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Sardinia! You Gotta Go!! 8 nights. October

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Sardinia! You Gotta Go!! 8 nights. October

Old Oct 31st, 2018, 06:19 AM
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Sardinia! You Gotta Go!! 8 nights. October

Oct. 10 - Oct. 18
We flew Ryan Air from Bologna to Alghero as the fifth leg in a 6-week European vacation.
We rented a Fiat 500 at the Alghero Airport and stayed in airbnb apartments in Alghero and Cagliari, each for 4 nights. For most visitors, this is a beach destination, since there are so many beautiful beaches. We had considered at least one partial beach day on our last day, but the afternoon weather turned wet.

This report includes:

Alghero
Neputune’s Grotto
Porto Torres
Castelsardo
Porto Cervo
Olbia
Bosa
Tharros
Oristano
Seulo
Cagliari
Porto Flavia
Sant’Antioco
Pula
Barumini
Villasimius
Poetto Beach

Day One.
Two new airports for us. Both Bologna and Alghero are small modern airports, and, at least for the busier Bologna, it has a few good eating places. The hour plus flight from Bologna to Alghero itself included the worst turbulence we ever experienced, two drops, the second one feeling like what our stomachs during Disney’s Tower of Terror fall years ago. The captain quickly prepared us for it, and the worst of it lasted maybe 10 seconds, but time enough for lots of screaming, including many shouted prayers in Italian. That part was unsettling.

When we flew low onto the island, we first realized how big Sardinia really is, and we could see mountains in every direction. We like mountains and the sea and good weather, so, at least for our 8 days here, Sardinia more than delivered on it all. Our very inexpensive car rental was smooth and easy, thanks to an elderly employee who kept apologizing for his English as he delivered a quick and efficient experience. We were so impressed with him, we asked him his name, and he grabbed our documents and autographed them with a big flourish, and we will always remember PierLuigi (Peter Louis).

The early evening drive of several miles into Alghero was easy; our google offline maps proved to be a big asset. We booked an apartment a bit out of the old town area, but it was an upscale, meticulously clean, almost brand new, contemporary 2-story penthouse with a great terrace and mountain views for under $100 with all fees. The old town was maybe a 15 minute walk, and we like walking. The host couple spoke little English, but warmly showed us our place and our gated parking spot, a nice plus in cities like this.

The old city in the evening is active and is brightly lit, with lots and lots of large cylindrical lanterns, each made out of a different fabric with what looked like a bicycle spoke on the bottom. Many of the shops specialize in selling jewelry made from local red coral. There were tons of restaurants, few English speaking voices; and it seemed like the tourists were mostly Italians. We did see a fair number of Swiss license plates on the island. When we did hear English while in Sardinia, it usually was spoken by Aussies, Brits or those with German as their first language, who found it was easier to communicate in English. Any time, we paid for a ticket at a tourist site, we were asked where we were from, and invariably the ticket taker expressed surprise at having visitors from the US. We liked that.

Day Two.
We were up early to get our first daylight view of Alghero, a busy city with lots of newer areas, but with its old city, still looking every bit the fortress that it has been for 900 years. We found the waterfront to be close to our apartment, and there is a nice scenic promenade that exits at the old town. The old city looked even better in the morning; we were looking for the Catalan influences that impacted the town, since its fortress was conquered hundreds of years ago and the Spanish influence changed the culture and language. Those influences were not obvious to us, and we were told that the unique local dialect is disappearing. We walked the city walls, most still intact, where there are several really big catapults and cannons, all looking ready for action. Except for a fleet of tour boats, the harbor is full of pleasure boats, and has two views, one back to the modern city and the other to the unspoiled peninsula, which will be the focus of our day.

We have seen a number of cannabis shops in Italy selling a “lighter” and legal version of weed. In Alghero, we spotted the first 24-hour service, with two vending machines full of products that, it seems, a 6 year-old can buy. Around town, we saw large photos on some walls of elderly citizens, centenarians in an island that claims more per capita than anywhere else in the world.

We watched the village come alive, grabbed a pastry and fresh oj at a busy cafe just outside the old town, and headed by car for the world famous Neptune’s Grotto, often mentioned by some as a bucket list must see. We drove through parkland, with very slow speed limits, for miles, before arriving at an area with few parking spaces.

