If you want to experience turquoise water, white sandy beaches and coves, picturesque towns and villages, you really don’t have to go as far as the tropics. Sardinia will be a lot closer and is just as fascinating.
Sardinia is part of Italy, right? Well, yes, of course, but you would be wrong to think that it is a copy of the mainland. The differences start with the language: Sardinian or Sardo is as commonly spoken as Italian.
Sardinia’s architectural heritage is different to the rest of Italy, too. Being in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, this island has been influenced by many waves of invaders leaving a diversity of imprints behind: Roman and Carthaginian ruins, Genoan fortresses and a string of elegant Pisan churches, not to mention some impressive Gothic and Spanish Baroque architecture.
The best way to see the island is to rent a car and drive through the stunning coastline where you can find some of the cleanest and most seductive beaches of the Mediterranean. We arrive at Alghero on a Ryanair flight and drive down to Bosa, a picturesque village ringed by mountains and sea. In Bosa we enjoy some exquisite local recipes. Sardinia does have in common with its Italian neighbour its passion for food and wine. You cannot leave the place without tasting the savoury porceddu, a grilled suckling pig which is served on cork trays and covered in myrtle branches.
From Bosa, we drive up to Castel Sardo, a picturesque historic town fortified with a beautiful medieval castle. We spend the rest of the day in Stintino, a small seaside town, re-sembling a painting, with its white houses and crystal-clear sea. Stintino really feels like the Italian Caribbean: the beach is almost too amazing for words. I was in awe of just how clear the water was and at such depth!
We spend our last day in Alghero, a fishing port with a distinctive Catalan flavor. Catalan is still spoken and street signs and menus are often in both languages. Wandering the old town is a real treat: imagine beautiful cobbled lanes, bustling squares and honey-coloured walls. In the many restaurants, you can savour fabulous seafood dishes accompanied with excellent wines such as Vermentino di Gallura or Cannonau. Myrtle liqueur (Mirto) is especially delicious.
I can’t leave the island without tasting the local deserts, called Seadas (fried dough filled with pecorino cheese and covered in honey). I’m absolutely in love with this dish. This island can truly be a rival of the tropics and it could offer you a brilliant break without the noise and stress of the mainland (of course except for the crowded July and August, when the whole of Italy floods the beaches and books up all available accommodation).
If you think Sardinia is made up only of the glitz of Costa Smeralda, then think again. This paradise has plenty to offer and experience!