Last week I was in Sardinia. In Cala di Volpe. Today I am in Formentor, Majorca. Both Cala di Volpe and Formentor are beautiful bays (you can google earth them and see) both have a buoy service to protect marine life, but there the analogy ends. In Formentor the two nice guards who you see in the picture provide the service for free, but in Cala di Volpe it seems free when they help you, but the next day they charge you 360 euros for being tied to a buoy. Why is the average Mallorquin much wealthier than the average Sardinian? For a simple reason, honesty pays. Yes, I know that I just gave one example. But if Spain has been doing so much better than Italy over the last 20 years, I believe that this is mainly because on the average Spaniards are more honest than Italians and this shows all the way from the guy who rips you off in the Porto Cervo bar, because he argues that you sat in the VIP section of his mediocre bar (50 euros for a mineral water) to electing Silvio Berlusconi as President.

But there’s more to my stay in Porto Cervo. During my visits I hanged out with people who were frequently visiting Silvio Berlusconi´s Villa. The stories that they told laughing of all these beautiful women in their 20s with fake titles who surround him were very funny if you could only forget that they were not just talking about one billionaire and a regular at Briatore´s Billionaire´s club. The problem is that they were talking about the man who runs Italy and who is the Uber Furbo.

On a short ride from Porto Cervo to Cala di Volpe –a cab ride that would cost 10 euros in Spain and costs 30 in Italy– the cab rider told me that the economy was weak and that Sardinians income was half of those of the average Italian. Somehow, the formula works different in Spain where the average mallorquin´s income is not only higher than the average Spaniard, it is higher than that of the average German, even charging 10 euros.

Ripping people off is just not sustainable. As beautiful as Sardinia is and as good Italian food is (I prefer it to Spanish food), Italy has to find a formula that is more based on honesty not just vis a vis foreigners, but vis a vis each other.

And I know that Porto Cervo is not Italy, but Italy was being managed out of Porto Cervo when I was there and the picture was not nice. And I do speak Italian.


Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter:

No Comments

Marco on August 17, 2008  · 

Wow! What kind of expressions! 🙂

What about asking price before take the service? 😛

If you want honest prices, don’t go to Cala di Volpe or Porto Cervo: it’s so simply! That angle of the was built in a wonderful place to be expensive! And probably you want be part of THAT VIP world! 😛

And don’t expand thoughts to bring politics, people, etc. (why not religion, then..)

I am disappointed from this post.. (not only beacause I am italian)

3.0 rating

Marco on August 17, 2008  · 

.. and may be those 360 euro you have charged are part of the 2006 VIP tax from Renato Soru, the governor of Sardinia and ex CEO and still “owner” of Tiscali.

…but wait: it seems that in Cala di Volpe you have used the the last technology of buoy:

La boa del Chrisco non è intelligente” (translated by google)

(original url)

I think you should document yourself…

3.0 rating

Paul RODTS on August 17, 2008  · 

Every man is entitled to his opinion.
I have many friends in both countries, and I love Spain and my Spanish friends….
But I adore Italy because the people are always so friendly to me…
Of course Italians are special and if they don’t like you, well they don’t like you and.. in that case you got a problem with them…
I did visit the whole of Italy and Spain on many, many trips…
Because I speak fluently seven languages and also Italian and because I can adapt to their way of live, I only got the best of experiences. On many occasions strangers became friends and invited me into their houses and onto their tables..
I became a flemish Italian and I am convinced : “E meglio l’Italia”…Italy is for me the best country in the world….for the culture, architecture, coastlines, food, and for the very nice and beautiful women that learn you Italian (in my case with a Veneto accent)…
Grazie Mille Italia …Tanti Auguri Italia, anche auguri per tutti gli italiani !!

3.0 rating

giuseppe on August 18, 2008  · 

I’m Italian and, sadly, Martin you are right. maybe Italy wanna be somewhat like Argentina or maybe Colombia, can’t imagine a less european country. And a few people is aware of trend, unable(or unwilling) to yell.

3.0 rating

charles on August 18, 2008  · 

Maybe you get more cheated in Italy because you are tourist in Italy and they can see it. As you are local in Spain, they cheat you less.
maybe… that is just a possible explanation.

3.0 rating

klingsor on August 18, 2008  · 

I’m italian, this is all true. but a lot of italians are so sad for this

3.0 rating

Marco on August 18, 2008  · 

I am Italian, entrpreneur in Milan. I don’t know where giuseppe lives (probably south) but i don’t know how it is possible to compare Italy vs. Colombia. I agree some areas in south might be a little out of control, but i can assure you that the rest of the country is labourious as much as the most advanced areas in europe.
Going back to the theme raised by Martin, I am sure his comments are just emotional out of the moment in which he (rightly) felt ripped off…but in my opinion u cannot go to costa smeralda in mid-august and complain about prices…everyone is aware that is the place to be if you want to show off your richness so the local people take advantage of it. Since people continue to go back year after year (and raising in numbers), i think sardinian are right to keep prices high. It is free market after all, isn’t it??