It seems most arrivals to the grotto are by boat from Alghero. That is partly because the grotto is a long walk down, a breathtaking 656 steep steps down (and “down” isn’t the difficulty for many; it’s the trip back “up”). For us, the grotto was worth every step. It is said to be one of the largest marine caves in the world, stalactites and stalagmites and an underwater salt lake. You have to go in with a tour guide, one tour each hour in both Italian and English, so, for us, there was time to wait, just inside the cave. The wait offered excitement watching the tour boat retrieve guests from the prior tour. On this day, the seas seemed relatively calm, but the air and water near the cave flush in and out, making it very difficult for a large tour boat, that adds its own waves to the mix, to navigate the tiny inlet. The boat is tied with just enough rope to make it seem like those returning passengers, some attempting selfies while boarding, might not make it on the ramp, whose wheels are slipping and sliding across the wet rocks with each wave. The colorful (partly thanks to good lighting) limestone formations have created massive caverns, easily large enough to hold the large tour groups. Spectacular. The tour takes you on a path through various rooms, each of which has earned a name influenced by its breathtaking formations. that have been created over millions of years. And, the walk back up the stairs wasn’t that bad. There were many beautiful photo ops throughout the parkland, and that made the contrast with our next stop all the more telling.

We drove to Porto Torres, one of several major ports on the island. The very quiet roads we had been driving quickly became loaded with huge trucks coming from the direction of the port, signaling that a large ferry had arrived there. When we got closer, we realized that this also was a major industrial port with such things as chemical industries. Several large ferries, one with Batman logos all over it, sit in the harbor. We walked a couple blocks in what is essentially an unattractive old town, and then decided this side trip was a bust.

Back home, we took a sunset walk along the waterfront in Alghero and noticed a busy little bar down a set of stairs built on a little spit of land, almost like a dock. It looked like a local spot for admiring the sunset, and we joined with an Aperol Spritz, watching surf crashing and the sky lighting up with more and more reds, oranges and pinks, well after the sun went down. It doesn’t get any better. We followed that with dinner in the old town with two types of pasta, one with a locally caught tuna.

Day Three.
We got an early driving start to check out the northeastern part of the island. The roads in Sardinia are mixed, but not the third world conditions that some travel pundits might paint. There are areas that are bumpy and full of potholes (but we have seen worse at various times on interstates in Pennsylvania) and the roads are generally narrow and, as with some other areas of Italy, without shoulders. But we found some really good, albeit narrow, roads even in very remote areas. All roads in the north seem to run through the sprawling university city of Sassari. We drove around it several times in our few days in this area, and perhaps our only regret was our failure to check out its old city. On a quiet road near there, we came to a quick halt when we encountered sheep, literally hundreds of them, crossing the road under the guidance of a mellow shepherd and his dog.

Our first scheduled stop this day is a hill town, Castelsardo, with its castle commanding a position over the coastline along the north shore. Despite the perfect weather, we were almost the only tourists and had virtually sole run of he 800 year-old Doria Castle, which had room after room of baskets woven by locals over the years. Basket weaving continues. Outside, many elderly women were selling homemade baskets on the door stoops of their homes. You get used to saying “no” to street vendors, disturbing you at dinner trying to sell junk. It was harder saying “no” to these smiling old women as they called to us (as one of their few chances for sale that day), but our carry-ons just didn’t have any extra space. Below a cathedral on a dramatic cliff, there is a large green area bordering a fortress wall. Just outside the village, we came upon the second nuraghe of the day, sort of the remains of a tower, one of 7,000 ancient (as in 3,000 - 4,000 years old) buildings scattered around the island.

To get across the island, we had our first experience climbing narrow mountain roads with one hair-pin turn after another. Not so difficult, since traffic was close to nil. Some of the mountains resembled the Rockies to us, and the mountains, valleys, farms and small hill towns, and there were a lot of all of them, were unmarred. Neat. No junk. And mile after mile of unspoiled beauty. As the week progressed, we would find this to be the case in every corner of Sardinia and everything in-between.

