Please sign in to post.

Fabulous Sardinia!

Returned a week ago from a 7-night trip to Sardinia, July 22-29, flying direct from Stuttgart to Cagliari on EuroWings.

Doing research from Sardinia was tough because it's simply not well-known to Americans or even much to Brits, especially in the south. There are a couple big websites/blogs but I'm always wary of those, especially when they feature hundreds of ads and shill for expensive hotels with mediocre ratings. My biggest resources were Lonely Planet's book, the blog SimplySardinia (with a grain of slat but the writer is a native and does provide detailed info), some random podcasts, and my own deep dives using Google Maps, Booking.com, etc.

I've got to say that this is one of our favorite trips ever, especially for us, since our biggest interests are amazing beaches, archeology/history, and food. I know most Americans don't travel to Europe for beach vacations, but as an American beach lover I think this is a little misguided, because it's absolutely wonderful to be able to go somewhere with fantastic beaches AND have other things to do, especially when one person in your party isn't that interested, and the Mediterranean is perfect for that, and there's a lot of options other than overcrowded French and mainland Italian beaches. I especially love mixing ancient ruins with beautiful seaside locations, so it's not surprising that the Yucatan in Mexico and Greece are my two favorite spots in the world for "mixed" vacation and Sardinia is now on that list.

It also worked out really well this insane travel season because while US tourism is at an all-time high in Europe right now, Sardinia seems largely off the radar. 90% of tourists there were Italian, and during the first part of our trip, on the western Sinis penninsua, that number was 99%. We simply didn't hear English for the first 4 days, which was genuinely surprising and something we often only experience when we're in our beloved Agistri. So definitely a "backdoor" destination, but not a difficult one to navigate at all. Our trip was incredibly smooth, despite not speaking Italian, let alone Sardo. I'll go into all the details in my next post, but for now here was our itinerary:

Arrival 20:30 Cagliari Emras airport - pick up rental car, drive to the town of San Sperate 20 km northwest

Overnight San Sperate

Drive to Agroturismo Sabori Antigu, stay 3 nights

Drive to Emras airport, drop off car, train to Cagliari, stay 3 nights

Train to airport for 20:30 flight to Stuttgart

I really hemmed and hawed over where to base our trip - we originally wanted to split it between just two locations but with the late flights that was difficult. Originally we'd planned on 3 nights Cagliari, then pick up a rental car and see another part of the island with good beaches, possibly at a small beach hotel, but not a resort. We wanted to be able to see archeological sites en route, But then I found an agroturismo that was very highly rated, walking distance from a beach on the "wild" Sinis peninsula and was captivated by the idea of eating farm fresh food and site-produced wines, and they only had dates for early part of our trip, so we went for that. In retrospect, a bit of a mistake (for us, other folks may find it perfect for them) so we ended up with the urban part of the trip later, and going back it would have been way better to do this in reverse. Live and learn! OK, details in the subsequent posts.

Posted by
3050 posts

Day 1: Fairly uneventful flight, but I had communicated with our host at TS Rooms in San Sperate that our flight was later in the evening and we had checked luggage (due to Eurowings newish baggage scheme, it can be cheaper just to check a 12kg luggage than take an 8kg carry on...annoying but for a longer trip it was actually nice to have the extra space/weight). We arrived close to on time, navigated the small airport, and got to our highly rated rental car agency Locauto. They let me pre-enter all our information before we arrived so picking up the car took 5 minutes before we were on the road, which was fantastic.

The drive to San Sperate was about 20 minutes, there was street parking near our hotel, which was more of a guesthouse. It was a little confusing to get in, but once we rang the right buzzer the host was able to unlock the door remotely and we could collect our keys. We got upgraded and it was an amazingly pleasant room in the small property around a courtyard with a heavenly bed and really great attention to detail from great sheets to toiletries, all for $75/night.

San Sperate itself is somewhat famous for a local artist who wanted to turn the town into a living gallery with murals (murals being a huge artform in Sardinia). He was also a sculptor so his basalt sculptures are all around town, and there is a "singing garden" with his sculptures that make noises when interacted with in different ways - we would have loved to see all this stuff but we simply didn't have time with our busy schedule for the next day.

What I did want to rush to was food, because there is a butcher shop/salumeria in town that turns into a restaurant at night with a near-impossible rating of 4.9 stars on Google, so we managed to get there by 22:00 and were able to get dinner. My husband was weak and scarfed an airplane sandwich so we didn't have the stomach capacity to go nuts, but we got the house burger and OH MY GOD. Folks, it may have been the best burger I've ever eaten in my life, and I'm an American burger snob who generally thinks Europeans haven't figured out the basics. Truly amazing, also coupled with fresh fried potato chips and local craft beer, eating outside on a town square, friendly service and the owner wanting to check on us - ah, we're in Italy (sort of). Just a great start to our trip, and a great night's sleep at the amazingly outfitted TS Rooms.

