Hotel Pitrizza, Porto Cervo, Sardinia

The brochure reads "The Hotel Pitrizza is made to measure for anyone looking for peace and quiet, yet within reach of the social life of the Costa Smeralda." If ever an understatement has been used to describe one of the world's truly great resorts, that is it.

Hotel Pitrizza, situated on the northeast coast of Sardinia about a one-hour flight from Rome or Milan, is an extraordinarily beautiful vacation hideaway, a clean and simple monument to the good life. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive! Maybe the Italian lira will be devalued several more times (the lira was devalued on September 14, 1992) so that the cost of the stay is more reasonable for those who must pay in U.S. dollars.

While it's not hard to nitpick about certain of the hotel's policies (part of the Ciga Hotel chain), it is easy to praise this paradise on the Mediterranean. The small, private beach is as breathtaking as the marine-blue water. The beach's soft, white sand is broken intermittently by rounded ash-colored rock formations. On a nearby hilltop, a salt water pool has been carved out of the rocks; swimmers get a magnificent view of the Liscia di Vacca bay. The pool itself has different depths for swimming and standing; at one edge, which serves as a perfect place to perch your elbows and gaze out at boats on the water, the water tumbles over into the bay in a striking waterfall.

The resort offers intimate settings with 51 secluded hillside villas. Each villa is modern and comfortable with its own private terrace and garden, and many offer seaside views with spectacular sunsets.

The food--all meals can be included in the price--ranks with some of the most delicious in Europe. While the evening meal, under the stars, is worthy of note, lunch is the highlight of each day. The restaurant offers a wide selection of salads, fresh vegetables and cold fish platters before a pasta course, which changes daily. The main course is a choice of local fish, poultry or meat cooked and seasoned on the nearby grill. A wide selection of cheese and fruit finishes off the meal. Dinner appetizers include smoked sturgeon with pepper and fennel, and pasta with zucchini and mullet; main courses include salmon with ginger, and veal with sage served with gnocchi. Dessert tops off the meal with offerings like a fig compote with ice cream or a raspberry tart with meringue.

While the wine list is hardly award-winning, it does include approximately 75 selections from Italy and France. The wines are from leading regional producers, but often the wines offered are not the best vintages. Prices are too high. Selections include a 1987 Andre Gaja Barbaresco at 100,000 lira, about $86 at current exchange rates, and a 1985 Brunello di Montalcino, Biondi Santi for approximately 200,000 lira or about $180. Champagnes start at about $140 a bottle for a Veuve Clicquot Brut and go up to $350 for Dom Pérignon.

The best time to visit Sardinia is either May or September--both months are still off peak for tourism, but the weather is ideal.

Fine cigars are difficult to purchase in Italy because they are distributed under a government monopoly. There's a solution, however: Bring your own. After dinner on the restaurant's patio, overlooking the harbor, a cigar helps end a dreamlike day.