We eventually found our way to the most glamorous resort town on the island, Porto Cervo, a regular hang out for the rich, famous and the paparazzi who follow them. It was post-season, so the spacious underground parking garage was free and virtually empty. Unlike everywhere else, there was nothing old here. Perfect flowers and landscaping. Flawless and, in some cases, massive villas make up this town created in the mid 20th century by billionaires for people like them. The high end boutiques, with all the fancy international names, are neatly scattered in several clusters around the otherwise small village, and all were closed. The only activity at a few was last minute preparation for shipping inventory elsewhere. But, it’s still a beautiful place. An architecturally unusual looking church has a Greek feel and is perched above the harbor that, at this time, has mostly modest yachts. In the distance, we see what we believe to be Corsica.

We weren’t prepared for the 20 or so mile drive down the coast to Olbia. It is so breathtaking, we had to pull off a dozen times. One distant rock mountain reminded us of the Rock of Gibraltar. We believe it’s part of an island south of Olbia, and is one area of the island we did not explore. Olbia, a large city, had easy parking on this Friday late afternoon. The old city consisted largely of one long pedestrian street with a few small off-shoots, but it was busy, full of restaurants. We went for pizza, pasta and gelato from three related storefronts with inviting “healthy” and “natural” messaging. It was a long drive back, so we called it a night when we got home.

Day Four.
Last fall, we took one of the best coastal drives we have ever taken in the Campania area of southern Italy. This morning, our drive south of Alghero on the west coast was very reminiscent of that. Cliffside driving, sharp turns, little traffic and stunning park-like scenery. And, another perfect weather day. Some call Bosa one of the prettiest villages in Italy. That is exaggerated, but It is nice, with brightly colored houses ranging from those right along the river near the main street up the hill to the castle on top. There is a typical grand cathedral near the river, with black and white marble floors that provide a tricky 3D effect that makes the floors seem heaved, even when photographed. The castle is mostly about the grounds: the castle walls you can walk and the mostly open grounds with pecan, citrus, and olive trees. A little church in the middle has some nice old frescoes that have only been uncovered in recent years. The views from the castle, as expected, are exceptional.

As we headed to our car on the fringes of the old town, we spotted a shop with a glowing fire pit roasting chickens. We bought some chicken and, best of all, really good roasted potatoes for our next picnic, which turned out to be minutes away by the beach below the town.

The land further south to Oristano was still stunning but a little more developed. We passed Cuglieri (not to be confused with our more famous next day’s destination of Cagliari) and were captivated by a monster church that stretched over a hill above the sloped town. We drove past acres and acres of artichoke plants.

We saw a sign for Tharros, a UNESCO site, that was on our list. The many ruins are from a community that thrived here from roughly 800 BC to 1,000 AD or 1800 years. Two Roman columns, one with its original Corinthian capital, or top, still stand firm against the sea with a backdrop of a few bobbing sailboats. This was a fairly large area of ruins on a very scenic peninsula, and it was worth the entrance fee.

Not far away was Oristano, which we heard was worth a visit. It was just okay. There is a great duomo, but, it is very, very quiet, at least mid-afternoon on this Saturday. We walked most of the streets; saw some whimsical art downtown; but there just wasn’t much there, at least for us tourists. We returned to Alghero a different way, with more divided roads but enjoyed more of the beauty of the center of this island.

Day Five.
Off to our next base Cagliari. We decided to take the long way, one that more than doubled the usual three hour drive. On little roads over one mountain after the next. Some of the mountainsides were covered with cactus, full of what must be a million prickly pears. The curves and turns were so awesome to contemplate, we frequently took screen shots of our google itinerary because we had never seen anything like it. We felt alone as we saw dramatic scenery, lofty but empty bridges, lakes, and at least one road that could barely fit one car and made the fortunately few oncoming cars a very challenging operation. With rocks, cliffs, public forests, roads snaking and circling up and down mountains, and isolated villages, this area was as gorgeous as anyplace we have ever been.

Part of our reason for heading this way was to check out Seulo, a little mountain village that claims to be the healthiest place on earth, simply because they have the highest per capita rate of centenarians. They have welcome signs that proudly mention this “blue zone” status. On this Sunday, there was little activity in this town with the narrow road through its center. The tiny village did have a little one room office that appeared to be sort of tourist office (it is called an EcoMuseum for the Flumendosa River area) but it’s part info-point and a way to emphasize its blue zone status, largely with large wall photos of some past and present 100 year-olds. Unlike most info-points (there were two people in this small space), there was no English spoken despite their very friendly welcome. And, we didn’t find the key to the fountain of youth, perhaps its genetics in a very insular area; maybe socializing; perhaps the connection to the land; maybe lack of stress; or lack of pollution; even fruits and vegetables that they know where they come from; maybe their overall diet. But we clearly were the only people peeking into their space on that day.