We did get a nice (but Italian, so no protein, oh well) breakfast included in the morning, set up just for us in the courtyard. We debated seeing the sights in town, but we also wanted to visit 2 archeological sites and one historic town before making it to our agroturismo in time for dinner at 20:30, so we decided to take off. This was sad because the town had a lot to offer for it's small size, but given that it's literally a 20 minute drive from the airport, it will be easy to revisit when we return to Sardinia.

Posted by
3050 posts

Day 2: After breakfast our first stop was the island's only UNESCO World Heritage site, Su Nuraxi di Barumini, about 45 minutes easy drive on a motorway then through country roads. Brief aside, driving was pretty easy in Sardinia. We'd driven from Switzerland to Liguria and back via Lake Como in 2020 and didn't love the driving experience, despite being assured that "northern Italy is normal to drive in" (not around Milan it isn't!) and we'd heard horror stories about Sicily as well but didn't encounter any issues in Sardinia. I mean, it's still technically Italy and people will pass you, sure, but the drivers weren't terribly aggressive and didn't ride our bumper, I'd say it's equivalent to regular country driving in Europe.

As for the archeological sites we were seeing this day, they were all built by the mysterious Nuragic civilization, a Bronze-age peoples who didn't develop or using writing that we know of, but were developing massive stone towers around the same time as the Myceneans and Minoans, and even created the earliest large statues known in the Mediterranean. The site is only available via a tour, and we were lucky to arrive just in time for the 11:00 English tour and I was way more impressed than I thought i'd be. The tour was about 45 minutes and informative and also made for great views climbing these ancient towers or squeezing into narrow passageways. The folks on our tour were from Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, and Menorca - I kind of laughed at the idea of these people from other beautiful islands coming to holiday on another beautiful island, but maybe Island folks feel a commonality? Also Northwest Sardinia is historically Catalan with a dialect still being spoken to this day there, so maybe that explained that connection. Or maybe like us, they just got cheap airfare, who knows?

The problem we now ran into was that there are SO MANY sites to visit in this corner of the island, and good museums sprinkled throughout as well, but it was now lunchtime and most museums and some sites didn't reopen until 16:00, so we decided to drive to a fancypants lunch spot which happened to be near an ancient Romanesque church and not too far from an open site with no closed hours. This was a very good idea!

At Ristorante Farris in the hamlet of Siddi, we had an amazing mix of Sardinian and Roman flavors, with hand-made pasta. It was still tuna season (just barely) so we had the best tuna carpaccio of our lives, and my husband got a tuna pasta with bottarga (a pressed, salted, preserved fish roe they're crazy about in Sardinia) and I got cacio e pepe - basic, I know, but it was amazing. Oh, and the best ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers ever, all in this grand old mansion, although sadly outdoor dining was closed for some reason. The service was very kind, put up with our poor Italian, and the chef came to check on us as well. We were the only diners except for a 3 man construction crew that may have been doing work on the mansion who were served family style and eyed us suspiciously. The recurring theme of the day was how empty and remote everything felt - there were only a handful of tourists at the island's premier archeological site on a Friday in June! And after that we hardly saw anyone! During the travel year of our lord 2023, it was a welcome shock.

After lunch we headed to a "Giants tomb", another site by the Nuragic peoples, on a hilltop, desolate, with no one else there. What you quickly realize in Sardinia is that there are amazing archeological sites everywhere, most unexcavated, and even those that are feel desolate. I love Greece and Mexico but it was amazing to have these ancient sites all to ourselves, something that simply isn't the case anywhere else that I know of. Day 2 continues...

Posted by
3050 posts

After the Giant's Tomb we headed for the medieval city of Oristano. We arrived when it was still siesta (or whatever you call it in Italian) so it felt very dead but it had a small charming center. We visited the beautiful church, got a gelato, and enjoyed the suprisingly good museum there which dealt primarily with the Nuragic civilization and artifacts from nearby sites but also had some nice church paintings and altars. And got some fantastic gelato. We left around 16:00 right around when the city was starting to get busy again, but we had one more site - the "water temple" of Santa Cristina about 30 minutes away.

This one blew my mind. A small medieval church that is still a pilgrammage site exists about 300 meters from the temple, leading scholars to believe that at one point the sites were linked. Behind the church and stone pilgrim huts was a Nuraghic village, then to the north the water temple itself, with everything you could ask from a stone age site - it lines up with the spring and fall equinoxes, and once a year the light of the moon also flows down into the perfectly cut shaft and steps leading down to the well. There was no guided tour available for this site but there is good documentation throughout and books available at the gift shop. The only downside is a young woman who had seated herself near the bottom of the steps to the well to...read messages on her phone. For at least 20 minutes. Not only preventing us from taking pictures without her in it but even from comfortably walking down to water level. Kids these days! My biggest regret in not being fluent in European languages is not being able to chastise people for bad behavior, honestly.

