waved goodbye to Andre, we quickly found ourselves in one of those double rainbow type of moments. You know the kind where you start pinching yourself because what you’re experiencing just can’t be real.
As we looked up and down the secluded, quite shore, we realized we had the entire beach to ourselves. I also realized there was a small possibility that this situation was be way too good to be true and maybe Andre would never return, but would that really have been so bad?
We explored our private paradise, then dove right into the turquoise water for some snorkeling.
Swimming in the Mediterranean Sea has to be one of my all-time favorite feelings in the world. Divine beauty and pure refreshment… It was the closest I’ll ever get to being a mermaid.
And as he promised, Andre returned two hours later to retrieve us. We spent the rest of the afternoon “chatting” and sipping cappuccinos with Mercedes and her mother. It was mostly hand gestures and smiles, but it was obvious we truly enjoyed each other’s company.
I’ve used Airbnb countless times and it’s always been a pleasure, but this family turned an Airbnb into an experience and that’s what makes it unforgettable.
When Airbnb works, it really works and can define your entire experience in a place. This Airbnb wasn’t extraordinary because of the views from the balcony, the artwork on the walls, or the cats in the driveway, it was extraordinary because of the hospitality that was provided, the comfort that was ensured and the authenticity that was radiated. The constant cappuccinos, the unnecessary excursion, the honest gestures–this is what made our time in Sardinia truly memorable.
Want to stay with Mercedes and her family? Here’s the scoop.
Mercedes and her brother live on the top floor of the duplex, and her father and mother on the first. The middle floor is rented out to guests and includes three bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a balcony.
Airbnb listing: Sardinia Bouganville
Current price: $26 a night
Location: Santa Maria Navarrese (East coast)
Maximum number of guests: 6