Italy: Sardinia, Costa Smeralda

99 Coastal Destinations Rated: In the Balance

Score: 61

Though luxury hotels, large marinas, and deluxe villas now dot Sardinia's once-pristine northeastern coast, the area still offers "much aesthetic appeal" thanks to the smart decisions and clear vision of regional planners. Regardless, the coast is primarily "a playground for tourists" that isolates them from local Sardinian culture. There is also "far too much car traffic for it to maintain any degree of environmental quality."

Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:

"The proliferation of tourist resorts isolates Costa Smeralda. They are not connected with the island’s cultural dimension, and they don’t benefit the local population. That said, it is possible to feel that you are in a zone without tourism because some of the resorts are hidden in forest."

"Implementation of a clear destination vision throughout the past few decades has provided some protection from opportunistic development. While access is largely confined to an affluent clientele, the visual amenity is largely positive and the ecological impacts have been manageable. There remains a perception, however, that the area does not welcome local Sardinian people and is a foreign enclave."

"Second-home communities and resort development have turned this region into a caricature of itself. The entire town of Porto Cervo looks more like a shopping mall/retirement community/country club in Arizona than an authentic Sardinian village."

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