Now it's time to rush to our agroturismo for dinner. I left out that we stopped at the Italian version of Walmart to buy the cheapest beach umbrella and soft cooler, with some refreezable packs, since we were going to be visiting wild beaches and wanted to have picnics and cool beverages. Our agroturismo had promised a minibar in each room, so we were hoping it had a freezer component for this, and we also stopped at a grocery store to stock up on water, beer, salami and cheese and olives. Italian grocery stores are honestly a highlight of my visits.

We arrived about 30 minutes before dinner, and the man who ran the place was busy with dinner but got us into our room. The site was basic but lovely, with a vineyard, and our room was basic but fine, but no fridge. Uh-oh. We didn't even manage to get the wifi password from him before it was dinner time. He just asked if we had any allergies and if we were OK with seafood, as it was Friday so it was seafood day. No problem for us so we changed and went to dinner with the guests from the 4 other rooms.

At 43 and 46 we aren't exactly young but as guests here we felt like it - everyone else was over 60 and Italian. Well, that's great for an authentic experience! We are given the option of glasses of wine or bottles from the host's own production, so we go with the white which was....OK. The food was promising, but we had a giant pot of mussels, toast with butter and bottarga (the fish roe mentioned before), and a very creamy shrimp "salad" (more like a mayo sauce?) which went nicely on the super thin crispy flatbread known as "music sheet bread" that's common in Sicily and Sardinia. This alone would have been a meal for us but I knew at least one more course was coming so I left a little food.

My first mistake. Our server (who is also the cleaning lady) asked, "Did you not like?" I said I did but I was filling up. No recognition that she understood. Course two was a giant pot of spaghetti with bottarga (see a theme?) I like bottarga fine but it was the only flavoring on the spaghetti. No salt or olive oil at the table and I was honestly afraid to ask.

Posted by
3050 posts

How is day 2 so long? It was a very busy day.

So we do not finish the spaghetti because we're already stuffed, in a room that in theory has AC but doesn't feel like it, despite the beautiful patio outside, and we are again shamed for not finishing our dish but more food was coming. Now it was a whole grilled fish. Folks, we were dying at this point. We were SO FULL. Whatever they tell you about Europeans eating smaller portions is a lie, I've lived in Germany for 12 years and German men can eat more than anyone I've ever seen and Italians aren't far behind. We're struggling, we're sleepy, we're sweating, every other table is polishing off every course easily but we did manage to eat all the fish, which was well cooked but like the other dishes, underseasoned. I feel like death. I'm starting to think the agroturismo isn't for us.

I'm not going to name the place because they did nothing wrong, really - all the Italians were perfectly happy with their experience, but the experience was like being on a cruise ship, if the cruise ship got judgy with you for not finishing the dishes you had no say in ordering (and again, I was fine with all the food, none of it was bad, it was just fine). I'm a big fan of going out to dinner, choosing what I eat, sharing an antipasti then getting a primi and cannot conceive of folks who can do a home-style 3 course meal but that's what were were locked into here. Finally the host says we can go outside for homemade digestivo time. Hooray!

But outside we are all seated around a table (somehow I end up not seated next to my husband) and again, everyone is mainland Italian and no one speaks English. Which is fine, I don't want to be catered to, but people still want to converse with us and that part is very taxing, especially with pounds of pasta in our belly. We find we understand Italian better than we speak it (we both have some Spanish capability), we enjoy the digestivos, but at a certain point we wanted to escape and felt we'd be rude to leave.

So yeah, not for us. We did glean that we were in the "real" Sardinia unlike up north although the folks who run the place are originally from northern Italy. Which might explain why the food, aside from the bottarga and flatbread, felt very generic Italian and not Sardinian. Other guests were from Rome, Pisa, and Liguria so we could at least say "We've been there!" to them. They made us eat tasty cookies. I never wanted to eat again. We excused ourselves after about 45 minutes but the party continued until about another hour. In the meantime we never got information on the wifi, or the lacking minibar from our host, so we tried to cool a couple beers in our bathroom sink so we could enjoy the area outside our room a little bit before bed.

FYI, it was a good deal if you like to eat a lot of food. 150 euros for 2 per night, so that includes a basic but nice and decent sized room and parking, breakfast, and dinner. A lot of dinner. So much dinner. At a set time. Where you now you'll be in trouble if you can't eat all of it. Is it obvious I didn't enjoy this aspect of the trip?

Posted by
982 posts

Loving this, Sarah! Can't wait to read more. I've always wanted to go there!

Posted by
3050 posts

Day 3:
Got up in time for breakfast which ran from 8:30 - 9:30 (very short window), and breakfast was just prepackaged pastries and that toast in plastic, but they did have homemade jams, little cakes, and because I read reviews online I knew they had homemade yogurt so we asked for some. Finally, protein! I'm not against a breakfast of sugary carb-laden goodies, I just will be ravenous 90 minutes later. The whole trip we only got offered one coffee drink per breakfast which was not pleasing to my caffeine-addicted husband.

