- Accommodation & Hotels
- Things to do
- Stay safe
Sardinia (Sardegna/Sardigna) is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, between the Balearic islands and the Italian peninsula and south of Corsica. It is an autonomous region of Italy.
Sardinia, with its quintessential Mediterranean beauty, is mainly loved for swimming, boating, windsurfing, hiking, climbing, and camping, with coastal areas tending to become over touristed especially in the warmest month, August. The inner life of the island away from the tourist spots takes longer to appreciate and requires you to peel away the layers of apparent Italianization. After all, the ancient Nuragic civilization of Sardinia of ca. 1500 BC, whose stone monuments still dot the land, predates even the Etruscan civilization in mainland Italy by several hundred years.
Geology and geography
Sardinia is the only region in Italy of Hercynian origin; actually, the southwest is even older (Cambrian). The mineral riches of Sardinia are the consequence of heavy hydrothermalism during the Permo-Triassic. As in the rest of Hercynian Europe, erosion has taken its toll since the orogeny and has reduced elevations considerably. 30 million years ago, the Sardinia-Corsica block started to detach from mainland Spain and tilted toward its present position. The island is both aseismic and non volcanic.
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (24090 sq. km [9300 sq. mi]); only Sicily is larger. The island is dominated by the Gennargentu Range (culminating at Punta La Marmora, 1834 m [6017 ft], highest elevation in Sardinia), along with the Monte Limbara, Monte di Ala', and Monte Rasu ranges (all below 1500 m [4900 ft]); isolated are the Sulcis-Iglesiente hills (1236 m [4055 ft]) of Southwestern Sardinia, once home to a large mining district. Plains are quite rare and reduced in extent, with the exception of the Campidano Plain from Oristano to Cagliari, which divides the main hill system from the Sulcis-Iglesiente, and the Nurra plain in the northwest (between Sassari, Alghero, and Porto Torres), which was once a mining district and quite forested, but is today mostly given to pasture. Sulcis proper (in the extreme Southwest) was a marshy area where malaria was still present in the 1940s (but eradicated since). Cagliari's neighbourhood is also flat and boggy; exploitation of salt is a major industry there.
Coasts are generally rocky and tall, especially along the eastern half; large beaches are found however on the north and northeast (Logudoro and Gallura), the south (from Teulada to Pula) and the Southwest (Sulcis-Iglesiente). Apart from the Strait of Bonifacio (famed for its often rough sea) which divides Corsica from Sardinia, the surrounding sea is quite deep at short distances from the shore.
The population is small (a little more than 1 650 000 inhabitants in 2010), with heavy concentration in the Cagliari (one third of the total population) and Sassari (one fifth) areas; Olbia is the only other town exceeding 50 000 inhabitants. Other centres include Alghero, Nuoro, Oristano, Carbonia and Iglesias. Sardinia, along with the Valle d'Aosta region at the French border, has the lowest density of population in Italy.
Sardinia enjoys for the most part a Mediterranean climate. It is however heavily influenced by the vicinity of the Gulf of Genoa (barometric low) and the relative proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. Sardinia being relatively large and hilly, weather is not uniform; in particular the east is drier, but paradoxically it suffers the worst rainstorms: in Autumn 2009, it rained more than 200 mm (8 inches) in a single day in Siniscola. The western coast is rainy even for modest elevations (for instance Iglesias, elevation 200 m, average annual precipitation 815 mm against 750 mm for London).
|Daily highs (°C)||13.8||14.2||15.9||17.9||21.9||26.1||28.9||29.1||26.4||22.2||17.9||15.0|
|Nightly lows (°C)||5.8||6.1||7.4||9.1||12.3||16.2||18.3||18.9||16.9||13.3||9.5||7.0|
|Climate of Cagliari, source Global Historical Climatology Network|
Summer is dry with very warm weather; however, contrary to the islands of Greece for instance, shade and wind are plenty. Autumn is typically very mild (with averages of 20 °C [68 °F] and up for highs till mid-November), but is subject to heavy rainstorms as noted above. Winter is generally mild on plains (cold spells being however not unheard of) but cool to cold at higher elevations; snow is generally limited to the Gennargentu range. Spring is mild and rainy, but not as autumn. The island is very windy, especially from September to April (northwest winds called locally Maestrale); southeast winds (Scirocco) are frequent during summer and bring invariably hot weather.
