Sardinia August ’18

Flew to Olbia via LHR

Stayed at the Mercure to avoid driving and parking at night. Difficult choice between Euro 30 taxi or a Euro 1.5 bus. We opted for the more leisurely bus and dragged the suitcases the final 500m. The hotel has a weird empty central atrium with a mosaic on the floor. It’s meant possibly to look like a ship.

Dinner at Dolce Acqua, a nice local restaurant in the main town. Booking is essential. All the tables were reserved or taken at 9pm when we arrived.

Four Moors on a Flag

Back to the airport via the no.10 airport bus . The car hire building was packed solid though luckily the Avis queue was short. Nice new Jeep to drive off in.

On the way to Arbatax we stopped in the town of Cala Gonone which was reached by a journey over the mountains and down 8 long hairpin bends.  A nice drive through the mountains and we had an excellent view of the gorge and briefly paused at the Campo Base Gorropu starting point.

The Gorropu  gorge walk looked very interesting but we didn’t bring hiking boots which are essential.

Check in at La Perla Hotel Arbatax, then drinks at the bar in Hotel La Bitta  overlooking the bay before dinner at Ristorante Pizzeria Acquolina where we had a front line table and a glorious full moon rising out of the sea.

Vitamin Sea

We drove 20 mins down to the long sandy Cea Beach (Spiaggia di Cea). Parking was Euro 5 for the day under the shade of trees. We walked to the northern end as the rocks broke the small waves on a natural harbour wall. It was quite windy and our sun umbrella on loan from the hotel wasn’t up to the job.

Clear, warm water and a great place to spend a few hours.

Walked into Arbatax itself to suss out the other good restaurants. Arbatax ticks the box for being off the beaten track even in August. Yet still has lovely beaches, no mass tourism and friendly, locally run hotels and restaurants. It is a working town but has enough facilities for holidaymakers.

Drinks at the bar of the Abaratsar.

Dinner back in La Perla which has a good reputation. The red wine by the glass was local Cannonau which tasted very odd, almost like port.

On the trail of the pine martens

Time for something a bit more rigorous. 1.5hr drive back up to Cala Gonone harbour to leave the car for the day whilst we trekked over the coastal path to Cala Di Luna returning by boat. The roads across the mountains are basically one long set of inter-linked curves around the mountain which are entertaining  with little traffic.

A very long hot walk up and down the coastal hills and pine wood tracks.

It was around 10.5km altogether and took us around 5 hours with stops etc. The beach was pretty but very busy with a lot of boats, that being the only way besides walking to get there. We had a good coffee and drink, a quick paddle then took the boat back.

Dinner at Abaratsar  where we had an outside table and a very romantic dinner on the terrace. The service was well paced and the food the best so far.

I am disappointed that pine marten does not translate as Pini Martini. Perhaps better as the name for a cocktail.

Blue blue electric blue

We decided on a beach day today as we were worn out from the long hot walk yesterday. Beaches are a real thing around here with webcams, beach forecasts for the best one that day and local recommendations. In the end we decided to go to the far end of the Lido Di Orri beach. This is a long stretch of creamy sand with rocks at the end.

After a snack lunch on the beach and an obligatory expresso macchiato we did a little more swimming in the wonderful clear and warm water.

Explored the Torre di San Gemiliano on the end of our local beach then dinner at La Bitta.

We are shepherds, not fishermen

We visited Santa Maria Navarassa just north of Arbatax, expecting a quaint old seaside town. What we found was a long beach, a Torre and a nice café above the beach. We haven’t yet on our trip found a historic town. Everything looks built from the 70’s onwards. Maybe when we get up into the mountains. It is interesting that historically Sardinian people farmed in the hills and avoided the coasts as they were associated with pirates and malaria.

We went on to Baunei to have a better look at the hill town. Most things were shut but I found a fantastic ruined millhouse on the main street and had a poke about. The church square was also interesting with ribbons from a celebration of some sort. Touches of pink still around from the Giro di Italia visit to Sardinia where a Sardinian came third.

Like many Italian hill towns, it had a “belvedere” look out point with a café and cool breezes.

Our hotel put on the renowned La Perla pig roast night.