We wanted to do a beach day, but at this point, with no minibar, no information, we decided to drive the 3km to the nearest town to get ice for our cooler and snacks and beverages. It's Saturday, so the beach town of Putzu Idu is hopping at 10:30, but we manage to grab the last bag of ice from the minimart there, but as we're driving to the remote beach and archeological site of Tharos we realize...we're getting hungry. And food options in the area are scant, so I suggest we drive to the nearest real town of Cabras. We're too early for Italian lunch, but there is a museum there of the Nuragic finds in the area and guess what...

IT'S AMAZING. I mean, it's a small, modest museum but we were basically treated to a full tour for free because the people running it are that enthusiastic. Seriously, this was the best find on our trip, and a better experience than the national archeological museum in Cagliari. Which the Cabras museum sees as a direct competitor to, clearly, as they told us some of their "giants" statues (they're 2 meters tall) will be returned to them soon. I hope so! Those statues belong in a (different) museum!

While Cabras doesn't charm from the outskirts and Lonely Planet was pretty down on it, the center is pretty charming and we went to a highly rated sandwich place run by some hipsters and again, thank you Italy, just one of the best meals. I'm not even sure what was on my sandwich due to language confusion but it was amazing and we ate it on the steps of a church and just had a delightful time.

Now for Tharros - the island's other major archeological site. It was a Phoenician city which I'm low-key obsessed with, and like all my favorite areological sites, it's set over beautiful turquoise water. And it was so hot. And it's up a hill from the parking lot to the the site. It's a peninsula, flanked by the most beautiful beaches you've ever seen, and we're hot, and I suggest, given that it's now 13:00, that maybe we plant our umbrella in the sand, enjoy a cold beer, swim, and tour the site when it's cooler, around 17:00.

But my husband sees this as a task to be done, and would rather relax after visiting the archeological site. With no trees, or shade. It's only 32 degrees and we've been indoors for 6 months so what could go wrong?

We didn't have a screaming fight or anything, but I grumped all the way up the hill and through the site, as we tried to figure out what we were looking at (well that's boring brick, it must be Roman), because they inexplicably changed the number system for the various aspects of the site but left the old signage so it was the most confusing site I've ever been to. Oh, and we got massively sunburnt, because that's what happens when you traipse around ruins during the hottest part of the day.

That said, the beach by the parking lot was one of the best beaches I've been to in my life, and once I got there, I was happy, but I should have insisted on my plan to tour the ruins later. I'll link to photos eventually so y'all can see. Crystal clear water, a 16th century Spanish tower, fine golden sand - beach dreams are made of these.

We returned to the agroturismo for the special Saturday dinner of Sardinian roast sucking pig. I won't go into detail except that this night we ate everything for fear of being shamed and also wanted to die. The food was just fine. Red wine was a little better.

Posted by
3050 posts

Day 4: Real beach day. Maybe?

BTW I don't want to sound down on Tharros. It was an impressive site. Just like the Parthenon if it's summer go before 11 or after 17:00. There is a tourist train up there from the parking lot and looking back...I would feel no shame in taking it.

Sunday was the most low-key day in the Sinis. We went to Cabras to get ice and beverages after lunch, then went to a beach that was supposed to be amazing but...it's Sunday. Which is apparently the day locals go to the beach. So the first beach is just mobbed, like there's a guy directing traffic mobbed. So far we hadn't experienced this kind of crowds, not even the previous day at Tharros. And like before, we're getting hungry early thanks to Italian breakfast so we go to a tiny town with a restaurant known for it's foccacia. We got the eggplant gorgonzola one. Amazing. Perfect. Why is every meal outside the agrogurismo so good??

Oh, and we decided....we couldn't do another dinner there. Even though we paid for it. For starters, we are on the west coast yet despite being 1/2 kilometer from the coast, the 20:30 dinnertime meant, no sunset. So at breakfast my husband semi-lied and told the owner that we wouldn't be eating there tonight because he had a romantic dinner planned for our anniversary. The owner didn't seem insulted at least, he was just confused thinking we wanted dinner at a special time (no! we don't want dinner!) So we were able to book at a newly reopened place in Putzu Idu overlooking the sea.

But before that - beaches! I had half a mind to just go back to the beautiful sandy beach of San Giovanni below Tharros but we wanted to experience the famous "rice grain" quartz beaches of the Sinis, so we drove to Spiaggia S'Archeddu 'e Sa Canna, which was lovely at first, but we clearly didn't have our umbrella game figured out, all the locals had strings and waterbags to weight it down against the wind, as the unique sand (major fine for taking it with you) didn't stabilize our umbrella very well. And while the water was lovely to begin with as the tide and wind came in, it brought in a ton of a sea plant that made the water very murky. So it wasn't really an ideal beach day. My impression is conditions with the sea plant change with the tide and weather and we were just unlucky, and while it was neat to have sand that falls right off you, I still preferred the sandy beach the day before which was far less crowded (again, maybe a function of it being Sunday).