We began to notice what looked like active rail tracks and small stations and crossings for what appear to be a narrow gauge railway. Sardinia used to have a lot of them, in addition to a few major rail lines, to service its small communities. And, a few lines remain. We were alerted by signs with a choo-choo graphic, but we noticed that there are no barriers or lights at these crossings. We guess you simply have to look both ways, and hopefully these trains have good brakes.

Our only other concern on this day was gasoline. We had an economy car, but with a small tank. It helped to use the neutral gear dozens of times during the day to coast down mountain roads, but the equal number of steep climbs negated this effort. We were getting low, with unfamiliar gauges, and began to ask for help finding a station. It was Sunday, and the first one we were sent to was out of fuel. A young man there pointed in our direction and suggested we would find no gas. We took a chance, and, as we were really getting nervous, found an unmanned station that offered self service. It didn’t like our credit card, and we begged a lady pumping some diesel to help us figure out how to pay cash and have it applied to our pump. With her assistance, we put in enough cash to securely get us to Cagliari, where we had been directed to a parking garage by our next host.

We initially thought it fortunate that our garage was directly under the old city where we were staying. But soon we realized we would be lugging our bags a distance, because the normal access points and elevators were all under re-construction. Our apartment was in a medieval building, and had been renovated to feel like our dream Italian abode. Large shutters, high beamed ceilings, and everything clean and white. The perfect combination of new and old. The hilltop “Castello” doesn’t really have a castle, but it’s a medieval walled area that sits high above this large seaside city. To our surprise, although there are nice buildings, including the typically striking cathedral, this was not where most of the action is in the area.

Instead, we headed for the Marina District, which, although we took a longer route, is about a 15-minute walk away. The busy waterfront was full of yachts and naval ships, but across from it was another older area, which is the center of culinary activity for Cagliari. There were Roman ruins, shops and restaurants, some that looked upscale. But they were priced right. We opted for pasta and whole sea bass that could not have been prepared any better. On our return, we found another busy area for eating and drinking, in a big square, full of young people, adjacent and below the Castello quarter.

Day Six.
First off, we wanted to see more of Cagliari, the Villanova area on one side of the Castello, the public market and the old Roman amphitheater, which is maybe 15 minutes from us. The amphitheater was built in the 100’s, was used for fights between gladiators and other gladiators, as well as animals, and it was a site of public executions. We are unsure when or if you can walk into the property, but we had to view it through a chain link fence. We had seen a bit of the Villanova area the previous night, nicer shops, a fewer restaurants and cafes; and this morning, we walked through empty streets of perfectly renovated homes in this ancient quarter. They say it’s the newest of the old quarters, but some parts are 800 years old. Many of the pastel-colored homes are covered with plants and flowers. A nice old cafe provides our daily croissant and oj.

A bit further away is the two-story San Benedetto market. It’s in a typical unattractive urban area. The main floor offers fruits, cheeses, meats and veggies, and we pick up some fruit. On a lower floor, though, we found a huge fish market. For whatever reason, maybe because it was Monday, there were only a few vendors on this morning, but each of the many spaces is wide and everything (counters, walls, cutting stations) is marble, making it easy to cut, display and wash seafood.

Today’s car tour would take us to the southwest coast, where we first saw a number of abandoned lead and silver mines, making some places like Iglesias an important large and prosperous area in Medieval times. In fact, Sardinian mining has a history that pre-dates Christ. Remnants of that industry can be seen all over this region, where most of them, buildings, ruins, and villages are now being preserved.

The coastal drive offers magnificent views, some green water, little islands and eventually the high cliffs of Porto Flavia. This area is so beautiful, including cliffs with varying hues of oranges and pinks, that we took numerous photos that simply look more like paintings than photos. Porto Flavia is a newer mine, maybe 100 years old. It was closed, maybe for siesta, when we were there, but they do offer tours of that mine and its tunnels, where they explain its history of loading lead and iron onto ships via tunnels and a mechanical arm. We were among a handful of people, who still enjoyed some of the trails in the area, which includes a small beach and two restaurants. A large stand of light green Italian umbrella pine trees is an attractive addition to the landscape.