3.0 rating

Martin Varsavsky on August 18, 2008  · 


This still does not explain why the people of Sardinia do so much worse than the people of Majorca. I also speak Italian and love Italy and have a blog video in Italian, as you can see in the post.

3.0 rating

Yani on August 18, 2008  · 

As a non – European (Korean living in Korea, never lived in any of both countries), but travelled quite a bit to both countries, I can relate to Martin’s view. I find similar things in Spain less expensive than in Italy.

The only thing in my view is that it’s less of a personal thing of honesty – Italians being less honest – but more of a system thing. You can be as honest as Jesus, if you go to Italy and start your small business, you will have no choice than to take that 30 euros Martin is talking about – the same guy would take 10 Euros in Spain for sure. Somehow in the last years Italy has become expensive without an adequate value add.

a possible explanation is :environment & media – the latter which I call adult education – which effects value and understanding that honesty actually helps the group as a whole. There was a documentary about Italy – Italy’s democracy and media – on Korean TV (the Korean RAI or better BBS 😉 ) just at the weekend. It included a lot of interviews with ‘experts’ from all areas all around the world about Italy. They (Italians and non-Italians) were saying that in the last 15 years, the media in Italy has been promoting a very flat american styled ‘american dream’ TV – YOU can do it – it’s about YOU. There is a chance that this probably led to the promotion of individual success at all costs thinking… extreme cases to be found in poor countries, where there is no understanding of the benefits of the group but just you and only you.

Anyhow, I like both Italy and Spain and I don’t think that the inflated prices will keep me from visiting Italy because the l’air is just different.

3.0 rating

Marco on August 18, 2008  · 

Yani, yes is true, Spain is always been cheaper than Italy. Most of italian youth spend used to spend their first holidays away from home in spain because of cheaper prices. But this is infact changing as Spain getting closer to Italian prices.

I wouldn’t go so far with the explanations with media&education to explain higher prices in Costa Smeralda. The fact is more simple: people pays more and more to be part of the so called “jet-set”. (and numbers confirm this)

Infact i would say exactly the opposite of what Martin says: finally sardinians (at least in that area) are making something out of the beauty of the beautiful but historically poor island.

Another thing to point out: there are cheaper areas in Sardinia as beautiful as Costa Smeralda.

3.0 rating

davide cuppone on August 18, 2008  · 

Next time take a boat and go to Corsica, is much better, I am Italian not French 😀

3.0 rating

Paul RODTS on August 18, 2008  · 

To Martin Varsavsky #8
Dear Martin, thanks for your answer, of course you are right but I think it’s a little bit more complicated that this.
The Sardi were/are in general hard working, a bit stubborn and very correct people, working in simple fishing and farming.
The Costa Smeralda is an import product from His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV .
Even the architecture wasn’t inspired by local habits but developed by the architects Busiri-Vici en Vietti.
After 1961 this new gold coast attracted ‘gold diggers’ coming from the whole of Italy. Almost none of the hotel, bar -owners, managers are from local ancestry.
Except for Porto Rotondo it is difficult to find locals from Sardenia in these resorts…
Mostly the employers of the Costa Smeralda are also boycotting the Sardi and they import their staff from ‘civilized’ mainland Italy….
I have got the honor of visiting this nice coastline, and it was clear to me that both groups are living on another planet…
So to give comments about the Sardi,
based on experiences you have got at the Costa Smeralda, is a bit unfair…
It is like commenting on the mentality of the people of Majorca, after having a good or bad experience with a German B&B owner in let’s say Puerto Alcudia..
And bye the way : I am curious what would be the difference between both islands if let say Sardenia was chosen in the past by the Germans as their preferred destination…
Sometimes it’s a question of little things that will change the future…
Keep up the good work with FON Martin, thanks to you we change the future of wireless communication and I am grateful for that and many greetings from me.