We went back to the Agroturismo to shower and change for dinner and that's when I realized what I thought was a cleaning closet was a room with a fridge and freezer that we didn't know about the whole time. I left out some details but basically we'd been making 40 minute round trips to Cabras for ice because our host never gave us a proper introduction to the property. Which was fine when we arrived because he was prepping dinner, but watching him give a new arrival the grand tour (we ended up getting the wifi password from another guest) on our last night was frustrating. I don't think it was intentional, but we also didn't realize there were communal drying racks for towels and bathing suits until that time either, which we only saw from observing, were never told.

So again, the agroturismo thing, not for us. There were beachfront apartments in Putzu Idu that were cheaper - but the "towns" on the Sinis don't offer much in the way of food so I thought the argoturismo would be a good way to stay in this beautiful area with a good dining option and in retrospect, we just should've gone for an apartment.

Dinner in town with a beautiful sunset view was delightful, we felt liked we'd escaped a family member's house or something. It was pretty expensive but you know, with a view and freedom, we were happy to pay it.

Posted by
142 posts

Love your Sardinia trip report! Sorry about your meal torture at the agroturismo, but it sure makes for a fun read!

Posted by
9871 posts

Sarah, this is an automatic bookmark. Your trip sounds so fascinating - I can't wait to ready about the second half -- and your writing style is so beguiling !!!!

It's funny because right now a Canadian who lives in Sweden whom I follow on IG is on Sardinia for her holiday with her Swedish partner -- and between following what she is sharing, and reading what you are sharing, I am getting a totally different idea of Sardinia than I ever had, and it is shooting right up my list.

This made me laugh out loud (although I am truly sorry you experienced this subpar agriturismo experience, I hate nothing more than feeling trapped !))

but the experience was like being on a cruise ship, if the cruise ship got judgy with you

Anyway thanks for writing this up so beautifully. I think I wil come back here and share the places the Canadian and the Swede are visiting staying .... ( Oh yeah and they also had the late-night arrival -- but even later than y'all --so they just stayed one night near the airport and then picked up a car the next morning)

Posted by
594 posts

Just laughing (and admiring you two) the whole time I’m reading. Can’t wait for the finale.

Posted by
1588 posts

I bookmarked your trip report. Thank you and I am glad you had a great time!

I always dream about "Listerine" blue waters for swimming and I looked for those in Corfu and Menorca. No luck. Did you find such beaches in Sardinia?

Posted by
3260 posts

Your trip report is fun and filled with great information.

We're planning our trip to Sardinia for this fall and it's really helpful to have your perspective.

A couple of questions:

We also like to visit archeological sites and we're planning to go to Tharros. I was thinking about 2 nights in Oristano but would either Cabras or Putzu Ida be a better base in your opinion?

Do you remember the name of the famous focaccia place? The eggplant gorgonzola panini sounds really delicious.

Thank you Sarah! So glad you had such an awesome time in Sardinia!

Posted by
1013 posts

Being a Brit, I have known about Sardinia but have not had the chance to add it to any itinerary. We went to Greece this year in June, and there were most definitely more Americans and Canadians than ever there. Hoping to get to Sardinia before it gets on the radar. I have also bookmarked your report.

Posted by
3050 posts

Thanks for the compliments! I'd intended on finishing the report tonight, but I just spent 3 hours making an itinerary for a European newbie's trip to Athens in 3 days where she's planned nothing but airfare and hotel. How do people live like this? So I'll try to finish up tomorrow. In the meantime:

I always dream about "Listerine" blue waters for swimming and I looked for those in Corfu and Menorca. No luck. Did you find such beaches in Sardinia?

I've actually found beaches like that in Mallorca, but not as intense or gorgeous as I've found in Greece. If you want that experience, Greece is great, but so is Sardinia. I will post a photo album so you can see for yourself, but up north on the famous Costa Smeralda the water colors are even more intense, but unfortunately that area is ritzy, full of oligarchs and celebs and prices are high. The Sinis is more famous for it's "wild" beaches and special sand but until the tide came in with the posideonetta sea plants, the water was amazing. And there's more beach stuff in part 2.

We also like to visit archeological sites and we're planning to go to Tharros. I was thinking about 2 nights in Oristano but would either Cabras or Putzu Ida be a better base in your opinion?

I'd say it depends what you're looking for. I liked Cabras because Lonely Planet was mean to it and while it's not very charming initially I had such a good time at the museum and it did have a tiny historic center, but I think I'd recommend Oristano over Cabras as there's just a lot more there even though it's center is far from huge, it's definitely a prettier town overall. Putzu Ida is a modern beach village that I'd only recommend staying in if your priority is walkability to a beach. It had the one nice restaurant we ate our last dinner on the penninsula at, and a couple of beach kiosks/pizza places, but nothing else. You can dine at the many, many agroturismos in the area too, and some of them look like the food is a bit more elevated than what we experienced. This one looked really nice for dinner (or to stay if we ever got up the courage to do an agroturismo again)

Bosa would be another option to stay in, or Algerho further north. We considered these but Bosa was a little too inland for my tastes and we decided Algehro was too far, both look a bit larger than Oristano which definitely felt smaller and sleepier than I'd imagined (but we were also there during siesta time).

