A Quick Guide to Sardinia
With more than 1,800km of unspoilt coastline, Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda, the ‘Emerald Coast’ is famous for its breathtaking scenery and exclusive luxury hotels, but head to the south coast and you’ll find deserted beaches and Caribbean-like turquoise seas. To the north west the clean waters of Isola Rossa attract scuba divers and snorkelers, and nearby Tinnari has two stunning half moon bays, accessed by foot (the walk down bordered by ancient cork trees) or by boat, it’s one of Sardinia’s most beautiful secret beaches.
Sardinia’s Nuraghi are prehistoric stone structures found dotted all over the island and there are still many traditional villages practicing age-old customs so if you are lucky you might stumble across one of the many local festivals held in honour of the island’s ancient customs. In the south, near the town of Nora you’ll find the remains of a Roman city, complete with impressive amphitheatre and large bath complex, but much of the remains lie under water and divers can visit what remains of the ancient Roman port.
The fortified Castello dei Doria in the pretty village of Castelsardo is home to a museum dedicated to the art and craft of weaving, whilst a climb to the top of the tower of the 13th century Castello della Fava, in the medieval village of Posada in the north east of the island, is rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree views over the Sardinian countryside and out to sea. Tumbling down the limestone cliff, the village below is a labyrinth of narrow alleyways and hidden piazzas. In the south, the fairy-tale hill-top ruins of the 13th century Castello di Acquafredda dominate the surrounding area and are also worth visiting for the expansive views.
Heavily influenced by its neighbours Corsica and Italy, the island’s food is amongst some of the best in the world. The national dish is suckling pig, slow cooked over fire, and is a must-try. Saedas are pillowy pockets of pasta stuffed with cheese, deep fried and drizzled with honey and you’ll find them on most restaurant menus. The local cheeses pecorino and ricotta are deliciously pungent, whilst Alghero is home to Europe’s largest vineyard and produces the best Sardinian wine. The buzzy city of Cagliari has a very particular type of pizza that is only found there. Pizzetta sfoglia is a round snack that combines a flaky pastry-style crust with a savoury filling, usually tomato sauce and cheese, but sometimes sautéed greens or salami.
Da Renzo, a restaurant with rooms in Siamaggiore, is famous for its sensational seafood pasta combinations. Try the Bigoli with lobster followed by the house sebada served with hot honey.
Sister restaurants Josto and Framento in Cagliari are run by the same renowned chef but their menus are very different. At Josto you’ll find Sardinian-inspired classics reinvented with clever combinations, whilst at Framento, it’s pizza made with slow-fermented dough and unusual toppings that keeps visitors going back time and again. Also in Cagliari, the small neighbourhood restaurant ChiaroScuro is where you’ll find some of the island’s most iconic dishes carefully prepared under the watchful eye of chef Marina Ravaotto. Try the four-course Le Radici menu to discover some of Sardinia’s best-loved dishes.
Stroll around the cobbled streets of Alghero before diving into Nautilus for fresh fish. Within the ancient city wall and with two sea-facing terraces, enjoy the catch of the day while watching the fishing boats bob up and down in the harbour. If you love eating beside the sea, then the Marco Bar and Grill, on the beach at Porto Taverna near Porto San Paolo, has some of the best views you can find alongside a tempting menu of fresh grilled fish and meat. Try the grilled octopus with tomato, potato and sweet ginger, followed by the grilled fish skewer.
Where to Stay
On the seafront in Golf Aranci, the family-run Gabbiano Azzurro Hotel & Suites is a five-minute walk from the village with its promenade and famous chanting mermaid. The newest suites all have access to the rooftop terrace with its private pool and panoramic sea views. Breakfast is served on the sea-view terrace, lunch at the Beach Bistro & Bar, and dinner in the Blu restaurant. hotelgabbianoazzurro.com
In the mountains, Su Cologne is where you can really get back to nature. In the foothills of the Supramonte mountain range, and originally a restaurant, the 70 characterful rooms here have views of the forest-clad mountains and make great use of local art and textiles. Built in the local style there are secret courtyards and colourful quiet corners everywhere you look, shaded hammocks hang between the old trees and the renowned restaurant, which focuses on Sardinian specialities, attracts visitors from all over the island. sugologone.it
Comprising 204 cottage-style rooms, set around the landscaped gardens and central swimming pool, the Hotel Village is conveniently located close to the main facilities of Chai Laguna Resort, making it ideal for families. There’s a dedicated children’s restaurant, pool and mini club, as well as the teenagers’ club. With several restaurants on site, guests can also take advantage of beach services at the Le Dune di Campana beach, easily reached by the cute Trenino Chia Express land train shuttle service. chailagunaresort.com