As we headed back south, we took a quick stop in ho-hum Portoscuso, where there are expansive views of Sant’Antico, a large island community across the bay. That looked like an interesting city, and we walked many streets and then the large wide tiled waterfront promenade. But it was siesta time and little was open, as in the case in areas that don’t attract a lot of tourists.

We traveled on another stretch of dramatic roadway through a public forest that led us to Pula and the nearby ruins of Nora. Some of the ruins were visible, but, as we approached the ticket office to gain entry to even more, we heard some close thunder and decided it wise to head back to our car.

We came back via an industrial area of Cagliari, including a large oil refinery, and, in the distance, we saw large piles of sea salt that is still being produced here. We decided to have dinner close to home and found a friendly local spot that, for some reason, seated us in a special place. A local male hairdresser owned the restaurant and a salon; there was a room between the two, where there was a shelf of hair care products but also a contemporary dining table and six chairs, decorated with two lanterns, each with a large wide lit candle. They beckoned us there, and we had tasty lasagna and salad. We were intrigued by the ceiling beams above us that were a little thinner than usual and basically looked like sections of mis-shaped and crooked old trees, bent and curved. Being skeptical, we asked if this were structural or just art. The owner did not speak English, so we both worked our way through hand signs, as he invited us deep into the basement of this ancient building, located next to the Castello’s Elephant Tower. The tower is still decorated with a marble elephant statue from medieval days. The lookout tower, built by Pisans, was used for hangings, even placing certain heads high up on stakes, and later it was a prison. The basement of this restaurant/hair salon, was once part of this prison, and the owner showed us immense stone work below the building that was part of this. And the ceilings in the basement were all built with the same mis-shaped trees, but these all close together. And, all these beams ARE structural and hundreds of years old and, we were told, they were a Sardinian thing.

Day Seven.
We previously mentioned seeing some nuraghe, those ancient forts or dwellings that we have, by this time, seen many of. Easy to do since there are 7,000 of them. All are made of local stone and were originally shaped like towers, but, in the 3,000 or more years since most were created, the tops have fallen off and what remains are mostly the lower part of the cone of stones.

Today, we traveled to Barumini, a complex of ruins. From a distance, you might wonder how very many people could fit into these towers, but an up-close visit to Barumini shows that, at least, some of these were quite large. Coming into town, we notice castle ruins on a small hilltop across the valley. The town itself has a museum worth visiting that is part of the entry fee to see this famous nuraghe. The large nuraghe can only be visited with a tour guide, and we had to wait an hour for an English guide, so the museum was a perfect filler and more. The in-town Casa Zapata property includes the village church, a museum, and the best part, a noble’s villa. It is built on top of a 2,000 plus year-old nuraghe, which can be seen through elevated and glass walkways in the villa itself. The nuraghe tower/fortress itself is mostly intact, at least the bottom two thirds. The large stones are exactly as originally placed, simply rock on top of rock, nothing else. It doesn’t look it from outside, but several tour groups are able to go into the nuraghe at one time and navigate its several rooms without too much difficulty. The main room has a very deep well, which would have been the center of this place, which probably started out with a military purpose and later turned into a community use, as a little village was built around it. There are ruins of this village, Pompeii-style, just older. You can still see signs of seats in a gathering room, referred to as the Parliament.

From Barumini, we headed toward the southeast coast, again on roads with limited traffic. Vehicle traffic anyway. Another group of hundreds of sheep were being herded down the road straight at us. We simply pulled over onto some grass until the herd went by us. A little later, we had to stop while several cows, that got out of their enclosure, were being rounded up in the middle of the road. Out in what seemed like nowhere, we found a Lidl grocery, bought some decent french bread and cold cuts and stopped for a picnic lunch, as we headed toward more large stretches of agriculture, imposing mountains, exhilarating roads (and even an occasional tunnel) and dramatic coastline.

We saw one community still cleaning a big mess up from floods and mudslides that hit this area days earlier, while we enjoyed delightful weather just a few hours away. We also saw damage, erosion, rock slides, and road washouts as remnants of this storm in many other coastal areas as well.

Once on the coast, we first saw resort-style homes filling the hillsides in Muravera. We also saw some gated communities with stone homes and tile roofs. There are numerous pull-outs offering panoramic views of the beaches and islands, including the long Isla Serpentara. Villasimius is the most notable, and one the largest stretches of, beach in this part of Sardinia. They say the beach is crowded in July and August, but, in mid-October, there were only a couple dozen people enjoying this lengthy stretch of soft sand. From high above, we observed several stretches of beautiful beaches, some in crescent coves.