Do you remember the name of the famous focaccia place? The eggplant gorgonzola panini sounds really delicious.

Yep, it's this one, in the town of San Giovanni which is the town above Tharos with the beach I loved so dearly. There's not that much to the town, it's mostly holiday rentals and an ancient romanesque church, and Tharros itself, but if you do want to spend time beach time it wouldn't be a bad base either, as long as you're willing to drive 15 minutes to Cabras for a real grocery store/services. The Sinis peninsula kind of reminds me of a Med version of the northern California coast, with tiny villages of holiday rentals, possibly a restaurant here and there, but not much else. But Cabras is always somehow a 20 minute drive from anywhere on the peninsula.

It's funny because right now a Canadian who lives in Sweden whom I follow on IG is on Sardinia for her holiday with her Swedish partner -- and between following what she is sharing, and reading what you are sharing, I am getting a totally different idea of Sardinia than I ever had, and it is shooting right up my list.

Ooh, I'd like to follow this too, or at least know where she stayed. Sardinia is big enough that just figuring out an area to base in was really hard! So we really want to go back and discover other places.

Posted by
9871 posts

Sarah - so funny because literally yesterday afternoon i sat down with one of my travel notebooks and made a two-column page delineating the basics of both of your trips. Will add to yours now that you’ve updated.

Okay, they flew into Olbia rather than Cagliari. They stayed at an airport hotel the first night and picked up their rental the following morning.

Her first “real” hotel (which I sent to my husband last night as in LOOK AT THIS FOR NEXT SUMMER) was the
Hotel Villa Cedrino in Dorgali.

Her second hotel was
Domu Antigua in Gergei. Here they also did some cooking classes.

Now she has gone to Isola di San Pietro but so far (when I last checked), she hadn’t listed the hotel they chose.

Her handle on Instagram is madelineraeaway. She has already started a Sardinia highlight so you can catch up on everything.

I really love following her because she talks about being a long-term expat and the challenges and benefits that come from that (but from a perspective at least 20 years younger than mine!), and she has great travels especially in Scandinavia. But last summer’s trip to Greece was inspiring, too !!

And what are you doing working up this itinerary for someone else until 2 or 3 in the morning ??!!!

Posted by
3260 posts

I appreciate the detailed info Sarah - I agree it's difficult to find much info about travel in Sardinia! I have been using a Rough Guide as well as some of the blogs that you mentioned.

I'm still tweaking an itinerary for late September/October. We'll pick up a rental car after 4 nights in Cagliari, then travel to Oristano or Cabras (still undecided), Alghero, Sassari, Santa Teresa Gallura, and flying back from Olbia. We'll have 22 nights total and we've left some open nights for discoveries along the way.

I'm wondering if we're planning for too much time in the glitzy north with 4 planned nights in Santa Teresa Gallura and 2 in Olbia for the flight back to the mainland.

Just musing here...it's a work in progress...I know for sure we'll be stopping by Bar Focacceria Casas for that eggplant gorgonzola focaccia.

Posted by
68 posts

I am so enjoying this trip report and comments! Sardinia has been on my radar for a while, but it slipped to near the bottom of the list because I couldn't quite get a handle on where to base ourselves and what to visit without driving for hours, so reports like this are super helpful. And it seems like yes, everyone is suddenly going to Sardinia. Sarah Murdoch, from Adventures With Sarah, is currently there scouting locations and activities for future tours, and apparently is leading a sold-out tour next spring.

Haven't been to Greece yet, but we adore Sicily and felt very comfortable driving all over the island.

Hear you on the agriturismo front, those dinners sound like our worst nightmares for (a) the quantity of food, (b) the quality of food and (c) eating at a large communal table. My husband and I are both introverts and things like morning breakfasts with other guests at a B&B, or an evening aperitivo hour with other guests are not our idea of fun.

Posted by
3050 posts

Ok, so the adventure continues!

Day 5, Monday:

Since we had the car and wanted to use it before turning it in at 20:00 that evening, we decided instead of staying local we were going to drive to a whole other region, the Southwest of Sardinia, a hilly then mountainous area with red dirt and abandoned mines. It was an hour and a half drive, split between country roads to the freeway and then back west. It was a beautiful and mostly relaxing drive, to make up for Italian breakfast we stopped at a gas station for sandwiches that were better than they had a right to be, sardinian flatbread turned into flavored chips, as we drove west towards Masua beach, our destination.