Along with Italian (Italiano), Sardinians speak one of the dialects of Sardinian (Sardu), considered by many scholars to be one of the most conservative Romance languages; it is not, by any means, an Italian dialect and saying that is often perceived as an insult by local people. There are other linguistic minorities as well within the main one, where Sardinian has long disappeared or not very well understood: in Gallura and Sassari they speak Corsican, whose local variety goes by the name of Gallurese (Gadduresu), and a transitional dialect between medieval Tuscan and Sardinian (Sassaresu), in Alghero Catalan (Alguerés), while in San Pietro Island a Ligurian dialect (Tabarchìn) is spoken. Nowadays, as a direct consequence of the island-wide assimilation policy carried out by the Italian government, Sardinians generally speak Italian with a distinctive accent as their mother tongue, which is taking over the indigenous languages, especially when addressing people they do not know, even if it's other Sardinians they are talking with. Outside of the cities English is not widely spoken, with the exception of maybe the young; you might have better luck with another Neo-Latin language, especially with people older than 50 years in the cities, but do not expect anything but Italian (often combined with the Sardinian language or one of the dialects listed above) elsewhere.
With a population density of 69/km2, slightly more than a third of the national average, Sardinia is the fourth least populated region in Italy. In the recent past the population distribution was anomalous compared to that of other Italian regions lying on the sea. In fact, contrary to the general trend, most urban settlement, with the exception of the fortified cities of Cagliari, Alghero, Castelsardo and few others, has not taken place primarily along the coast but in the subcoastal areas and towards the centre of the island. Historical reasons for this include the repeated Saracen raids during the Middle Ages and then Barbary raids until the early 19th century (making the coast unsafe), widespread pastoral activities inland, and the swampy nature of the coastal plains (reclaimed definitively only in the 20th century). The situation has been reversed with the expansion of seaside tourism; today all Sardinia's major urban centres are located near the coasts, while the island's interior is very sparsely populated.
It is the region with the lowest total fertility rate(1.087 births per woman) and the second-lowest birth rate of Italy (which is already one of the lowest in the world). Combined with the aging of population going rather fast (in 2009, people older than 65 were 18,7%), rural depopulation is quite a big issue: between 1991 and 2001, 71,4% of Sardinian villages have lost population (32 more than 20% and 115 between 10% and 20%), with over 30 of them being at risk to become ghost towns. Nonetheless, the overall population has been increasing because of a considerable immigration flow, mainly from the Italian mainland, Eastern Europe (esp. Romania), Africa and Asia.
Taken as a whole, Sardinia's economic conditions are such that the island is in the best position among Italian regions located south of Rome. The greatest economic development had taken place inland, in the provinces of Cagliari and Sassari, characterized by a certain amount of enterprise. According to Eurostat, the 2014 nominal GDP was €33,356 million, €33,085 million in purchasing power parity, resulting in €19,900 GDP per capita that is the 72% of the EU average. The per capita income in Sardinia is the highest of the southern half of Italy. The most populated provincial chief towns have higher incomes: in Cagliari the income per capita is €27,545, in Sassari €24,006, in Oristano €23,887, in Nuoro is €23,316 and in Olbia is €20,827.
The Sardinian economy is, however, constrained due to the high costs of the transportation of goods and electricity, which is twice that of the continental Italian regions, and triple that of the EU average. Sardinia is the only Italian region that produces a surplus of electricity, and exports electricity to Corsica and the Italian mainland: in 2009, the new submarine power cable Sapei entered into operation, it links the Fiume Santo Power Station, in Sardinia, to the converter stations in Latina, in the Italian peninsula, the SACOI is another submarine power cable that links Sardinia to Italy, crossing Corsica, from 1965. The submarine gas pipeline GALSI would have brought Algerian gas to the Italian mainland through the island.
Three main banks are headquartered in Sardinia: the Banco di Sardegna and the Banca di Sassari, both based in Sassari; Banca di Credito Sardo, based in Cagliari, was absorbed by parent company Intesa Sanpaolo in 2014.
The unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2008 was 8.6%; by 2012, the unemployment rate had increased to 14.6%. Its rise was due to the global financial crisis that hit Sardinian exports, mainly focused on refined oil, chemical products, and also mining and metallurgical products.