Day Eight.
We decided to stay close to home and get ready for our flight the next day to France. Not far from our apartment was a 12 acre botanical garden. But, on the way, the Church of St. Michele, a 1700’s masterpiece, caught our attention with its nice gated facade and triple archway. The surprise inside is the two sacristy areas that seem like art galleries.

The botanical garden is a nice green space in this large city, and, to our surprise, it shared a wall with the Roman amphitheater, and that may explain a few ruins also found here. There is a big papyrus plant, lots of cactus, a palm forest and big trees that looked like banyans. The vegetable and herb gardens were a little disappointing, and an indoor area appeared to be closed.

A short drive away is the saline (or salt) park. It has a lot of bicycle and walking paths along the waterfront in one area where they used to process sea salt. Since the salt activities halted in this area, this large expanse of waterfront now has a focus on waterfowl which thrive here. The big draw for visitors are the many flamingos that can be seen in these salt ponds and lagoons. We have read that as many as 10,000 of these pink birds can nest here beginning in the spring as they travel from Africa to Europe. On our visit, we saw a couple dozen. We checked out Cagliari’s hometown beach, Poetto Beach, just as some rain moved in. On one end, there were two large abandoned buildings (former military hospital?) and on the other end two large beach lidos (or places with what looked like hundreds of private bath houses, almost looking like storage units), but offering other facilities like restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment. It is a huge stretch of wide sand beach with a stunning cliff area on one end and a few small restaurants in between.

Our day finished with warming up some calzones at home from a little one-man operation near our apartment. And, then packing for our early morning flight to Nantes, France.
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Old Oct 31st, 2018, 08:47 AM
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I've still not been but your report is pushing me closer!!
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Old Oct 31st, 2018, 10:02 AM
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This looks interesting! Bookmarking for later.
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Old Oct 31st, 2018, 01:02 PM
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Been on my wish list for a long time, and now moving closer to the top. Thank you.
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Old Nov 1st, 2018, 03:08 AM
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Another thank you for writing such an informative report. Do you have any photos posted anywhere?
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Old Nov 1st, 2018, 09:05 AM
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Many thanks for the excellent report. Brought back many good memories. The Scala di Cabirol down to the Grotto di Nettuno is not nearly as challenging as the number of steps implies. And as you say the views (therefore breaks) abound. The Cactus House at the botanical gardens in Cagliari was wonderful.
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Old Nov 1st, 2018, 01:52 PM
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Lots of cactus everywhere. I know people make jam and liquor from the cactus plant that produces prickly pears, but we never saw so much.
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Old Nov 1st, 2018, 01:59 PM
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Isabel,

I have had a couple brief occasions in my life where I have taken photos for professional purposes, but a number of years ago when my tripod was seized at the security checkpoint, as a possible weapon, at the Naples, Italy, airport (after not being a problem on the same trip in Tampa, New York and Paris), that, and the desire to travel as light as possible, prompted my wife and I to stick to IPhone photos. We average about 200 such photos each day, some just for "note-taking" or to recall things that meant something and, of course, a few pictures of ourselves for children/grandchildren. I have whittled down the 1,600 photos from Sardinia to about 550 and will private message you a link that should work. I may sound like I am apologizing for the photos, and some are nice; but, in the past, I have admired your very fine photography, and it's not at that level.
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Old Nov 1st, 2018, 02:50 PM
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Thanks whithehall. Your photos are great.
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Old Nov 19th, 2018, 07:20 AM
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Gracie motto Whitehall.

My wife and are are taking a 19 day drive around Sardinia in June-July and your trip report has helped us to refine our day to day activities.

This will be our return to Sardinia after 40 years and we expect it to be nothing like we remember in the days before the arrival of cruise ships.

gemma & Nick k
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Old Nov 19th, 2018, 07:22 AM
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[QUOTE=gemma_nick;16827750]Gracie motto Whitehall.

My wife and are are taking a 19 day drive around Sardinia in June-July and your trip report has helped us to refine our day to day activities.