Prodigious quantities of food served with a bottle of local wine

Art and Politics

Went to the town of Orgosolo where there are interesting murals depicting political and local scenes . Now used for all variety of political slogans, mostly of a left leaning bent.

Even an Armagh artist, Lorcan Vallely, had got involved and provided a mural with a political theme.

We drove on to the Agriturismo Su Vrau near Olbia for our overnight stop. Our room was in one of the main buildings’ towers with a great view over to the the hill town of Posada.

We were hoping for a display of stars but the evening had clouded over. We are so far from city lights it’s meant to be spectacular – I always seem to miss this sight wherever we go.

Colours in the wind

We decided against an early start to see the wild flamingos at San Teodoro lagoon as this meant missing breakfast and the Liant boat may not have been operating due to mistrale wind. It’s also not very clear where to go to do a walk to see them either.

The boat  goes from a place called Compagnia Ostricola Mediterranea Scarl on google maps – next to a fish farm on the inland side of the lagoon.

It was very windy today and we saw nothing. Zero wild flamingos. Luckily we hadn’t booked a trip.

We then drove up the coast towards Santa Teresa and picked Poltu Quatu to stop for a coffee and lunch as we thought it was a pretty town. Sadly, it turned out to be a millionaire’s boat park with luxury shopping and apartments. Pretty but not what we wanted. The scenery has changed from steep mountainous sinewy roads to more open plains and slow straights  (50kph in many places).

Santa Teresa di Gallura is a town geared for tourists. Very pretty with multicoloured buildings, cafes, shops and a proper piazza, complete with old men gossiping and children playing ball games. The beach was packed solid and the waves looked fun as the mistrale wind howls around here. This is a very breezy place, even in August/September.

We had an apertivi in the town square before heading home for dinner.

Hacking through the maccia

What started out as a short trip to the Capo Testa turned in to an all day walking expedition. We wanted to walk around the peninsula, possible taking two bites at it. On the way we stopped at the Complesso Nuragico Lu Brandali which was definitely worth it. The staff were very knowledgeable and passionate about the ancient history (around 1400 BC) of the Nuraghe people who had an empire spanning parts of the Mediterranean. The village itself has been partially reconstructed – many of the stones were taken for walls etc in the past, common in the UK as well.

The Giants’ tomb is at the entrance of the site and used to be used for burials and celebrations with walls in the past 3-4 metres high.

Having been bitten by the history bug we went in search of the Roman quarry where they used to carve columns for shipment to Rome. It was much prized.

We made it to the light house, mostly along the coast finding lots of small coves with the occasional family group making use of the clear turquoise water. Back to another evening walk in the town.

No flippers

Today we tried to see the dolphins on a boat trip from Golfo Aranci.

The drive to Golfo Aranci was quite slow (and very busy near Olbia on the way back as everyone streams off the beaches). The boat trip (Centro Immersioni Figarolo) took us to the local fish farm where the dolphins are said to appear when the fish are fed. Food leaks out, attract more fish which the dolphins then feed on. Anyway after a two hour cruise around – nessun delfino.

A somewhat despondent Una on the way home as expectations had been high with an 80% success rate sales pitch.

Nice G&T followed by home cooking to finish the day.

Bandits and Bats

We decided to do a little driving tour today and visit the bandit museum in Aggius. There was a street art tour marked on the ground which provided quite interesting . An old gentleman pointed out a good view so I took a shot.

Then on to Tempio and the Nuraghe Majori which is a near complete example of the core of a settlement. And for Una’s delectation a selection of very small horseshoe bats nesting on the ceiling of one chamber. They weigh 5-6 gm and come to breed April till October.

Feeling in need of a swim and snorkel we drove over the hills to Spiaggia La Licciola, one of Una’s target beaches. A nice spot though about an hour after we arrived it started to rain so we abandoned the beach like everyone else.

Early evening we walked to the Torre which was bathed in a gorgeous orange evening light and watched the sun go down on the point nearby. I had to occasionally help Italian families take some better group shots.

Dinner 8pm at Restaurant Da Thomas was standard fare. Una’s main arrived a good 5 minutes after mine which isn’t really acceptable. A huge noisy space with a mix of locals and tourists. Expensive and we wouldn’t go back.