There are chances for Sardinia to become a tax haven, the whole island territory being free by custom duties, vat and excise taxes on fuel; since February 2013, the town of Portoscuso has become the first free trade zone.According to the article 12 of the Sardinian Statute modified by the regional parliament in October 2013: "The Territory of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia is located off the customs line and constitutes a Free Trade Zone enclosed by the surrounding sea; the access points consist of the seaports and the airports. The Sardinian Free Trade Zone is regulated by the laws of the European Union and Italy that are in force also in Livigno, Campione D'Italia, Gorizia, Savogna d'Isonzo and the Region of Aosta Valley".
Transportation - Get In
There are airports near Cagliari, Olbia, and Alghero.
Cagliari-Elmas Airport (Aeroporto "Mario Mameli", IATA: CAG) is located in Elmas, approximately 6 km West from central Cagliari. It is situated on the SS130 and is reached by bus (operated by the publicly-owned ARST [www]) from the train station; frequency is every 30 minutes, for a 10-minute trip. The airport is the busiest in Sardinia, the 13th busiest in Italy. Cagliari is served directly by domestic and international flights from Western Europe; the well-connected Milan-Linate (IATA: LIN) and Rome-Fiumicino (IATA: FCO) airports can also serve as intermediate stops to Cagliari.
Olbia Airport (Aeroporto di Olbia-Costa Smeralda, IATA: OLB) is the second busiest airport in Sardinia and the 17th in Italy; it is the gateway to the Costa Smeralda and the main hub of Meridiana Fly. It is situated 3 km southwest from central Olbia and is easily reached by bus (ASPO [www] , every 30 minutes). The airport has slightly fewer routes than Cagliari, but is nevertheless connected to France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Netherlands.
Alghero-Fertilia Airport (Aeroporto internazionale "Riviera del Corallo", IATA: AHO) is the third busiest in Sardinia and the 20th busiest in Italy. It is situated in Fertilia, 10.5 km northwest of Alghero; there are buses (Ferrovie della Sardegna [www]) from Alghero (every hour, 20-minute trip) and Sassari (9/day, 30-minute trip). Alghero-Fertilia is essentially a domestic airport, but is also connected to London and Frankfurt, among others.
There are ferry services to Cagliari (south coast), Porto Torres (north coast), and Olbia, Golfo Aranci and Arbatax (east coast).
Daily ferries link northern Sardinia with Corsica (it is possible to take a day trip to Bonifacio, Corsica) from Santa Teresa Gallura.
Transportation - Get Around
It is possible to get around Sardinia by bus and train, but if you can, hire a car. It is well worth the outlay, and it will allow you to visit some of the more remote and enchanting places and areas. You may find many companies offering car hire like Hertz and Avis or Only Sardinia Autonoleggio.
Consult the article on Italy for general information about speed limits, urban areas, police forces, etc. What follows is specific to Sardinia.
There are no toll highways in the island; the main axes are Porto Torres-Sassari-Oristano-Cagliari (Strada Statale [State Road] 131, European denomination E25) and its bifurcation to Nuoro (SS131 d.c.n.), Iglesias-Cagliari (SS130) [the SS130 and SS131 are the only fully 2 x 2-lane roads in Sardinia], the SS125 (Cagliari-Villasimius), SS126 (Sant'Antioco-Carbonia-Iglesias-Guspini-Terralba), SS127 (Olbia-Tempio Pausania-Sassari), SS128 (East-Central Sardinia), SS129 (Orosei-Nuoro-Macomer), SS195 (Cagliari-SS126 through Pula), and the SS291 (Sassari-Alghero). Many other roads are also of great interest for the tourist, such as the SS133 (Tempio Pausania-Palau) or the Chia-Teulada 'panoramica'.
Many roads are narrow and wind through hilly terrain; be careful and do not hesitate to use your car horn to signal your presence: because of the light traffic, oncoming drivers may not expect to encounter other vehicles. Remember that locals know their roads: they can drive faster than you because of that, do not try to race with them! Beware also of domesticated animals (sheep, goat, cows, pigs) crossing roads in large or small units, especially in rural areas.
Engine overheating may happen in summer because of the heat/topography combination; take the usual precautions.
Paving is generally good on the main axes; it may vary for secondary axes and urban areas, but is often in correct conditions. There are local unpaved roads of touristic interest; these can be in any state, especially after heavy rains, so it is better to go there with a sturdy 4-wheel drive car.
Traffic can become heavy during summer in and around touristic areas, in particular on the SS 125, 126, 127, 195, 291.