When we hit the coast at Fontaramare, I was in shock. I'm a northern Californian girl, and I've often said that nothing can compare to the beauty of the coastline from San Francisco to Oregon, but I have to admit, this compares. A just stunning cliffside road climbing high into the mountains with the stunning colors of the Med spread out ahead with the contrasting red soil and green scrub of the mountains. I might have gotten a little teary, honestly. I come from an area of stunning landscapes that few places in Europe can match, but it was matched!

Despite being a pro at Highway 1 at home, this road was a little more hairy, due to how narrow it was and the drivers from the other direction taking the median as a mere suggestion. We drove past the charming hillside village of Nebida - all former mining towns here - before finally taking the turnoff to Masua, a mere 9 km that felt like a lifetime.

We had arrived at about 11:30 but apparently a good half-hour too late for the parking. After some chaos and circling around we drove back up the hill and hoped our parking spot on a turnout was legal.

After days of wild beaches and being significantly sunburnt 2 days in a row, we were ready for a little luxury, so we had purchased loungers on the small beach at Warung Beach Club in advance online, as well as reservations for a 2 hour boat trip at 14:00. Like most Italian beaches, there were public beach areas to the right and left of the small club, but the best part of the beach was private, and it was glorious. Extremely fine sand, gorgeous water, crystal clear with plenty of fishes (I finally bought prescription swim goggles, life changing decision I highly recommend) and a fantastic view of the Pan di Zucchero, apparently the largest "sea stack" in the Mediterranean. Here at the beach we encountered Americans for the first time in our trip, a seemingly well-heeled multi-generational family trip, and some other international types - big difference from Sinis.

The beach was busy but not packed, and I just can't convey how gorgeous it was. I love my Greek beaches but this is definitely another level being surrounded by huge cliffs with such gorgeous water. The crew at the beach club did not seem to have their stuff together, did not really seem to deliver drinks to the beach with any regularity, but I'm in paradise, who cares? Figuring out the boat trip departure was also a bit confusing, in the end the boat was about 20 minutes late, but we got on the rubber dinghy with an older couple, their adult child and her partner.

The boat trip did not seem the safest (the handholds that used to exist were simply ripped off) but zipping in and out of sea caves and giant iron cliffs and stalagmites, seeing the famous entrance to Porto Flavia, a facade built into a mine in 1925 to enable miners to load directly to the boats - it was amazing. We sped around the Pan di Zucchero and stopped to swim in the amazing water and see a small saint statue that had fallen off a boat at some point. And found out the young couple on our boat are from Stuttgart, and her parents from Venezuela - they helpfully translated the captain's Italian to English for us.

Posted by
3050 posts

The boat trip we'd booked was supposed to be 2 hours, but was only 1, which was fine, the sights were great but the dinghy wasn't terribly comfortable and we were worried about getting burnt so after some minor confusion with the beach club we got refunded the difference. We missed seeing the gorgeous Cala Domestica (which can also be driven to) but given that the boat can't anchor there, we weren't all that fussed. We enjoyed a couple more hours on the beach before my husband hiked up the hill to get our incredibly hot rental and pick me up with our gear at the parking lot. 100% would do Masua again, actually would consider Nebida as a base for a couple days, not a ton to do in the area but scenic drives and beaches, but it's so gorgeous.

The drive back to the airport was uneventful, as was dropping off the car, and we schlepped our luggage all the way back to the airport before we realized...the train station to Cagliari was literally at the rental car park. We ran for and just missed a train, but we had assorted meats, cheeses, beers in our cooler so we cook the 30 minute delay as a chance for a train station picnic, since we'd only had a small selection of overpriced fried things for lunch at the Masua beach club.

The oldest train I'd seen in Italy pulled up, but the aircon was on full blast and we were ready for our trip to Cagliari which took all of 7 minutes. What? Is it even legal to make it that convenient to get from an airport to city center? Our rental flat was only a block away, but it's Caglilari, so we didn't escape a hill. There is no escaping hills in Cagliari. But we were impressed with what looked to be your typical beautiful old Italian city, and our host Chiara had given us very detailed instructions to enter the flat via WhatsApp.

And man, what a flat it was. I was so impressed. It was bigger and nicer than it looked on Booking.com, with two excellent AC units, cute and tasteful decor, books, games, a couple beers in the fridge, also with cold tap water in glass bottles and an admonishment that tap water is safe, stop using plastic (but nicely) on the fridge. The bathroom was stocked with nice toiletries including even things like self-tanner. And it was right in the center of the marina district of the old town with a balcony overlooking a church built on Roman/Phoenician ruins. I can't stop gushing about this flat because so often when we stay at apartments there's always something missing, but this was perfect. There was even coffee, 3 different kinds of coffeemakers, and cooking supplies. Like staying at your hip friend's flat, basically. Such a nice contrast to the agroturismo!

