Buona Sera! Good evening! It’s how Sardinians will greet you anytime after lunch. Odd, but it beautifully captures the Sardinian laid back attitude. Good afternoon, good evening… What does it matter, you’re on holiday, and no matter what time of day, this amazing island has a huge amount to offer.
From picture perfect white beaches on the Golfo di Orosei, to ancient Nuraghic villages dispersed in the Supramonte mountains . Anchor yourself in the emerald water bays, and you’ll most definitely be able to tag all your instagram pics with #nofilter. You’d have to travel to the Bahamas to find seas like this. However, reel in the anchor and head all’interno, to the island’s interior, and you’ll experience some of Sardinia’s best kept secrets.
So, here are my top 10 from slow-paced Sardinia, in no particular order:
– Sipping a crisp Vermentino di Gallura in San Pantaleo, a village perched on the granite mountains of the Gallura region – huge producer of this wine. Sit at Cafe Nina and watch the locals gather in the village square. Stunning sunsets cast an orange glow over granite peaks that act as an imposing backdrop to this quaint little town. An ideal spot after a hard day’s work beach bumming in the crystal clear waters of the emerald coast – a short 20 min drive away.
– Retreat to Sardinia’s hidden B&B ‘di charme‘. If you’re heading to Sardinia make sure you don’t overlook the rural interior. Head to the sleepy town of Mandas home to the butcher, baker and candlestick maker and the Antica Locanda Lunetta B&B – an old Sardinian coach house turned B&B. Another hidden gem is B&B Albero Capovolto, near Golfo Aranci. Nestled in the hills of Gallura, this beautiful villa is a great retreat from the daily beach buzz. Both of these offer amazing breakfasts, with Albero Capovolto also organising al fresco dinners overlooking the rolling Gallura hills. Book these in good time as they are in huge demand.
– Stacks of pane carasau. Sardinia has Latin, Arabic, Spanish and Catalan influences, but it’s Italy after all , and in Italy people expect basket-loads of bread on the table. The Sardi people are no different, however, their bread is quite distinctive. Pane carasau resembles a large poppadum and comes in subtly different varieties as you travel across the island, with variants being saltiness, crispiness, oiliness and flouriness. Delicious on its own with ricotta, or try it in the lasagna-style Zuppa Gallurese, or a huevos rancheros-esque Pane Frattau.
– Rocky treks up to ancient nuraghic villages, canyons and out-of-this-world moon landscapes. Tiscali and Gola Su Gorropu start from the same place, at the bottom of the stunning Flumineddu Valley lined with rolling Cannonau vineyards and fruit orchards. Each trek takes about 4 hours and at times I’d call it mountaineering more than trekking. Pack a sandwich and stop off at the top of the Tiscali trek for an ultra scenic picnic. On the way back as a reward pull into one of the local vineyards and ask for a cannonau tasting session. Artha Ruja is a relatively new vineyard and makes some pretty innovative cannonau blends. At the northernmost point of the island, on Capo Testa, take on the rocky trek at Valle della Luna, valley of the moon, and you’ll feel like you’ve literally stepped off a space shuttle!
– Beach shacks offering no-frills ‘catch of the day’ lunches. Contrary to what you may think, it’s not all yachts and prosecco in Sardinia’s north-east corner. Head to Golfo Aranci and enjoy the Emerald coast beauty, but without the pretence. If your sights are set on the official Emerald coast, then Razza di Junco is a great find. It’s not your standard ‘postcard’ beach beauty, but it does have a couple of massive selling points. A small portion of the 500m stretch of coast is dog-approved, acting as a deterrent to the family masses. Secondly Razza di Junco is home to a great little no-frills beach shack, Jerry’s Beach and Bar. No menu required – by the time you’ve sat down Jerry will have already inspired you with his daily suggestions – a great sales tactic, but with delicious fresh food to back it up.
– Discover local delicacies in Sardinia’s interior at slow-food ‘Agriturismi‘. These farmhouses open their gates to tourists and provide guaranteed good value for money, as well as produce you won’t find in normal restaurants, like family artisan wines. Fish will most likely not be on the menu as agriturismi offer produce from their own land. If you book in advance, a fantastic habit of many agriturismi is to have your antipasti and a carafe of red wine waiting for you at the table. There is also no such thing as food jealousy; everyone eats the same thing – just sit down and let the scoffing begin. Classic dishes you’ll come across are potato stuffed culurgiones (ravioli), fregola with sausage and mushrooms, local roast suckling pig, a side of creamy comforting massa frizza and for pudding pecorino and honey-filled seadas. Try out Agriturismo La Sasima in Gallura, for an authentic foodie experience set in a rustic converted barn.
– Getting lost on the oak lined Gesturi Plateau. Mostly due to a Sardinian walking book that has been literally translated from German to English. Directions such as “On the left you’ll find a waste high shrub. Ignore it and take your next right, just by the green half open gate” What if the shrub had been cut? And what if there is no green gate?! Could it be the blue one that’s been repainted? This was source of much angst for mrs fp. As you stroll along the plateau you’ll encounter Sardinia’s wild horses, nuraghic ruins and 1000s of cork oak trees. The cork is harvested every 9-12 years and used for bottling Sardinia’s wide range of wines as well as crafting trays, utensils and furnishings.
– Walking through colourful historic Bosa and watching sunsets over the west coast. Worth a visit if you’ve had your fill of white sandy beaches. The historic town is a maze of cobbled streets and tall brightly coloured town houses, terraced under Bosa’s historic castle. Head to the marina for an aperitivo and watch the sun disappear over the Mediterranean, then head back to the old town for an al fresco dinner at Ristorantino Verdefiume, on the banks of Bosa’s tranquil Temo river. Whilst you’re in the Bosa area, try out the local Malvasia di Bosa sherry and the delicious smoked and seasoned ricotta mustia.
– Marvel at the imposing Supramonte mountains at sunset. An ideal place for this is Bar del Tablao at Su Gologone hotel. Aperitivo time is when this terrace, and the sunset facing limestone cliffs, truly light up. This area also has fantastic true Sardinian restaurants. Su Gologone itself is up there with the best in Sardinia, as well as Ristorante Masilaghi in the nearby town of Oliena. For a slightly alternative experience – understatement of the year – head to Orgosolo, home to the original bandits of the island, and check out the controversial murals adorned around the village. You’ll also meet Sardinia’s version of Grumpy Old Men on pretty much every street corner.