A roadmap and a GPS tracking unit (handheld ones are also useful for trekking) are recommended: road signs, in particular directions, are somewhat lacking, especially on secondary roads, whereas crossroads are generally well signalled.
Beware of high winds; gusts in excess of 100 km/h (60 mph) are common from September to April.
Many villages have installed speed traps and automated cameras at the entrances: these are almost always signalled and fines for speeding are generally heavy. Quite often, you will cross villages with no pavements, and find elder people there: drive with caution.
Regular, cheap buses between the main centres: Cagliari, Sassari, Alghero, Nuoro etc. You may end up changing buses (or trains) in Macomer. Less frequent buses, but worth persevering for the smaller villages. The main bus company is the public-owned and managed ARST [www]
Sailing is one of the best ways to see Sardinia. Most charters offer many options from bareboat to crewed and cabin charter, with various types of boats being available.
Regular trains from the edge of Alghero to Sassari and from Sassari to Cagliari, although buses are usually quicker. Change at Macomer for trains or buses to Nuoro. Less frequent trains on this and other routes. Both Trenitalia and Ferrovie della Sardegna operate trains in the Island.
In the summer period, twice a week, there's a small train that travels from Sassari to Tempio and back. It runs especially for tourists and is highly recommended. The train is called trenino verde and you can find info here [www]
At many places it is possible to rent a bike quite cheaply, for as little as €9 per 24 hours. Compared to the scarce local bus connections a bicycle provides great flexibility for local exploration. With high quality roads and great scenery the bike is very pleasant to ride.
- Cagliari (Casteddu)
- Alghero ( L'Alguér )
- La Maddalena
- Nuoro (Nùgoro)
- Olbia (Tarranòa / Terranòa)
- Oristano (Aristànis)
- Porto Torres (Posthudorra)
- Wild areas of Barbagia and Ogliastra
- Budoni - on the Mediterranean sea
- San Teodoro - one of the most important seaside resorts of the island
- Isola dei Gabbiani - a haven for windsurfers and kitesurfers
- The Punic and Roman archaeological sites of Nora and Tharros
- The Stagno at Cabras
- Costa Smeralda - Glamorous beaches
- Maddalena - an archipelago of 7 islands in Costa Smeralda
- Costa Verde (Marina di Arbus) - uncontaminated beaches and wild nature
- Bosa - small but beautiful medieval town
- Stintino - a small fishing village on the north-western tip of Sardinia which has one of the finest beaches in the whole of Sardinia - La Pelosa
- Iglesias and the Sulcis - undiscovered treasures of art and sea. While near Iglesias, visit the mines, and hear the history of Sardinian miners. Do not forget to go and see the lovely Santa Barbara cove
- Tavolara and Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Preserve - a popular spot for scuba diving
- Porto Pino — heart of South-West Sardinia: the Mediterranean pearl with great beaches, reefs, dunes, and wonderful underwater
- Cala Gonone and the beaches that can be reached from there only by boat
- Sant'Antioco Island: with a wonderful coast and a nice fishing port in the southwest coast
- La Maddalena archipelago: situated in the north, largely unspoiled nature and beautiful scenery
Accommodation & Hotels
While you can find most major hotel chains in Sardinia, the better way to really enjoy a stay in the island is to find a local hotel or a bed and breakfast or a holiday apartment. Another often cheaper option that adds many 'out of town' locations is to rent a small cabin in a camping village or a room in an 'agriturismo' farm or rural cottage. Most accommodations are located near the coast, but also internal regions offer great opportunities.
Sardinia is a magical Italian island with long sandy coasts, clear, turquoise water, stunning rocky coves, and inland lakes to be enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. Here are just a few of the fabulous beaches to be discovered in Sardinia.
Portobello and Pula
On the northern coast of Sardinia, called Portobello, there are some spectacular beaches, particularly for families with kids of all ages. Rena Majori beach is a huge, white stretch of fine sand with clear blue water lapping the shoreline. Even at times of year with the most tourists, this beach is not crowded. You can feel free to spread out and enjoy the space, the fresh air, and the view. Sunbathing, sand castle building, wading, and swimming are just a few of the excellent Rena Majori activities. Vignola Beach is also a great bet for families. The water is calm, safe, and clear, perfect for young children to wade in and explore.
