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Thinking of a trip to Europe and looking for something slightly different?
Welcome to Sardinia - that large island off the coast of Italy about an hour's flight time from either Barcelona or Rome. While you're not going to get the less peopled NZ beach experience in many European seaside towns, mainland or island, Sardinia does feel like you've got a little more breathing space. It’s an island that provides whatever sort of holiday you’re looking for - be it time on a beach, shopping, nature walks, history, high end, budget, it’s all there, depending on what you’re looking for.
We had five days here, to catch up with friends who live in Cagliari - my advice though would be to try and get a full week!
The main airport to fly into is Cagliari at the southern end of the island, and flights come summer time are plentiful. The town centre has lovely shopping streets to wander through with shop names you’d know from other European towns, little local boutiques and department stores that hold everything in between (plus there’s also great mall shopping on the outskirts of town). The central streets and squares are filled with places to eat that come alive in the evening, all interspersed with the reminders of just how old this place is. The Roman ruins, and 13th century cathedrals seem quite in keeping. A walk up to/down from (depending on the heat and your fitness level) the hilltop citadel, Il Castello is well worth it. You’ll meander past Pisan palaces and University buildings, through narrow little alleyways and medieval gates, and likely want to stop at the various local shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, particularly the hill top ones with views to die for. Buy yourself a drink and watch the Sardinian sunset.
If you google Sardinian beaches, you’ll book the flight tomorrow. The very north of the island has picture postcard, insta-worthy spots galore. For us though, we decided to venture just half way up the island instead (about 3.5 hours drive) to try the eastern beaches on the Baunei coast, and were not disappointed. These coves and caves with crystal clear water beneath lime stone cliffs are simply divine! You can’t drive to them however. You either need to hire a little runabout yourself, or (as we did) jump on a ferry that takes you to 3 or 4 of them in a day. We fully intended to do the last beach but were ‘sunned silly’ and took the ferry back to home base, so there’s flexibility, plus you get dropped right to the beach and picked up again an hour or so later. Easy. But, you’ll need the umbrella for shade, towels to sit on, beach shoes to cope with the pebbles underfoot, and food and drink to keep you refuelled.
If you have ever heard of the colour azure blue but never really known what colour it is – the water round these beaches is just that colour. It is idyllic. No other word. Personal beach fav was Cala Biriola. Cala Gonone and Cala Goloritze, with limestone cliffs and caves meeting turquoise blue water also provided the ‘wish you were here’ photo, complete with Ichnusa beer in hand.
We opted for a ferry that took us via the Grotta del Bue Marino in the morning. Sardinia has a labyrinth of caves beneath it, and we picked this cave as it was a ferry stop on the way to the beaches. Named after the all but extinct Sardinian blue monk seal, the Waitomo caves have nothing on these ones. You can walk for about a kilometre inside them with an informative guide and the stalactites and reflective water are quite something to behold.
We ended our day of cave and beach wonders at Macomer, a small village in the centre of the island where our friends had a holiday home. After a shower, regroup and an early evening catch up with the locals they knew, we headed to the western side of the island for dinner. Bosa is a picturesque, authentic, coastal town, with cobbled streets, topped by a 12th Century medieval castle. As I supped on my favourite Sardinian Rose (Nieddera Rosato) at a restaurant we chose out of the many on offer on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, I reflected that Bosa provided a very nice end to a fantastic day. As we wandered back to the car I looked at the cute wee streets on offer to explore and mused this would be a fab place to base yourself for a few days to eat and drink to your heart’s content, explore the history, the local countryside and beaches.
And on that note, no thoughts on Sardinia would be complete without a mention of the food. Our friends took us to their other holiday home in Torre delle Stelle (more gorgy beaches around there too) for the big Italian family dinner for 15, suckling pig and all. I confess I avoided the pig on the spit cooking, but the husband was right in there with the lads. I did however happily partake of the outcome. Yum. Eating in Italy is about pacing yourself through the courses I reckon, and between the pastas, risottos, local cheeses (try the Pecorino Sardo), meats, desserts and the accompanying wines, the joy of sitting, eating and conversing was reborn. It also made me a little heavier.
Before our early morning flight out in Cagliari, we parked by the seafood market Mercato di San Benedetto, where the locals perused their dinner options. A good memory to leave with I thought. We downed a coffee next door at Pirani (the absolute best place to get coffee in Cagliari) with the traditional marmalade filled croissant, took a pic with our friends and the friendly staff, and said Ciao to stunning Sardinia, hoping we’d be back one day. Add it to your bucket list.
If you fancy embarking on a similar trip to Jude's, call us for free on 0800 713715 or pop in-store. Alternatively, click here for all of our Italy holiday deals.
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