Chiari was in contact with us throughout our stay offering recommendations, one of which was dinner as we'd arrived at 21:00 and had to start laundry (of course there's a washer and two dryer racks! two!) so she pointed us to a good place open late with outdoor seating 5 minutes away at Ristorante L'Ambasciata which was both the best meal of the trip (aside from the hamburger place the 1st night) and the best value. We had juniper smoked swordfish carpaccio with fennel and grapefruit, my husband had anglerfish and bottarga ravioli and I had seabass, and a bottle of local wine and water came to about $75. Everything was delicious and cooked perfectly, although I found my seabass slightly undersalted so I made the mistake of asking for salt ("for my potatoes" I explained, hoping that would make it seem less offensive) and the waitress brought back salt, pepper, and packets of mayo and ketchup. Ouch.)

We were pretty tired after a long day so we went back to the flat, I put in an order of groceries to be delivered the next morning as we weren't particular near anything but minimarts, which can be a great hack for time saving in parts of Europe but in our case the grocery delivery was an hour late, but hey, we wanted to sleep in.

Posted by
3050 posts

Day 6: And sleep in we did, it was so nice to not have to get up for breakfast! When our groceries finally arrived, we set out.

So Cagliari is great, but here's thing: it was hot (to be expected) and it was hilly (also not a shock) and for once my husband had done a little planning of his own so he wanted us to go to this famous place for pizza, supposedly a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We hadn't eaten, and as soon as we start I realize the pizza place is in the Il Castello district, a formerly fortified hilltop district so we were going up, up, up in the unforgiving sun. Once again I was hot, hungry, and grumpy, but I also knew that we'd have to head up there anyway to see the National Archeolgical Museum so I tolerated this "plan".

The pizzeria turned out to be a bakery, but they did have pizza, and a couple of hot tables inside, but no way were we eating in there. We got the pizza and craft beer to go, and found some church steps in the shade to eat it in, and you know what? My husband is a genius. the pizza, which was foccacia style, was the best I've ever had in Italy. After that we hit the museum, after walking uphill a lot more (so many hills) and it was great, although the reception there did not compare to the enthusiasm in Cabras. The best thing there was the small bronze votive figurines from the Nuraghic civilization, as well as the Phoenician steele which has what is probably the first evidence of the word "Sard". If you can read Hebrew, Phoenician is always a trip, because you can see the beginning of the letters we still use today. Several groups of Americans in the museum.

Afterwards we got a coffee at a kisok and admired the views we'd worked so hard to achieve, realized there's a bus that goes up the hill too (in addition to a tourist train), and started to walk towards the Roman amphitheater but as we started going downhill, I noped out. I was done climbing for the day, and you apparently can't really explore the amphitheater that much anyway. My husband explored a bit more but realized that even with paid entry you can't see much. It's impressive, though! Cagliari is layers upon layers of history, literally.

We walked around the district, visited the cathedral, sweated, and walked down the stairs at the Bastione di Santa Caterina, a famous landmark, ending up on the main shopping street. Time for cooling off in the flat and some homemade antipasti before dinner a bit outside the center at CharioScuro, an upscale interpretation of traditional Sardinia foods. We opted for the smaller, traditional tasting menu, which in retrospect was a mistake because the 1st course is tongue, which I'd normally never order. I guess I wanted to be converted into a tongue lover but it didn't happen, although I did eat it. We had selected this place because it focuses on the inland food of the "Barbarian" region of Sardinia and includes Italy's rarest pasta, the su fiddelu, extremely thin noodles, served here in a beef broth. It was interesting but not mind-blowing. The main was the famous roast suckling pig, on a much daintier scale than at the agroturismo and this time, I understood why the dish is so popular. It was amazing. Finishing up was a traditional dessert of sheep's ricotta in fried pastry with bitter honey, classic Sardinian dish and utterly delightful. Overall we enjoyed the meal but wish we'd gone alacarte or done the bigger, more adventurous tasting menu. Would recommend.

We stopped for craft beers in the party district of Stampace walking back, and then at a the trendy cocktail bar Spirits Boutique, where we ordered a "mystery cocktail" based on a questionnaire and served to us in luggage. Honestly it was fantastic, the gimmicks worked because the drinks were amazing. Then back to catch up on sleep.

Posted by
18 posts

Sarah - this overview was absolutely amazing and so helpful! We are now fully inspired to begin our trip-planning. Thank you!

Posted by
47 posts

We went back to the Agroturismo to shower and change for dinner and that's when I realized what I thought was a cleaning closet was a room with a fridge and freezer that we didn't know about the whole time
Sarah, I laughed out loud when I read the above sentence! I can relate to this experience so much.
Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. Like others, I am bookmarking.
Cheers!

Posted by
2595 posts

I was laughing out loud reading your report!

I was in Cagliari last July for a work conference. It was hot and there are hills as you know. I grumbled some about how I didn’t know I had to get in shape for a conference. Then on the last day we learned from some colleagues that there was a bus we could have taken from the waterfront to the university!

I enjoyed the town very much but never saw the rest of the island. It sounds like I ought to!

Posted by
38 posts

We are in the middle of planning a trip to Sardinia. Thanks so much for all the info and the delightful writing. Very helpful