Where is Sardinia? If you think of Italy and can imagine where Rome is, go to the west and slightly south, across the Tyrrhenian Sea and there it is below a smaller island called Corsica which belongs to France. Sardinia is almost rectangular in shape but with a jagged coastline, and it is much bigger than I had first imagined! The coastline stretches for approximately 1,800 kilometres and the surface area is over 23,000 sq. kilometres so this review only covers a small part of this beautiful island, and that is the north and mostly the north east in the area called Gallura. It is divided into 16 sub-regions and these come under four provinces called Cagliari, Sassari, Nuoro and Oristano.
Tip 1 Take a good map with you as we had problems getting away from the airport nad the map provided by the car hire firm didn’t include the Olbioa area where we landed!
Tip 2 Take a phrase book with you unless you speak Italian!
Checking in to the apartment was fun as not much English was spoken by the receptionist, and we had never been to Italy before! They had run out of English information sheets and so we had to try and translate the Italian version!
Tip 3 Check before you go about shopping hours as we only just got shopping in time before they closed for the weekend!
Tip 4 Check where you are staying if mobility is a problem as Sardinia is very hilly!
On the first day after lunch and a wee siesta we set off in the car along the coast to Baia Sardinia. The many restaurants still had lots of people relaxing after a late lunch, this seemed rather like a purpose built holiday town and had lots of hotels and designer type shops, so as we wanted to discover the "real" Sardinia we continued along the coast stopping to admire the view if we could find somewhere suitable and walked around a sleepy little place called Cannigone which had lots of small boats and lovely scenery, then a trip across some barren countryside got us back safely, my map reading had improved tremendously!
The Costa Smeralda literally means the Emerald coast and was transformed as a holiday paradise for people with money, by the multi millionaire Karim Aga Khan. Other developers were then allowed to build and this resulted in many holiday resorts/timeshare style areas being built. I have to say although we are not rich there were obviously people who were, but we certainly discovered a fantastic area with wonderful beaches and the sea was so clean we could see the fish swimming around us as we enjoyed the lovely warm water. Sadly although the beaches have sun beds and umbrellas, showers and even changing huts, they never seem to have a toilet, so you had to find a café with one!
Porto Cervo was just a few kilometres away, and with our trusty guide book we found some parking near the beautiful and unusual shaped church. This reminded me of a new area that has been built in Malta with expensive hotels and shops and a marina full of expensive boats. The church was called Stella Maris and was the home of a beautiful painting by El Greco called Mater Dolorosa. Well we certainly enjoyed looking at the boats, seeing vans coming in and carrying trays of beautiful fresh fruits and other produce, immaculate dressed staff cleaning already clean boats for their rich owners. The Rolex yacht race was on and they were preparing to go out so it was a hive of activity. There are golf courses and tennis courts for the energetic but we found it was a place to sit and enjoy an over priced coffee and watch the world go by. Porto Cervo seen we then turned our backs on the "beautiful people" and again went to find the real Sardinia.
From our apartment we could see the Isola Caprera so another day we headed north to get a better view. Along with Isola Maddalena visits can be made by ferry, but we couldn’t manage to park in Palau to check out times and suddenly found ourselves in the port and being waved on towards the boat, so like the cars in front we tried to explain we were passing through and managed to drive out the other side! Perhaps we’ll get there another time. Garibaldi lived on Caprera for some time and there is a museum which is popular with Italians.
We drove on through wonderful rock formations and tree and shrub lands to Santa Teresa di Gallura, although to us it was a small town it actually was a little city and is the most northerly community in Sardinia. We visited the remains of the nuraghi and climbed up to enjoy the view, it was a pleasant town with a small beach on one side and people were all busy going about there daily lives. As it was a bit early for lunch we drove on down the west coast called the Costa Paradiso and headed for Isola Rossa. This little town had a few shops and lots of cafes and seemed a typical seaside town. The hotels were further up the hill and seemed to have steps down to the beach.
Tip 5 Make sure you take water with you when driving in the country and perhaps some food as there aren’t always cafes available for lunch in the country.
Tip 6 Take your swimming things and a towel as you may come across a beautiful beach.