Lying to the south of Corsica in the Mediterranean, Sardinia is fast becoming Italy’s island of choice with travellers looking for an off-the-mainland twist to their Italian holiday. Featuring a mix of sandy beaches, stretches of unspoiled nature, wild-flower covered fields and quaint fishing villages, Sardinia offers a microcosmic experience of Catalan culture, from the historic capital of Cagliari to its idyllic offshore atolls (San Pietro is our favourite, with its miles of nature reserve, pocket-sized beaches and craggy volcanic terrain). Best visited in the off-peak season, the island is becoming ever more popular, and yet it is refreshingly uncrowded in the spring and autumn months when the weather has cooled from broiling heat to a pleasant warmth. And unlike some of the more tourist-centric larger cities on the Italian mainland, the cultural festivities here continue all year round.
A particular highlight in the island’s calendar in these off-peak months is the period known as Autunno in Barbagia; from September until the end of the year, the mountainous region of Barbagia celebrates across its villages, opening its doors and courtyards (Cortes Apertas) to islanders and travellers alike. This is a fantastic way to sample the culture, learning about the trades and customs that have upheld this mountain community over the generations, and a fantastic opportunity to get hold of some traditional gastronomical fare from one of the many markets or open house restaurants. From strong coffee to strong wine, local cheeses to fresh pasta, the food is as satisfyingly rustic as it is delicious.
Tradition here is a central theme, unifying the diverse cultures of Sardinia’s distinctive regions. The capital, Cagliari, takes the fore, with its refreshingly cosmopolitan attitude thankfully not drowning out its medieval heritage. It has a lively nightlife, mixing modern bars with traditional tavernas. For a historic, old town feel, Alghero hits the spot, with requisite narrow cobbled streets, bustling marina and painted houses. Oristano in the West is perhaps not as well known as Alghero but equally picturesque, featuring architecture ranging from the thirteenth century to the Baroque. And for travellers wanting a more in depth study of the history of the island, the Phoenician ruins and Corinthian Columns at Tharros make for a reflective and affecting visit.
And of course, there are the beaches. From the glamorous stretches of white sand along the Costa Smeralda and its boutique port of Porto Cervo, lined with luxury yachts, to the lush vegetation and 19th century palaces of the Costa Verde, via the more hidden coves and smaller beaches scattered along stretches of limestone coast - for example the Golfo di Orosei on the island’s eastern shore. The coves can be reached only by boat or by a long trek; it is possible, and advisable, to hire a local guide to reach them. If however you are up for the trek, then the eastern side of the island may be just the ticket. Known for its craggy terrain and famous for its unusual rock formations, this is perfect rambling territory. The area around Cala Gonone is particularly stunning, especially when viewed from above, from one of the many grass-strewn clifftops.
Last Edit by ASchilz on 20/10/2011 EDIT NOW >>