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Magical Ogliastra on a Bicycle
Cycling in Sardinia is an experience to behold. But if you are looking to ride on the flats, look somewhere else. On the other hand, if you want to ride between history and the natural wonders of fantastic Sardinia, this is the place for you.
We are three Swedes and cycling is one of our passions. Our other strong and barely controllable emotions are for us to know and you to find out. Each of us is 70 years plus so should you be interested enough to pursue the issue, let your imaginations run wild.
We cycle together on road bikes regularly in Sweden throughout the spring, summer and autumn. To put a cap on our efforts, we travel to another country, most often in the autumn to somewhere in Italy. So far we have experienced Piemonte several times, Chianti and Puglia once and Sardinia twice.
This spring, the first week in May to be more exact, we traveled again to Sardinia where we have developed a very rewarding relationship with Giovanni Lamieri and Simona Solla. They are the couple that run SardiniaCycling. As their website suggests SardiniaCycling is "Your best reference for road and mountain biking tours in Sardinia." We can't in any way disagree with this.
Our earlier tours in Sardinia were self-guided and in areas in the south, center and north of the island. We transferred our bikes, rented from SardiniaCycling, in our rented car to places from which we took round tours.
This time, on Giovanni's advice, we focused on a point-to-point, guided tour in the Province of Ogliastra on the central eastern coast of the island. Together with top-of-the-line accommodations including special Sardinian cuisine, we took advantage of excellent rental bikes, professional guides and a support vehicle during our rides.
Giovanni was our guide. Not only is he a well-conditioned cyclist, he is also knows a lot about Ogliastra. What he does not know about this area probably is not worth knowing about. He does not speak Swedish, but his English is excellent as are his accounts of the historical and cultural aspects of Ogliastra.
Ogliastra is Sardinia's wildest and least developed province. It combines mountains rising to over 1000 m within 20 km of the beautiful sea. It is also the most mountainous province in Sardinia. When it comes to cycling, this says it all. On a scale of five, Giovanni rates the difficulty level at three. Could four and five include rock climbing on a bike?
In other words, cycling in Ogliastra is nothing for the faint hearted. On our six-day adventure, we took six tours averaging a little more than 60 km per tour. This distance could be regarded as a piece of cake given that we had all day to cover it. But those kilometers also included elevation gains, on average about 940 meters per tour. On four of the six tours we climbed around 1200 meters.
But what goes up also goes down. The payoff for a long, grinding uphill ride was always an exhilarating downhill ride. Our final tour only went up around 600 meters, but down about 1450 meters to sea level, a tour etched forever in my mind and I am sure in the minds of my companions.
And if you are worried about the conditions of the roads and the amount of traffic on them in Ogliastra, do not worry. Most often the greatest obstacles on the roads were cows and sheep, virtually no cars or trucks.
The countryside in Ogliastra is magical. Observe it curiously and attentively. Take your time there. Enjoy its varied landscapes and rare beauty, its history and archaeology. Ogliastra is full of remains from the Bronze Age.
Of particular interest are the prehistoric Nuraghi Castles, villages, temples and tombs left by hunter-gatherers whose origins constitute one of the Mediterranean's great mysteries. We investigated two on our tour, one of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Enough cannot be said about the people of Ogliastra, specifically, and Sardinia in general. The hospitality you can experience there has to be rated among the best. I do not know how many good laughs we had together with the locals in bars and restaurants while enjoying a thirst-quenching Ichnusa, the beer of choice in Sardinia, or a delicious Sardinian dinner. The wine there won't disappoint you either.
A Guided Tour vs. a Self-Guided Tour?
We have experienced both. If possible, we would recommend opting for the guided tour unless you are well acquainted with the area you are riding in. Yes, self-guided tours are a bit luxurious but extremely worth it, especially with the kind of service SardiniaCycling offers you. Enjoy magical Ogliastra on a bicycle. You will not regret it.
www.sardegnaturismo.it: Official website of Sardinia
Biking in Italy: other articles relevant to those interested in cycling in Italy.
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