With no direct flight from Manchester, our ‘Island Escape’ actually starts in Rome, with a hire car and about five hours until our flight out to Sardegna. We hit the road as soon as we could get the keys from Hertz and off we went, to spend the afternoon at the beautiful town of Castel Gandolfo.
Alex had told us great things about this lakeside village. He spent a day last Summer with our cousin and some friends cooling off in the waters of ‘Lago Albano’. Kristian and I followed his lead. We spent a few hours on a big, red pedalo in the centre of the lake, swimming in solitude (or some may call it skinny dipping) surrounded by those quintessentially Italian Cyprus trees, incredulous that we were a mere 30 minute drive from the centre of bustling Rome.
We had lunch a delicious lunch in the quaint town, which was so quiet with barely anyone around (again, we were amazed that we were so close to Rome) before jumping back in the car and hitting it to the airport. Then off we flew to Italy’s second largest island.
Our seven days on the island were the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation. We had days where we did nothing but lounge on the beach, followed by pizza and gelato in the town in the evenings. Other days consisted of heading out to gorgeous beaches accessible only by boat, and swimming and snorkelling for hours in and out of caves and along the stunning rocky shorelines.
Just like in most of Italy, no one is ever in a rush in Sardegna. People take their time. They don’t worry. They enjoy their surroundings. . They eat their lunch with a glass of wine in hand. They have an afternoon siesta. They stroll around the town hand in hand on mild summer evenings.
We settled into this pace of life within hours of arriving, sitting poolside at our b&b with a bottle of Cannanau, (the famous local red wine of Sardegna) watching the sun set over the beautiful hills of Olmedo, a small town just outside of Alghero. The perfect start to an amazing holiday.
We spent day two in Stintino, on the very well known beach of ‘La Pelosa’. Translated as ‘The Hairy Woman’, it was actually much more stunning than the name would suggest. Although the main beach was pretty packed, we found ourselves a quiet little spot around the corner and took our first blissful summer swim in the clear waters of the Mediterranean.
After a few hours and with hunger creeping in we made our way to a gorgeous little shop where we bought some local salami, cheese and preserved artichokes (yuuuummm!) We also made sure to grab some of the famous ‘Pane Carasau’ or ‘Carta di Musica’, a very crunchySardinian flatbread that was traditionally eaten by the shepherds. If you would like to watch a dorky but informative video of the bread, click here The way it’s cooked is pretty amazing.
We took our delicious bounty to another random beach and devoured it under our broken beach umbrella, embracing the trickle of olive oil from the artichokes running down our arms. It was as scrumptious as it sounds. We rinsed off and then headed back to the beautiful capital city to explore a bit more.
The historic centre of Alghero is stunning. Perched alongside the ocean and steeped in history, we marvelled at everything we saw, Kristian particularly in awe of the giant catapults dotted around the city.
We spent the afternoon strolling down the gorgeous alleyways, admiring something beautiful at every turn.
Our second evening on the island finished on the beach at Alghero, watching some kids playing soccer as the sun set over the water.
The following morning we got up early to beat the heat and did the most spectacular walk along Capo Caccia Vertical Cliffs. We trekked along steps carved into the cliffside. It was pretty amazing.
On the third day, we headed south We stopped in the medieval town of Bosa where we devoured the most delicious roasted chicken and potatoes. Think of the best chicken and potatoes you’ve ever had and then imagine them better. Yeah. Delicious, right? I don’t know why I am constantly surprised by the fact that any food that an Italian lays their hands on turns into magic, but it still gets me. We also sweated our way up the stairs to a pretty amazing castle.
But Bosa shall forever remain the medieval town where I had the best roast chicken and potatoes of my life.
Our journey that day finished in the teeny tiny beach side town of ‘Torre del Pozzo’. We stayed at the most charming b&b with a gorgeous little, old lady called Mariangela and her husband. She reminded me of my Nanna, so welcoming and friendly and genuinely happy to have us. A really lovely soul.