This will be our return to Sardinia after 40 years and we expect it to be nothing like we remember in the days before the arrival of cruise ships.

gemma & nick
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Old Nov 20th, 2018, 07:24 AM
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Thank you. We were very lucky and do not recall seeing a single cruise ship anywhere (only a few ferries). They thin out a bit in October when we were there, but they will be there in June and July when you return. The really good thing, especially where you will be driving, you can easily get away from them. The island is so big and has many roads that are not bus friendly. If you drive over the many rural and mountain roads we navigated, you should see little difference from 40 years ago. We still are amazed at how little traffic we saw almost everywhere. You should find plenty to see and do in your 19 days. Anxious to hear how it works out.
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Old Nov 20th, 2018, 12:10 PM
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We once drove from Porto Torres to Santa Teresa and saw 4 cars on the road. That was a long way.

Did you get to La Maddelena islands or Corsica? There’s a revisit.
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Old Nov 20th, 2018, 03:33 PM
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We originally booked to go from Livorno to Santa Teresa di Gallura. Paid 100 euros for the ferry, booked lodging in Ajaccio and Bonifacio. But we found it difficult to get to Sardinia from there. Ferry to Santa Teresa is quick, but the only rental car place there we felt was a rip-off. Taxi to Olbia to get a more competitive rental ate up the difference, and it took an hour or so. Everything in Corsica was expensive to begin with. So much so that we instead were able to go to Florence and Bologna and fly from the latter to Sardinia, and we saved money even with some cancellation fees.

We drove to Porto Torres one day and found it one of the few places in Sardinia that we couldn't say anything kind about. But you are right, except for the trucks coming off one of the large ferries, we also saw no cars. If we had one more day, we did consider going to Santa Teresa for a day ferry to Bonifacio but kept reading about the possibility of high winds screwing up that possibility. We do want to see Corsica but will try to do that by air from France, where most discount flights seem to come from. We are hoping it is as much unspoiled as we found Sardinia.

Maddalena Island looks gorgeous. Have you been there? Is it primarily a beach and park destination or is there a village and the ability to comfortably stay there for a few days?

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Old Nov 22nd, 2018, 04:25 PM
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Correction: Livorno to Bastia, Corsica.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2019, 06:03 AM
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Thank you for your fabulous trip report. There are 6-7 of us in our early 60's from the US, traveling to Sardinia for one week in early March 2020. (One of us Italian-born who harvested coral in Sardinia in his teens -- first trip back.) We plan to rent a house, cook (two are chefs), maybe see a winery, tour and relax. We will drive to some sights, but plan to keep to about a one to two hour distance from the house. We might like to be near the sea to walk on the beach. We would love a place where we could walk to a restaurant for dinner when we don't want to cook. We will be flying, probably connecting in Rome. What area do you recommend we stay... someplace withing an hour of one of the airports? Thanks in advance for your first-hand recommendations.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2019, 06:55 AM
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In your earlier post, you had mentioned public transportation, so I was thinking Cagliari, a very large city, might offer the best opportunities for that. And, there were many nice restaurants in the marina area. However, if you will have a car, I think we preferred Alghero, a smaller, more quaint, village and some of the spectacular sights, like the Neptune’s Grotto, within an easy drive. The coral industry here likely is the area where your travel-mate may have worked. The area near Olbia has some nice beaches and awesome scenery but it seemed sprawling to us and mostly too modern for our likes. Sardinia is huge, and if you want to relax, you will have to focus on just one of these areas.

I believe air service from Rome is cheaper to Cagliari and Olbia. We found that flights from Milan and Bologna (and Pisa on limited days) were quite inexpensive to Alghero.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2019, 03:04 PM
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Great trip report!

Thanks, whitehall, for your informative trip report. I was following along with Google Maps to get my bearings so it was fun to read. Sardinia is likely to be the second leg of a 3-4 week stay in Italy.

You mentioned a recent "spectacular coastal trip in Campania." Can you say where it was exactly? Also, in Cagliari, you mention that the area with lots of restaurants was "across from the Marina District" but I couldn't quite understand what that meant exactly. Do you have street names at all? I don't think we will stay in the area, but I would like to visit the salt park and flamingoes. I am not all that interested in ruins, so I was contemplating staying in the more "modern" areas near Costa Smeralda (maybe on the outskirts if it is so expensive). We are interested in natural beauty, wineries, culinary experiences. Which areas have you visited which would be most akin to that? TIA.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2019, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Redlandsneen View Post
Thanks, whitehall, for your informative trip report. I was following along with Google Maps to get my bearings so it was fun to read. Sardinia is likely to be the second leg of a 3-4 week stay in Italy.

