Its turquoise waters and white sand beaches have made Italy’s Costa Smeralda, or Emerald Coast, an elite holiday destination for the world’s rich and famous.
This stretch of coast on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia became a second home for Russian oligarchs, who docked their superyachts in Porto Cervo’s harbour and built luxury beachfront villas on its shores.
But this year, as the war in Ukraine rages into its eighth month, the landscape is very different.
Yachts and mansions lie empty, seized by the Italian government as part of sweeping EU sanctions against Russia for Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
In Porto Cervo, their presence has been missed by those who relied on them to make a living.
One of those locals, a chauffeur who asked to remain anonymous, said his work decreased significantly since the sanctions hit.
“The damage has been done to us, ordinary people,” he said. “The oligarchs have plenty of money and went on vacation elsewhere. These people have no limits at all. So to make their vacations as luxurious as possible, they’d hire more people than they needed."
Paolo Costi, a broker of luxury apartments in Sardinia, mourned the loss of the high-paying customers from Russia but said it was important to focus on the bigger picture.
“Restricting movement is unfortunate,” Costi said. “Freedom of movement is everyone’s right and it’s important to be able to travel and see other countries. But if it helps to end the war, then I guess I support the restriction of movement.”