On her recommendation we headed just across the street to the local beach. We spent the afternoon frolicking in the clear waves not too far from a naked old man and his very young naked partner. When I say ‘not too far’, what I’, saying is ‘far too close’. We saw things that can’t be unseen. They were pretty stunned (and we were very humoured) when we ended up having dinner, not only at the same restaurant, but at the table behind us. They were even more stunned (and we were even more humoured) when they found us in the morning eating breakfast on Mariangela’s terrace, where they had also stayed. I’m not sure they expected to ever see us again while they were rather confidently strutting their stuff on the beach. Let’s just say, they couldn’t look us in the eye!
Let’s bring this back to the table… Mariangela’s breakfast deserves it’s own paragraph because she poured so much love and care into it. She offered us everything from custard filled croissants to local prosciutto and cheese with bread still warm from the bakery down the road. We enjoyed every mouthful and she relished in us enjoying what she had prepared. That’s why Italian food tastes so good. It’s the love in it.
We were sad to only have evening with that lovely lady, but on we went. Before heading to the other side of the island, we spent a bit of time at the glorious beach of ‘San Giovanni di Sinis’.
From the water you could see ruins of huge ‘Nuraghe’, ancient, circular constructions. They are scattered all throughout Sardegna and no one knows who put them there, or what purpose they served, they just know that they are really old. And so we swam whilst taking in history.
Our next destination was a rustic agriturismo in the town of Dorgali, about 20 minutes from the very popular beachside town of Cala Gonone. I was pretty excited about this stop as I had read lots of wonderful things about the place we would be staying. In short, an agriturismo is kind of like a ‘farm stay’ but much more amazing than it sounds.
As we pulled in to the driveway, we weren’t really sure what to expect. We approached the gates which had dribbling, blue spray paint scrawled with the words ‘Su Tiresi’, the name of the agristurismo. We noticed that someone had accidentally left out a 'e' on one side and had ‘very discretely’ amended their error. Not a great first impression.
We got to the top of the driveway to find a couple of very rustic looking dwellings. Up came a guy dressed in his farm clothes and gumboots with a piece of paper and a pen. I explained that we had a reservation and saw ‘Russo’ scribbled across his paper, with a couple of other surnames. No need for a computer system in Dorgali. I pointed out our name and he ticked us off his list, gave us a key and brought us to our room.
At this point, we weren’t really sold on the place to be perfectly honest. As we drove down to the beach, I considered just not going back. But we stuck to our guns as I thought back to all the glowing reviews the Italians had given this place. Surely it would be worth it.
My, oh, my were we glad we had stayed. At around 8.30pm we headed over to the little restaurant and that’s when the magic happened! Four courses of absolute deliciousness, all from the fields and paddocks surrounding us! Absolute Heaven! We rolled down to our room, slept it off and then devoured breakfast, which included the most scrumptious homemade yogurt.
With very full and satisfied bellies we drove down to Cala Gonone. We organised to hire a boat the previous day to explore the east coast of the island, from Cala Gonone to Cala Goloritze and the magnificent beaches in between. This area is only accessible by boat. They are quite possibly the most stunning beaches we have ever seen.
We had done a bit of shopping before setting out and enjoyed our lunch on our little boat. It was just the best. Seriously.
After a long day of beach hopping, we headed back and went straight back to the agristurismo for an afternoon siesta before devouring another four course dinner. This was without a doubt our favourite 24 hours on the island. Beach, food, beach, food is how it went down.
After another glorious breakfast, we headed north to ‘La Costa Smeralda’, the ‘Emerald Coast’. We broke up the two hour drive with a stop at a beach near San Teodoro. It was pretty tough to find a beach that matched the pristine waters on the east coast. We arrived at our final destination, Santa Teresa di Gallura on the north of the island. We had heard that it gets fairly busy in this part of Sardegna but we didn’t really feel that in the cosy little town we stayed. Our b&b was right across the road from the very popular beach ‘Rena Bianca’. It was quite busy but that crystal blue water and golden sand quickly made the people around us unnoticeable. We really took it easy in Santa Teresa. It was literally breakfast, beach, lunch, beach, siesta, dinner, evening stroll, gelato, bed for two days straight. We loved every second of it.
We found the greatest pizza place churning out the most delicious crunchy base and fresh toppings. I’m not ashamed to say that we ate there a few times during our two day stay!
We especially enjoyed it takeaway style sitting in the piazza, pizza on lap, watching people passing by/chasing after their kids/eating ice cream.