You mentioned a recent "spectacular coastal trip in Campania." Can you say where it was exactly? Also, in Cagliari, you mention that the area with lots of restaurants was "across from the Marina District" but I couldn't quite understand what that meant exactly. Do you have street names at all? I don't think we will stay in the area, but I would like to visit the salt park and flamingoes. I am not all that interested in ruins, so I was contemplating staying in the more "modern" areas near Costa Smeralda (maybe on the outskirts if it is so expensive). We are interested in natural beauty, wineries, culinary experiences. Which areas have you visited which would be most akin to that? TIA.
Thank you for your kind comments. I can’t emphasize enough how large and how rural the island is. And, it is fairly slow going, but we love roaming the countryside and that we did. We didn’t visit any wineries but had a lot of great wine. Here is a good report on wineries: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/it...e-to-sardinia/

You didn’t say what time of year you were going. We found the Costa Smerelda area to be almost a ghost town when we were there in the fall. I am sure it is packed in July/August.

Our son and his family were in Sardinia a few weeks ago (still warm enough for a swim), but since they have a toddler they wanted a more leisurely visit. They originally picked Cagliari (and we didn’t want to impose our opinions) but at the last minute, they changed everything including flights and stayed, much like we did in Alghero and Cagliarti, two entirely different experiences. And, they were glad they did. Cagliari is a big city and a place I would avoid if you are just looking to see salt areas and flamingoes. Frankly, over-rated. There are beautiful beach areas and breathtaking roads to the north and east along the coast.The best food, though, we did find was in the Marina district of Cagliari by the waterfront, where cruise ships come in. Cagliari has four historic districts; we stayed in Castello, which is more like the typical fortress-style city center, but the action is in the historic Marina neighborhood. Google 65 Via Roma and that is where this district meets the water or marina.

You will find beauty nearly everywhere,

We didn’t do a trip report but one of our favorite of many Italian trips was one we split between Sperlonga (a beach community with a massive beach that on a very warm September day we had to ourselves). And, unlike most European beaches, you can walk for miles. We stayed in a little, friendly hill town overlooking the beach. It is busy with locals from Rome in July/August. But, It was from Castellabate that we experienced a wonderful coastline. Castellabate is three villages; we stayed in the upper old town and had one of our best meals ever in Italy there. Spectacular spot too. Joe Biden (apparently he wasn’t only in Ukraine) took his wife to a waterfront area of Castellabate to celebrate her 60th birthday when he was VEEP. The drive south from there is narrow, hair raising at times, with cars regularly making three lanes out of two, dodging bicyclists. There are some blue zone towns there, where an extraordinary number of locals live healthy and active lives beyond 100. (They must not drive or bike the main roads). Acciaroli was one; Pioppi had an interesting museum of the Mediterranean diet in an old beachside villa. There were stretches of the most breathtaking coastal highway ever (as we recall especially so from Sapri to Maratea. )

Here is something we once posted about Maratea:

"We spent a perfect weather day in Maratea in mid-October. Maratea is a “town” with nine small villages and boasts 44 churches. It is spread about and a less developed area than we expected, so it can be a little confusing. We found the area uncrowded, but some of the roads, especially from the north are very narrow and winding (but as spectacular and heart-stopping as any cliffside drive anywhere). We didn’t get to the cave(s), but we did drive to the top of Mount St. Bagio, where there is the third tallest statue of Christ in Europe (similar to the one in Rio). We also visited the historical center (Borgo) on the side of the mountain where there are a number of nice shops and restaurants. And, we opted for lunch and gelato down by the seafront in an area called Marina. A beautiful spot. "

I hope some of this is helpful.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2019, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by whitehall View Post
Maddalena Island looks gorgeous. Have you been there? Is it primarily a beach and park destination or is there a village and the ability to comfortably stay there for a few days?
There is a charming little village and plenty of options of where to stay.

I enjoyed your trip report. We loved Sardinia. We were there for two weeks back in 2003. Back then we were told that there were only a million inhabitants in the whole island. Little wonder why it seems at times like you have the whole island to yourself.


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