Sardinia’s main attraction is its beautiful coastline and well-organized resorts, which attract the rich and famous from all over Europe. But there’s more than that to Sardinia, including archeological traces of its first endemic civilization, fine Romanesque churches built during the Pisan occupancy, a string of fortresses erected by the Genoans and towns that are more Spanish than Italian. The island is increasingly geared to international visitors. Standards of accommodations and service are improving all the time.
Things to do in Sardinia: When to Visit
Sardinia enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean climate for the most part. Spring, early summer and autumn are the best times to visit. If you want a beach vacation, summer is best for its diving, sailing and wind-surfing – be sure to book well in advance as Sardinia is a popular choice with mainland Italians.
Things to do in Sardinia: What to See and Do
The waters around Sardinia are among the clearest and cleanest in the Mediterranean, their beaches attracting tens of thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the sun and sea.
Around the island, beaches range from tiny hidden coves to glorious stretches of golden sands. The Costa Smeralda (the Emerald Coast) in the northeast is the most famous stretch, its granite cliffs and turquoise sea providing great diving, snorkeling and sailing.
South, the Golfo di Orosei is a paradise for those seeking peace and quiet. Many of its idyllic coves, backed by limestone cliffs, are accessible only by boat or on foot. Poetto, outside Cagliari and south again, provides a lively contrast. Packed with locals and visitors, its 6 kilometers (4 miles) of sandy beaches are well provided with bars and restaurants. The southeast corner at Piscinas has 9 kilometers (6 miles) of sand-dunes covered with feathery tamarisk, juniper and maquis. Some dunes top 165 feet, the highest in Europe. North of here and south of Alghero, you’ll find more sandy beaches and clear sea, which give way to the dramatic cliffs to the north and south of Alghero itself.
Wind-surfing enthusiasts should head for the north coast, with its guaranteed steady, strong breezes. If you’re interested in birdlife, you should see plenty in the cliffs, an ideal nesting habitat. Herring gulls are everywhere, but also look for the rarer Audouin’s gull and cormorants fishing from the rocks. Peregrine falcons and kites also use the cliffs as nesting areas.
Sardinia’s clear azure waters are the cleanest in Italy, with some areas designated international marine reserves. This makes for wonderful diving into waters rich in flora and fauna. Coral grows from 90 to 300 feet down; the mainly red and white Sardinian coral is used in jewelry, while the yellow and white Gorgonian coral can grow to 3 feet in height.
Divers will encounter neptune grass, while rocky crevasses make ideal homes for crustaceans and mollusks. If you’re offshore, look out for dolphins joyously riding the waves off the northern coast. Sardinia’s greatest marine success story is the reestablishment of the monk seal, once thought to be extinct, in the waters of Golfo di Orosei.
Things to do in Sardinia: What to Eat
Sardinia’s landscape is not romantic like Siciliy and mainland Italy. Despite its rocky and arid appearance it has a primordial beauty and simplicity that is reflected in its cuisine. There is very little pasta. Roasted vegetables, meats and fish dominate the menu instead. Cooking relies heavily on fish, often made into Spanish-influenced stews spiked with saffron.
There are some excellent local cheeses-look out for the salty pecorino Sardo. Carnivores will find plenty of suckling pig and young lamb on the menu, best enjoyed with Cannonau di Sardegna, a punchy, full-bodied red wine. Another delicious meal is Bottarga, mullet-egg caviar; it’s often served with the papery, crisp carta di musica, just one of Sardinia’s excellent breads. Look out for the delicate gnocchetti, made from durum wheat tinted with saffrona, unique to the island.