3.0 rating

luca del tongo on August 19, 2008  · 

I’m italian and i’ve just come back from Formentera…this is the third time i go in Spain (twice in Barcellona). i’ve also been is Sardinia twice…. i’ve visited the most beatiful beaches both on Sardinia and Formentera (Cala di Volpe, Piccolo Pevero, La Maddalena, Brandinchi vs Les Illetes, Cala Sahona, Mirador). IMHO the sardinian beaches are better than the ones in Formentera due to their wide varierty of colours and conformations…. there are things that works better in Spain and others that are better in Sardinia…. one thing that it’s better in Formentera for example is car park price. in Sardinia you on average pay 15 euros to park your car near a lot of beaches, (not only in the super expensive Porto Cervo) whlle in formentera starting from this year you only pay 4 euros!!!!! to get to the beaches in formentera you can find useful wood paths that help to protect the environment and all kind of beach party has been prohibited (it differs a lot from Ibiza). The medium price of a bottle of water is more expensive in Formentera than in Sardinia. The number of boats in Sardinia due to the super tax imposed a couple of years ago have been decreased in favour of foreign seaport… the gasoline and raliway are cheaper and better maintaned in Spain… these are my two cents 🙂

3.0 rating

Yani on August 19, 2008  · 


I agree. The post was way too short to explain what I meant. Thus if you read my post, it seems to be far fetched.

Martin was not mentioning ‘expensive vs inexpensive’ in my view, rather he was talking about being honest. To my mind, Italy seems to be the worst country out of all developed(!) european countries when it comes to ripping foreigners off. That is also what you will find in Japanese / Korean travel books as an advise : keep your eyes and ears open in Rome because they might rip you off (you being a foreigner). The explanation to this was what I mentioned in my previous post (education – not formal ie school but environment).
I can say that in our country in the 80s and 90s, if you get into a cap and you were a foreigner, you were 90%+ sure to get ripped off (cap driver will drive you around and around …). Now you are 90%+ sure not to be ripped off – as a consequence of policies(including a number you can call for free that advises you on the fare and time in English) and official efforts (campaigns etc.). Now, does this make our cap drivers more ‘honest’ people ? For sure not. In the beginnig of these measures being taken, drivers did it because they were pressured, now it has become common sense – no measures needed anymore. So this kind of ‘honesty’ has a lot to do with common understanding, system, governance ….

3.0 rating

Ruiner on August 22, 2008  · 

Yes is true, costa smeralda is known for his crazy prices and his role as VIP’s gravitational well. Nonetheless is true that italian operators are specialized in ripping tourists off and this is true in every part of Italy (ever been in Venice?). Worse, this is becoming a bad habit of our own culture: ripping off each others on every level seems the main characteristic of italian society nowadays. Like Martin said in his post, we have the “Uber Furbo” in command here and most of the people feels legitimate to behave in the same manner… I just come back from a two weeks trip in Spain (mostly in the north) and boy… Spain is just surpassing my pour Italy in so many aspects…

3.0 rating

luca on August 25, 2008  · 

we got in touch already in the past and I admire what you do, on the other hand I completely disagree with your opinion here.

By the way, I was born and currently live and work in the beautiful Sardinia. Cala di Volpe is a great place, but, unfortunately, it is the “place for VIPS” who don’t really care to spend 20 euros for a coffee. If you complain about that, Cala di Volpe is not for you.

It’s a well known place because all rich people go there, but, let me say, aside from the beaches and sea, it’s not really Sardinia. Most people who make money there are not from Sardinia and, sometimes, not even italians. You can easily pay 10.000 euros for a night there, but I hope you haven’t been so stupid to spend that money! But, again, it’s not Sardinia.

If you want to find the real Sardinia, just go to the Golfo di orosei (for example). You can easily enter a bar and find out that someone paid for your coffee, because you are a foreign tourist and they say “welcome” to you this way.

All that said, it’s not about honesty here. It’s about ignorance. Ignorance of people like you who went to a place like that thinking that it’s the best part of the island. That place is for VIPs and you have to deal with it, you cannot complain about that. Soccer players who earn 1Million/month just have fun there, don’t complain about 30 euros for a cab.



3.0 rating

Paul RODTS on August 26, 2008  · 

# per luca # 16 di # 3 # 12
Luca, I agree with both your opinions : 1/ Thanks Martin for giving us FON and 2/ Sardenia is more than Costa Smeralda…
Sono completamente d’accordo sul contenuto di vostra risposta…Cordiali saluti di Belgio…

3.0 rating

Carlos Gardel on August 26, 2008  · 

Wow. An Argentine complaining about the honesty of Italians is a riot. Hey Martin, how many palms have you greased in your life as you entered Buenos Aires through Eseiza? As a progressive Argentine, I find the cultural chauvinism of your column embarrassing.

3.0 rating

Paul RODTS on August 26, 2008  · 

@ Carlos Gardel – # 18
I don’t understand your Ezeiza / airport reference …

3.0 rating

Leave a Comment

Español / English

Subscribe to e-mail bulletin:
Recent Tweets