Pula is a very historic coast. Roman ruins, Spanish watchtowers and an amphitheater are just a few of the archaeological wonders to be found there. The historical significance of the area only adds to the already woundrous natural beauty of the white sand beaches. There are plenty of beaches for sunbathing, swimming, windsurfing, and more.
One of the most well known Sardinian coasts, Costa Rei is located in the southeastern part of the island. There are many tiny islets off of this coast that are fun to explore. The water is a translucent turquoise, as it is on basically every beach on Sardinia, and the coast is connected to a lake system around which many rare birds can be observed. Apart from the wide, family friendly, white sand beaches, there are also rocky shorelines that make up Costa Rei, and many visitors go to the area simply to check out the interesting rock formations made by Mother Nature, herself. There are windsurfing rentals in the area as well as a nice diving center.
Some of the island´s most beautiful beaches are located in the village of Villasimius. Spiaggia di Porto Giunco is a gorgeous beach in the town with calm, crystal clear waters, and plenty of spectacular seascapes, especially around sunset. Cala Pira Bay is in Villasimius as well, and it is the perfect place to get in the warm water and swim.
Sardinia is the only autonomous region where its special Statute uses the term popolo (distinct people) to describe its inhabitants. While this formula applies even to Veneto, which unlike Sardinia is an ordinary region within the Italian Republic, the Sardinian Statute is adopted with a constitutional law. In both cases, this term does not imply any legal difference between Sardinians and the other Italian citizens.
Italian (Italiano), which is the official language throughout Italy, is the most widely spoken language on the island, followed by Sardinian (Sardu).
Sardinian is a distinct branch of the Romance language family: it is not, by any means, an Italian dialect, rather it is closer to its Latin roots than Italian itself. Sardinian has been formally recognized as one of the twelve historical language minorities of Italy since 1997, by regional and Italian law. The language has been influenced by Catalan, Spanish and recently Italian, while the once spoken Nuragic contributes many features to it in many ancient remnants. In 2006 the regional administration has approved the use of a standardised writing system, the so-called Limba Sarda Comuna, in official acts. As a literary language, Sardinian is gaining importance, despite heated debate about the lack of a commonly acknowledged standard orthography and controversial proposed solutions to this problem.
The two most widely spoken forms of the language are the Southern dialects, known as Campidanese (Sardu Campidanesu), and the Northern dialects known as Logudorese (Sardu Logudoresu), extending almost to the suburbs of Sassari. The Sardinian language is quite different from the other Romance languages and is homogeneous in terms of morphology, syntax and lexicon, but it also shows a spectrum of variation in terms of phonetics between the Northern and the Southern dialects.
Sassarese (Sassaresu) and Gallurese (Gadduresu) are classified as Corso-Sardinian languages, therefore more akin to the Italo-Dalmatian branch than to the Sardinian one, and are spoken in the north.
In Sardinia there are examples of language islands: Algherese (Alguerés) is a dialect of Catalan spoken in the city of Alghero; on the islands of San Pietro and Sant'Antioco, located in the extreme south west of Sardinia, the local population speaks a variant of Ligurian called Tabarchino (Tabarchin); fewer and fewer people speak Venetian, Friulian and Istriot in Arborea and Fertilia, since these villages have been populated in the 1920s and 1930s by colonists who mainly came from north-eastern Italy, and families from Istria and Dalmatia immediately after World War II.
Due to the Italian assimilation policies carried out since 1760 and the ongoing absorption into the Italian culture, over the course of time the once prevalent indigenous languages have been increasingly losing ground to Italian and the process of ongoing language shift has led to their extreme endangerment. In fact, according to the data published by ISTAT in 2006, 52.5% of the Sardinian population mainly speaks Italian in the family environment, while 29.3% alternates Italian and Sardinian and only 16.6% mainly uses Sardinian or other non-Italian languages.
Following the recent growth of the foreign-born population, the presence of other languages, principally Romanian, Arabic, Wolof and Chinese, is expanding in some urban areas.
World Heritage Sites
Megalithic building structures called nuraghes are scattered in great numbers throughout Sardinia. Su Nuraxi di Barumini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Colourful and of various and original forms, the Sardinian traditional clothes are a clear symbol of belonging to specific collective identities. Although the basic model is homogeneous and common throughout the island, each town or village has its own traditional clothing which differentiates it from the others.