Dal Corsaro: This restaurant is a real institution in Cagliari and has Sardinian dishes, with an emphasis on fish, welcoming surroundings and an excellent wine list. (Adress: Viale Regina Margherita – Cagliari 28 – Tel: 0706 64 318)
Pescatore: This is a stylish restaurant to see and be seen in The terrace has lovely views over Porto Cervo. (Adress: Porto Cervo – Tel: 0789 931 624)
Al Tuguri: Benito Carbonella cooks true Sardinian food in this tiny and elegant restaurant on two floors-head upstairs and watch the food being prepared in the kitchen. Fish is king here, and the menu changes constantly, dictated by season, freshness and availability. To sample it properly go for the menu degustazione or try acci- ughe marinate (white marinated anchovies), conchlglie con aragosta e broccoli (pasta shells with a lobster and broccoli sauce), Catalan-influenced chicken with peppers (polio e peperoni) and crema Catalan, vanilla custard with a caramelized topping. (Adress: Via Maiorca 113, Alghero, 07041 Sassari – Tel: 0799 76772)
Antica Hostaira: This is the restaurant of choice for the Sardinian glitterati. Staff are formally dressed and there is an air of grandness about the place. High on the menu are the mussels and lobster cooked in local white wine and burrida (fish marinated in walnut and garlic sauce). The wine list is limited but excellent. (Adress: Via Camillo Benso Cavour 60,09124 Cagliari – Tel: 070 665870)
Corsaro: This elegant dining room gets top marks for service and style and the food is worth the high prices. Start your meal with hot Sardinian carasau (thin, crispy bread) with a trickle of olive oil. Notable dishes include saccaia (lamb with broth) and pasta stuffed with ricotta and vegetables. There is an excellent wine list. (Adress: Viale Regina Margherita 28,09125 Cagliari – Tel: 070 664318)
Flora: This charming little trattoria in the Stampace area has a courtyard with a banana tree and scented flowering shrubs. It serves a number of inventive dishes: Worth trying are the tagliatelle with sea anemone, pasta with bottarga (sun-dried fish roe) and fregola (Sardinian couscous). This place heaves with locals almost every night of the week, so reserve your table early. (Adress: Via Sassari 45,09124 Cagliari – Tel: 070 664735)
Da Giovannino: Push the boat out and eat at this elegant restaurant, as renowned for its wines as its food. In summer you can enjoy fish and seafood, but come autumn game and wild mushrooms make up the menu. All pasta is home-made; try macarones de busa with chicken sauce, perhaps a fritto misto (mixed fried prawns, shrimp and scampi) or filetti al limone, fish with lemon sauce. They have some tasty desserts including a superb crema cata- lana. (Catalan cream dessert). (Adress: Piazza Quadrata, Porto Rotondo, 07020 Sassari – Tel 0789 35280)
If you’re a traveler looking for more of a city experience rather than a nature one while visiting Sardinia, check out its capital city of Cagliari. Here you’ll find an abundance of nightlife as well as a great museum to see during the day.
Things to do in Sardinia: Where to Stay
Sardinian possibilities include Olbia, handy for the Costa Smeralda, the lovely west-coast Cala Gonone and Alghero, the island’s main holiday destination, on the east coast. Cagliari is the capital and you should aim to stay in the old Castello quarter to experience the city at its best.
Continental: Outside the city but with a regular bus service into town, this makes a good choice if you want to escape the crowds. Very much a family affair, this is a typical Italian summer hotel, with good-sized rooms, some with balconies, and adequate bathrooms. It is superb value, and you can use the facilities of its more expensive sister hotel, the Calabona.
Sardegna: A quiet and comfortable hotel with good facilities and a restaurant. (Adress: Via Lumgiana 50 – Cagliari – Tel: 070 286 245)
Forte Village – Cagliari: This sprawling, 5-star resort is the ideal place to be pampered in the Sardinian sun. An extensive range of accomodation, bars and restaurants are available throughout its exotic gardens. The famous Thermae del Parco Spa, used by international footballers recuperating from injuries, was prized with the prestigious World’s Leading Spa award in 2003. The resort has plenty of sport and recreation facilities to choose from such as golf, go-karting and outdoor ice-skating.
Cala Luna: Cala Gonone has some of the loveliest stretches of coastline on the island, and this good- value hotel stands less than 50m (164ft) away from the beach. Italian-seaside in style, the rooms have good beds, though they’re plain and simply furnished. Don’t expect great interiors, but the staff are friendly—the family have run the place since the 1960s.
Things to do in Sardinia: Sardinia Tours & Attractions