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P.S. Don't tell anyone about Sardinia.

Peter, from Sardinia

What are your perceptions of Sardinia?

  • Somewhere in Ohio
  • A place of super slick hotels and luxury yachts
  • A small island off Italy

If you couldn’t pinpoint the exact answer, you’re not alone. The problem (or perhaps the great thing) about Sardinia is that it is still relatively unknown outside of Italy and Germany which is pretty surprising considering it’s the big(ish) island right in the middle of the Mediterranean.

So why isn’t Sardinia better known?

  • It certainly isn’t Tuscany.
  • It is not the home of organised crime and a set of related films.
  • It (was) expensive and awkward to get to.
  • It never had the coastal development seen in Spain.

Its only exposure is as the playground for Europe and North America’s super rich: Italian Prime Minister/media magnate, Microsoft founders, footballers (“soccer” players), F1 team owners - and it relies much on domestic tourism. Use of the English language is patchy (to say the least). In line with Mediterranean tradition, outside the tourist zones/seasons, businesses and attractions close at 1:00 pm (for the owners to have “pranzo” and an afternoon nap). The main “tourist” season literally extends from the middle of September to the end of August as the mainland Italians escape their Milam and Rome offices.

Why Sardinia should make your list

  • Its pre-history is a hot bed for serious archaeologists to muse over the origins of the ancient and unique nuraghic settlements. (Barumini, Losa and many others).
  • The Roman sites at Tharros and Pula can be pleasantly and leisurely enjoyed in its original form without tripping over other tourists.
  • Historic defensive towns such as Cagliari (the capital), Bosa, Castelsardo, Alghero are great places to wander their old “centro storico”, get a drink, something to eat and take in some great coastal views from their battlements.

A journey inland or into the mountains will still feel like stepping back fifty years and “genuine” hospitality can still be found in its small towns. Aside from Cagliari and Sassari, the roads remain nice and clear. Although you get the occasional hot blooded Italian, the driving style is nothing like the mainland. Many Sardinians have the tendency to drive slowly, or even stop in the middle of the street for a chat.

Some of the best beaches and coastlines in Europe can be found here. Moreover, except in August, you can easily find plenty of space and may even find your own “private” cove or beach. Although English is not widely used, you have a chance to hear the ancient Sardinian language (with its own dialects), widely used (most Sardinians do speak Italian).

Fresh meat and local wines and cheeses are surprisingly good. Aside from the Costa Smeralda, property, food and general cost of living is still affordable.

What to Avoid

  • August
  • Unless it’s really your thing (and you have the funds!) the Costa Smeralda.
  • Isolated resort complexes
  • Trying to see the whole island in a week

What to Do in Sardinia

  • Hire a car
  • Either have one central base or develop a small itinerary (the joys of Slow Travelling!)
  • Combine coast and interior
  • Unless you are vegetarian, sample a large, long and reasonably priced meal in an “agritourismo” (farm restaurant)
  • Just say “buongiorno” and enjoy the hospitality

Peter is the founder of two sites that provide 360 degree photographs of Sardinia (www.360sardinia.net) and just recently added, Tuscany (www.360tuscany.net).

 

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