Sardinia is home to one of the oldest forms of vocal polyphony, generally known as cantu a tenore. In 2005, Unesco classed the cantu a tenore among intangible world heritage. Several famous musicians have found it irresistible, including Frank Zappa, Ornette Coleman, and Peter Gabriel. The latter travelled to the town of Bitti in the central mountainous region and recorded the now world-famous Tenores di Bitti CD on his Real World label. The guttural sounds produced in this form make a remarkable sound, similar to Tuvan throat singing. Another polyphonic style of singing, more like the Corsican paghjella and liturgic in nature, is found in Sardinia and is known as cantu a cuncordu.
Another unique instrument is the launeddas. Three reed-canes (two of them glued together with beeswax) produce distinctive harmonies, which have their roots many thousands of years ago, as demonstrated by the bronze statuettes from Ittiri, of a man playing the three reed canes, dated to 2000 BC.
Beyond this, the tradition of cantu a chiterra (guitar songs) has its origins in town squares, when artists would compete against one another. The most famous singer of this genre are Maria Carta and Elena Ledda.
Sardinian culture is alive and well, and young people are actively involved in their own music and dancing. In 2004, BBC presenter Andy Kershaw travelled to the island with Sardinian music specialist Pablo Farba and interviewed many artists. His programme can be heard on BBC Radio 3. Sardinia has produced a number of notable jazz musicians such as Antonello Salis, Marcello Melis, and Paolo Fresu.
The main opera houses of the island are the Teatro Lirico in Cagliari and the Teatro Verdi in Sassari (soon to be replaced by the new Teatro Auditorium Comunale).
Meat, dairy products, grains and vegetables constitute the most basic elements of the traditional diet, to a lesser extent rock lobster (aligusta), scampi, bottarga (butàriga), squid, tuna.
Suckling pig (porcheddu) and wild boar (sirbone) are roasted on the spit or boiled in stews of beans and vegetables, thickened with bread. Herbs such as mint and myrtle are used. Much Sardinian bread is made dry, which keeps longer than high-moisture breads. Those are baked as well, including civraxiu, coccoi pintau, a highly decorative bread and pistoccu made with flour and water only, originally meant for herders, but often served at home with tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic and a strong cheese. Traditional cheeses include pecorino sardo, pecorino romano, casizolu, ricotta and the casu marzu (notable for containing live insect larvae).
One of the most famous of foods is pane carasau, the flat bread of Sardinia, famous for its thin crunchiness.Originally the making of this bread was a hard process which needed three women to do the job. This flat bread is always made by hand as it gives a different flavor the more you work the dough. After working the dough it will be rolled out in very thin circles and placed in an extremely hot stone oven where the dough will blow up into a ball shape. Once the dough achieves that state it is then removed from the oven where it is then cut into two thin sheets and stacked to go back into the oven.
Alcoholic beverages include many peculiar wines such as Cannonau, Malvasia, Vernaccia, Vermentino, various liquors like Abbardente, Filu Ferru and Mirto. Beer is the most drunk alcoholic beverage, Sardinia boasts the highest consumption per capita of beer in Italy (twice higher than national average). Birra Ichnusa is the most commercialized beer produced in Sardinia.
Sardinia is home to the old but somewhat mysterious Nuragic civilization (ca 1500 BC); cylindrical towers (called Nuraghes, sing. Nuraghe) dot the Sardinian landscape, and fortified villages can still be found, as in Barumini (Medio Campidano province). The Phoenicians arrived around 1000 BC, founding Cagliari (Karalis, ca 800 BC) and other emporia; Tharros (near Oristano) and Nora (near Pula, Cagliari province) are a must-see for the archeology-minded tourist. Sardinia was contended during the First Punic War between Carthage and Rome, but went eventually to the latter. Rome had often trouble with the rebellious locals, but managed quite a large income out of grain and metal mining.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, heavy raiding of the coastal areas by pirates forced the population to the hinterland; Sassari for instance was founded by refugees from Porto Torres. The four Kingdoms (Giudicati/Judicados of Calaris [Cagliari], Arborea [Oristano], Torres [Sassari] e Gallura [Olbia-Tempio Pausania]) sprang forth during the Middle Ages, but were colonized (except for the Oristano area) by Pisa and Genoa; in particular the Pisans (the famous Conte Ugolino della Gherardesca of Dante's Inferno and his family) held between 1200 and 1350 the southernmost part of the island, deriving a large income out of the silver mines near Iglesias, which they themselves founded. Spain then seized the whole of Sardinia by the end of the 14th century, and for nearly 400 years the island would have remained under Spanish rule.