Speaking of ice cream, we had the most delicious gelato made with a base of olive oil instead of milk. Let me tell you, it was friggin amazeballs! You never would have guessed it was dairy free! The gelataria is well known for their ice cream in Santa Teresa and was always bustling. We relished every velvety mouthful.
On our last day in Sardegna, we made a few pit stops as we slowly made our way back to the airport. As we drove through the countryside there were signs everywhere indicating farm shops. There was no doubt in our minds what our final lunch would be. After passing way too many ‘Formaggi’ and ‘Salami’ signs, we stopped at a gorgeous, little shop where we stocked up on some goodies for our lunch.
There was fresh fruit and vegetables galore outside the shop front. We couldn’t leave without the reddest, most fragrant cherry tomatoes! Inside I wanted to buy everything, but settled for their homemade salami, sheep’s cheese and freshly baked ciabatta. The highlight was the silky, white cheese, very similar to Stracchino cheese in texture as it was very soft and creamy, but it had a unique flavour to it as it had been fermented with yoghurt. I got into a long discussion with the lovely owners who explained the process to us.
They indicated the big wheels of pecorino and other hard cheeses that had been aged for much longer. You could tell they were very passionate about their produce and I loved listening to them talk about it!
So we ate our final Sardinian lunch on the waterfront at Castelsardo before making the final trek back to the airport. We spent another evening in Rome, walking around our favourite area, Monti.
Sardegna is one of those places in Italy that is quite often overlooked in favour of the more popular Amalfi coast or Tuscan countryside. So let’s just keep this place a secret. This beautiful island steeped in history and tradition with white sand beaches, crystal clear water, stunning countryside and amazing people. Let’s not tell anyone just how good it is. Then maybe when we go back, perhaps with a few children in tow, it will still be (in our opinion) one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean.
Rosticceria Gastronomia Tedde- Viale Giovanni XXIII 25, 08013 Bosa
Very casual takeaway place with the best chicken and potatoes ever! They also offer a range of different pastas, eggplant parmigiana, salads and other goodies. Really lovely people serving freshm delicious and affordable food. Perfect for a quick lunch before/after exploring beautiful Bosa.
Agriturismo Su Tiresi- SS 125 Km. 213.700, Dorgali NU
Although I would highly recommend staying at this lovely farm, if you are passing through you can pop in for dinner. You do need to book beforehand as they prepare everything fresh. We had four magnificent courses two nights in a row. Over the two evenings we sampled their fresh, sweet olive oil and vinegar, bread, ravioli, roast pork, roast lamb and delicious desserts all grown/pressed/cooked/baked on the farm. You can't really get much better than that! Zero food miles=maximum freshness and flavour. Note: It can be a bit tricky to find. The address above indicates that it is on SS (Strada Statale) 125. There are markers on the side of the road indicating how many kilometres up the road it is. So look for marker 213 and then drive 700m. It'll make sense when you're there!
Pizzeria La Lucciola- Via Maria Teresa, 42, Santa Teresa di Gallura
The pizza here is something else! Different to the classic Neopolitan style pizza with its golden bubbles and ridiculously thin base, the pizza at La Lucciola is crunchy and golden with just the right thickness. They had some delicious toppings on offer and I was enlightened by the minimal use of napoletana sauce as a base. Instead they piled on different veggies like sautéed broccoli, sweet, thinly sliced onions and flavoursome mushrooms, to name a few (see photo above). The dough was so good it inspired me to go home and further perfect my pizza base (I'm on my way FYI, recipe coming soon). You can enjoy your pizza slices on the terrace upstairs, or take it away and eat it on the beach/in the piazza/ in the gardens.
Azienda Agricola Lu Colbu- SS Castelsardo S.Teresa di Gallura, Loc. Lu Colbu, Trinita` D'Agultu e Vignola
Amazing, little farm shop that sells all their homemade produce direct from their farm. They specialise in cheese and typical Sardinian desserts. It was hard not walking away with bags full of stuff! They offer fresh and preserved produce, cheese, cold cuts, bread, olive oil- pretty much everything you would need for an amazing lunch! There are many of these places scattered around the island so be sure to stop in when you see a 'formaggi' sign!