Sardinia with Sardatur Holidays
Felice Soru, founder of Silver Travel Advisor
Holidays, told me before I went that a trip to Sardinia is a discovery. The
island is like a separate continent, with different landscapes and cultures -
even languages - and with a wild, ungovernable centre.
I went to the central west coast, to the province
of Oristano, an area of Sardinia that is also wild and relatively unspoiled, which
is rich in history and with plenty of nature, activities, food and wine to
enjoy, whilst remaining accessible.
Unpeel layer upon layer of history as you
explore this continuously surprising area.
Go to the Sinis peninsula, a marine
protected area, to see the remains of the ancient settlement of Tharros. Reputed
to have been founded by the Phoenicians towards the end of the 8th century BC,
it was one of the most important cities in Sardinia through the Punic age, from
the 6th century BC until Roman occupation. But there is some evidence
suggesting that Tharros was occupied before the Phoenicians, by the Nuraghic
civilisation in the much earlier Bronze Age.
There are an estimated 7,000 examples of nuraghe,
stone-built tower-fortresses from this ancient civilisation, dotted around
Sardinia. One of the most important is the nuraghe Losa, near the village of
Abbasanta. Here you’ll see a large complex construction in the shape of an old
tomb, with a central triangular shape. A turreted wall is linked to this
impressive core, and surrounded by later additions from Punic, Roman and Middle
Back on the Sinis peninsula, visit San
Giovanni di Sinis, one of Sardinia’s oldest and most important churches. Built
with blocks of sandstone, probably brought from nearby Tharros, it is
Byzantine, with distinctly Arabesque features.
And one of the most important historic
finds of recent years on this beguiling promontory is the Giants of Mont’e
Prama. Farmers working the land a couple of kilometres from Cabras in the 1970s
uncovered remains from the late Nuraghic period. Painstaking work has since
pieced together Sardinia’s version of China’s terracotta warriors. As of today,
25 statues of large stone men – including warriors, archers and boxers – have
been reconstructed, some of which are exhibited in Cabras Museum.
Wildlife abounds around Oristano. Flamingos
inhabit the marshy lagoons, as do several rare aquatic bird species.
For breathtaking beaches, head to Putzu Idu
or the quartz-laden “rice sand” of Is Arutas and Maria Erma. But my favourite
was probably S’Archittu, taking its name from the photogenic rock arch, one of
Sardinia’s largest natural bridges, and through which you can swim or
If you’re adventurous, drive further south
to explore the largest sand dunes in Europe, at Piscinas on the remote Costa Verde,
and formed by the natural forces of the Mistral. But don’t get stuck in the
Go inland to discover the special
environment of the Giara di Gesturi, a high volcanic plateau now rich in flora
and fauna, and inhabited by the island’s cherished wild horses.
Swim from the many beaches. Play golf at Is
Arenas. Hike, cycle or twitch in the nature reserves. Take a boat out to the
tiny island of Mal di Ventre (Italian for tummy ache!) for a snorkelling or
diving expedition. It was near here that a shipwreck was discovered as recently
as 1989, uncovering a scarcely believable cargo of almost 1,000 trapezoidal
lead ingots, each weighing 33 kg and inscribed by their Roman owners from the 1st
Oristano is the provincial capital but take
the coast road north to enchanting Bosa. Explore the narrow cobbled streets of
the centro storico, head ever upwards amongst the crumbling pastel-coloured houses
towards Malaspina Castle, and for a dazzling view over the red-roofed town,
down towards the river Temo, snaking back towards Bosa beach and marina.
And enjoy the even more scintillating drive
north along the coast – just into Sassari province - to Alghero, a vibrant
Catalan fortified town, with towers, trebuchets and cannons a reminder of its
more violent past.
Food and wine
Spaghetti con bottarga is a local food
speciality, a simple but exceptional dish of pasta and mullet roe. Do NOT add
cheese! Fregula (fregola) is the Sardinian equivalent of couscous, typically
toasted semolina dough balls and often served with clams. Or try malloreddus, a
gnocchi style pasta cooked with saffron and a tomato sauce. Porcheddu – roast suckling pig – is a prized
dish but not one for vegetarians.
But even in a trattoria in a small village,
you’re likely to enjoy simple food, from well-prepared local ingredients and
served with a Sardo smile.
Sardinian wines are much improved in recent
years. Try the local dry white Vernaccia di Oristano, or the red Cannonau,
little known outside the island, both excellent.
Where to stay
Head for the Is
Benas Country Lodge, an intimate retreat tucked away on the road to Putzu
idu. With only 18 bedrooms and outstanding food and service, it feels more like
a private country house than a hotel. A little isolated, it is a quiet refuge
but within reach of all the many fascinating gifts this lesser know part of
Sardinia offers the mature and inquisitive traveller.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Sardatur Holidays.