As dry as a Garibaldi Biscuit

A day outing to Isola La Maddalena. We decided to drive for convenience and to be more flexible . We walked around the port and its selection of boutique shops before picking up sandwiches and driving across the narrow bridge to Garibaldi’s island of La Caprera. We stopped just thereafter to do a variation of Walk 1 of the Sunflower book down to Spiaggia I due Mari. The initial part of the walk was fine but there was no clear sign for walk 4 down to the beach and when we did a circuit past a riding school we found a sign pointing back the way we had come rather than up the mountain which it should have done.

We eventually just did the second half on the road (hot hot hot) and stopped half way along at a tiny beach with just a few cars parked alongside. The spot was idyllic with about 5 families on it.  Why and how do they carry so much gear to the beaches ? We swam and ate lunch before continuing along the road to Due Mari.

We opted for the island shuttlebus to return to the car. Today we were on an island, off an island, off an Island, off Italy. And not a Flies’ Graveyard biscuit anywhere in sight.

A paddle in the bay

Kayak tour with Sardinian Discovery from the Camping village Capo d’Orso. A brief introduction to kayaking and prep before we headed off. First highlight was seeing wild  flamingos in the fresh water lagoon next to the beach and then their fly past later in the trip. Made up for our failure in San Teodoro.

The kayaking was relaxed (though Una may disagree as her kayak refused to obey) and we parked up on a beach for coffee and biscuits. We had to cut the trip short (and got a partial refund) due to the dark grey clouds and threat of rain early afternoon. A good 2hrs or so around the bay.

We went to Palau for a picnic lunch and snorkel. This beach was deserted and faced the harbour, so we could watch the ferries to the islands.

As the sky was a bit threatening we walked around the port, had our top up coffee followed by a gelato before heading back to the car and home. Town and roads very quiet at 3pm.

Our evening amble was up to the Rena Bianco beach where were wanted to aim for the Isola Municca for the sunset along a coastal path. Unfortunately someone had blocked the entrance and Una didn’t have good footwear so we took the path along the coast under the Torre. A bit narrow in places but interesting with a good view of the sunset.

Following the hippy trail

Today a walk around Capo Testa to see the Valle della Luna.

We started with a trip to Spiaggio di Rena Majori a wild sand dune beach with a warning not to swim because of currents. Walking the length and back in the soft white sand was hard going aided by a detour into the dunes to get to the road which turned into a goat track.

Parking just after the bridge onto Capo Testa we followed the signs to Valle Della Luna. The diversion to the right near what appeared to be a disused hotel wasn’t marked but we made it to the hippy commune. A very small beach but an attractive spot for lunch.

Cocktails again in the main square at Bar Café Conti followed by dinner at Il Giardino Ristorante.

A last glass of mirto

We decided to try to fit in a few more things before the evening flight and so went to the Tomba Dei Giganti Coddu ’Ecchju Portello. We didn’t buy the circuit of the three ruins in the area but possibly worth it if you haven’t done a few already.

Claudio from the kayak tour had recommended a few agritourismos for lunch near his home town of San Pantaleo, but all were shut at lunch times. The town itself is art focused with lots of very expensive boutique shops (eg small dress Euro 350+) for the yacht crowd. When we arrived it was empty besides a local wedding.

We walked back to one of the restaurants recommended, Trattoria Zara Café, which was now almost completely full having been deserted a hour or two before. Very good simple cooking.

We then drove on to find a beach to kill some time and stopped at a view point next to the L’Acciughetta Café and found a small shaded “beach” to sit and contemplate the world before driving to the airport. Just us and the waves.

Notes:

  1. The mosquitos here are silent and deadly. They ignore 100% DEET and anything else we tried. You can’t see them, but they’ll get you.
  2. The East part of the island was the best part of the holiday. Quiet roads, picturesque mountains, hundreds of miles of wonderful beaches, friendly locals many of whom spoke some English. Prices are also about 30% lower than in the north side.
  3. The speed limits are rarely marked and changes need to be watched for. There are a fair number of police cars pulling people over.
  4. Sardinia has something over 1000km of beaches. A significant number have webcams, weather forecasts etc and the locals move around the beaches depending on which is going to be the best each day. The receptionist can often give you this.
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