For our summer holiday of 2015, we wanted something different. Not Spain, not Portugal, not France, not mainland Italy. Sardinia came up and we started making plans for a two and a half week fly & drive, as we usually do.
We flew into Cagliari, capital city of Sardinia. For being the capital city, the old centre is pretty small and we didn't find it very interesting. The Castello neightbourhood with its narrow streets was nice, as were the palazzi at the harbour. Not much cultural heritance.
From Cagliari we visited Chia, Costa Rei and Villasimius, the 'dynamic holiday resort with gorgeous beaches'. Unfortunately none of these places were dynamic. Early June seems to be totally off season. The driving was nice, though.
After four days we continued our journey to Cala Gonone. The road went through the Parco Naturale dei Sette Fratelli and the views were breathtaking: high rocks and lots of woods. The (mountain)roads in Sardinia are mostly narrow and the maximum speed is 50 km/hr. We needed our time to get from one place to another. We had planned to take a whole day, so we could do some sightseeing en route, such as the Rocce Rosse in Arbatax and Pedro Lungo in Baunei. After which we continued to Cala Gonone over the Passo Manno with a gradient percentage of 20%! Our little Fiat 500 had a hard time. A magnificent drive ... and there were many more to follow.
The attractions of Cala Gonone are the Grotte del Bue Marino and the various deserted beaches such as Cala di Luna, Cala Mariolu, etc. that you can only get to by boat. At the harbor you can rent a boat, or you book an excursion on a bigger boat. We have done the latter and the boat ride was very pleasant. The coastline seen from the sea is much more spectacular than seen from the land. First we visited the caves, then some of the small beaches. The eastern part of Sardinia is so beautiful. Dramatic rocks on one side of the road, the blue ocean (50 shades of blue!) on the other side. Behind every hairpin another, even better view.
In the next days we made some more scenic drives, in the Sopramonte and to the town of Orgosolo, known for its murales (wall paintings), which are actually a silent protest against all forms of injustice in the world. Impressive!
This one, for example, of a woman with her child behind barbed wire, and a text by Desmond Tutu (translated): "When the first missionaries came to Africa, we had the land and they had the Bible. Then we closed our eyes and prayed. When we opened our eyes again, we had the Bible and they had our land." Something to think about.
We also visited some Nuraghi, ancient megalithic structures. We had an excellent and enthusiastic guide who told us all about this cultural heritance of Sardinia.
Our third destination was Arzachena in the northeast where we stayed in a lovely Agriturismo in the countryside. A great place to unwind. From here we took a mini cruise in the world famous Maddalena Archipelago. We also visited the Costa Smeralda with its beautiful white beaches, clear blue waters and expensive villa’s.
Then the time had come to drive to our fourth and last location: Alghero. I had mapped out a route that went along small roads with lots of curves and a completely different landscape: rolling hills, agriculture, vineyards and thousands of poppies and wild flowers. A brilliant immense patchwork.
Alghero was nice, it was our favourite town. It was livelier than Cagliari and we liked the atmosphere. Some other pretty towns on the westcoast were Castelsardo and Bosa.
It was our last day in Sardinia. We had a late afternoon flight, so we had enough time left to do some sightseeing of the southwestern part, which is very remote. We found driving in Sardinia to be very relaxing. You simply can't drive fast and most of the roads are very quiet.
Oh dear! This breathtakingly beautiful and brilliantly photographed thread has been buried and unseen. So very sorry, Amboseli, and thank you so much for persevering in the face of what must have seemed deliberately cruel ignoring. Not so! I am excited to see your account of the visit to a place that has long interested me. I love the idea of a place isolated from the mainland to the point that it developed its own culture. I have to say that the photos of Cagliari make it very appealing to me, as I love that kind of unrenovated place. They always seem to promise surprises and certainly your pictures are lovely. Even though those photos and some other landscape ones remind me of Sicily, somehow Sardinia seems completely different. Did you find it too, too touristy, or did its true character shine through? This thread is a jewel box of treasures for the eye -- thank you!
I'm really enjoying looking at this. My father loves Sardinia and recommends it but it looks like it really requires renting a car to enjoy, and although I drive daily I don't really enjoy driving on vacation much. Beautiful report though and I hope to see it myself some day.
So sorry you found Cagliari dull and culturally boring. I'm really looking forward to my visit next year. You didn't visit the Roman amphitheatre, the torre, Poetto, the lagoons, the numerous parks? The only time I'd want to visit the island is off season, I'm afraid. June or September for me, can't stand the crowds.
We were there at Easter 1977 (!) but arrived by boat from Genoa. Also went to Alghero, where I recognize only the church tower with the coloured tile roof), then inland by train to Nuoro, then by bus to Cagliari. It was still pretty old-fashioned then -- in some villages where the bus stopped, we saw women in folk-style costumes and were told of German tourists being robbed in small villages in the mountains.
From your photos, Cagliari doesn't seem to have changed much, and the Costa Smeralda was only being talked about as a project. But we definitely have good memories of Sardinia but don't even know where our photos are -- possibly on slides. And your photos of the barbary figs remind me of going to the Maddalena islands, where there were American sailors based at the time!
bixaorellana Sardinia and Sicilia are very different. Sardinia is not touristy at all, at least not when we were there. Alghero was somewhat more lively, because of the Rally Italia-Sardegna. To be honest, I much prefer Sicily which, IMO, has this typical southern atmosphere. Something I missed in Sardinia. Sardinia is excellent for beach-goers and for nature lovers. I like to sit on the beach from time to time, and I like nature a lot but I also like to people-watch in a nice café. It's hard to explain, it's a feeling.
@lizzyfaire Yes, we visited Torre dell'Elefante, Poetto and the lagoons. As a matter of fact, our hotel was on the Lungomare Poetto. We were in Sardinia the last week of May until June 12th. Nowhere did we see crowds.