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Snapshot: Sardinia

September 14, 2020

This stunning island has it all – history, the great outdoors, shopping and of course, some of the best beaches in Europe

This island of the west coast of Italy has long attracted travellers and writers for its diverse natural beauty.

The history

For thousands of years, the abundant landscape (and beautiful sunsets) have attracted settlers as proven by the 7,000 nuraghi that can be spotted around the island. These bronze age towers were built between 1900 BCE and 730 BCE and were used variously as houses, temples, meeting halls, and military compounds. Near Arzachena is the Nuraghe la Prisgiona is an intact village complex where you can get a real sense of this ancient society. The less developed Coddu Vecchiu (Giant’s Grave), is another area where the ancient giant stones were said to have been brought back from the legendary lost civilization of Atlantis.

An ancient Nuraghe fortress in Sardinia.
An ancient Nuraghe fortress in Sardinia.

The coast

Sardinia has some of the most unspoilt beaches of anywhere in Europe. Celebrities and models have flocked to these beaches with whiter than white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters. Spot bright pink stones through crystal clear waters at Cala Mariolu or lie on the soft white sand of Cala Brandinchi, known as little Tahiti due to its turquoise waters that give it a tropical feel. The clear waters and rocky outcrops make Capricciolo Beach a top snorkelling destination, while at Cala Dei Corsari, the water is so clear you can spot submerged Roman-era column.

For something a bit livelier, Spiaggia del Poetto, near the capital of Cagliari, has great restaurant restaurants scattered along its front, or for real isolation, a boat trip to the Archipelago de la Maddalena where people swim off the island of Spargi and enjoy the rare pink sands of Budelli.

The clear aqua blue waters near La Impostu Beach.
The clear aqua blue waters near La Impostu Beach.

The inland

For centuries, shepherds have herded goats and fine wines have been created on the cooler inland plains. The Museo del Vino near the town of Berchidda is an excellent place to learn about (and taste) some of the local wines.

For the adventurous, there are hikes and mountain bike trails through the forests of Sardinia and its surrounding islands. Look out for the rare blue-eyed albino donkeys roaming on the Isola dell’Asinara or the wild horses of Giara di Gesturi. Stroll the hidden Nuraghic ruins near Tiscali or hike the coastal path by Cala Luna Bay. There is plenty to keep the adventurous occupied.

Landscape with an ancient cobbled stone fortresses in Asinara Island.
Landscape with an ancient cobbled stone fortresses in Asinara Island.

The towns

But if it’s something a little more relaxing that’s needed then the island has plenty of fishing villages serving traditional seafood dishes, towns packed with boutique shops, and a city with ancient architecture.

Fregola pasta with seafood, a traditional recipe from Sardinia.
Fregola pasta with seafood, a traditional recipe from Sardinia.

The capital, Cagliari, is a beautiful muddle of terracotta buildings that seem to emit a constant golden glow as the orange bricks reflect the Mediterranean sun. Looking down from its hilltop perch is the Castello – an imposing medieval walled quarter that looms ominously above the island’s main port. There are plenty of historical sites in Cagliari including the Roman amphitheatre and the Tuvixeddu Necropolis that was the final resting places of the Carthaginians 2,500 years ago.

Birds eye view of Cagliari, the capital and the largest city of of Sardinia.
Birds eye view of Cagliari, the capital and the largest city of of Sardinia.

Alghero, on Sardinia’s west coast, is a beautiful medieval town with many excellent restaurants and makes for a great base from which to explore the island. Nearby is Neptune’s Grotto – named after the Roman god of the sea – where stalactites and stalagmites pierce this underground saltwater lake.

Scenic view of Grotte di Nettuno or Neptunes Cave in Alghero.
Scenic view of Grotte di Nettuno or Neptunes Cave in Alghero.

Castelsardo, also in the north-west of the island, dates back to the Middle Ages. The town sits below the ancient castle that has repelled invaders for centuries. The beautiful castle, combined with pristine beaches and patchwork medieval buildings below it has made Castelsardo vie for the title of Italy’s prettiest town.

For a little tranquillity, the town of Carloforte on the island of San Pietro to the south west of the island has become a fabulous resort town with delicious seafood restaurants but for shopaholics, there is nowhere better than Porto Cervo for luxury boutiques or Porto Raphael for hippy-chic handicrafts and trinkets.

View of the old village with shops and restaurants in Carloforte, on the Island of San Pietro.
View of the old village with shops and restaurants in Carloforte, on the Island of San Pietro.

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