When Sardinia was ceded to the House of Savoy, the constitution of the Sardinia-Piedmont realm was the starting point for the unification of all the Italian peninsula. Once this goal was achieved, Sardinia was once again left to its own devices, except for the exploitation of its large mineral resources. Fascism saw important work (in particular the reduction of marshy areas), and in 1948, given the unique socio-political context of the island, Sardinia received the status of autonomous region that still retains to the present day. With the end of the exploitation of the mines, but with the fast growth of the tourist industry (especially in the Costa Smeralda ["Emerald Coast"] area), Sardinia is slowly converting itself into a popular tourist destination, while traditional stock-herding (in particular sheep) is still a frequent sight.
Festivals in Sardinia
There’s no shortage of festivals in Sardinia, Italy. In fact, you might find yourself overwhelmed with all the options! Some festivals feature local dancing and music, others feature artwork and crafts (to view and/or buy) and others focus on food, sporting events, and annual and religious holidays. The good new is that you can probably find a festival happening almost every month!
Sardinia New Years Eve Festival
Head out to the old town city center in Sardinia on New Year’s Eve to catch live music and dance performances. You can also wander down to the waterfront and see fireworks, or sit at an outdoor patio until the wee hours of the morning watching the local dancers pulse in the streets. Many restaurants feature half price drinks and dinner specials. What better way to ring in the New Year?
Sardinia Sea Festival
The Sea Festival goes from January through February, and features dozens of beaches selling sea urchins, crabs, seafood and fish for as much as a few Euro. You can also get wine and bread for half price at some restaurants. The Sardinia beaches that participate in this festival vary every year, so ask your travel guide or check the web beforehand.
Sardinia Equestrian Carnival
In February you can see an all day equestrian race between the best horsemen in all of Italy. Admission is free, and you can purchase food and drink in the stands. A must see for all horse lovers.
Spring & Summer Festivals
The Artichoke Festival
What’s so attractive about an artichoke festival? Ask the thousands of people who frequent this event annually. Everyone loves savoring the center of a delicious, tasty artichoke. At Sardinia’s Artichoke Festival you can sample a dozen different kinds of artichoke and watch numerous sporting and cultural events, such as horse-riding, dancing and music performances. Occurs annually in March.
Similar to the artichoke festival, the cherry festival draws a huge crowd interested in tasting a variety of different cherries. At this festival, occurring every June, you can learn about the region in Italy where cherries grow, meet local cherry farmers and purchase donuts and bread filled with sweet cherry jam.
The Sagra Parade
Sardinia’s majestic mountain, the Monte Ortobene, attracts hundreds of visitors every year. If you come in the fall, don’t miss the Sagra Parade where local performers lead a procession up to the top of the hill. From the side of the road, while munching on local snacks, you can watch dancers, musicians and artists perform while walking up a steep hill. Occurs annually in August.
Sardinia’s agricultural festival occurs annually the first week in November. Here you can wander the streets and stalls to buy locally-made crafts, jewelry, art and woodcarved gifts. A great way to promote local businesses.
Things to do
There is much to do in Sardinia, but the island will probably appeal more to nature lovers than to clubbers (with the exception of the Costa Smeralda area, one of the 'hot spots' of the Italian show-business jet set).
- Sea: sailing has become increasingly popular, in particular in the Costa Smeralda area; the first Italian challenge in the America's Cup hailed from there. There are many ports everywhere, and some places are reachable only by boat. Do not miss this opportunity if you like to sail.
- Islands: while not many, the islands are generally of interest; check in particular the Asinara National Park (famous for its Albino Donkeys) and the Maddalena archipelago in the north, the islands of Sant'Antioco (actually connected to the main land since Roman times) and San Pietro (a community of Genoese fishermen) in the south.
- Beaches and coasts: the north and northeast (from Stintino to Budoni) have many beautiful beaches. The Eastern coast is also very interesting: Cala Gonone, Arbatax, Muravera and Villasimius, to name a few. The deep south (Chia, Pula) is quickly growing as a major tourist attraction. The western coast is of a very different character; large beaches some kilometres long can be found (Porto Pino, Marina di Gonnesa, Marina di Arbus). Of note is Piscinas (Marina di Arbus) with its 60 m-tall sand dunes. Finally, the Alghero area is renowned for its underwater caves and grottoes and attracts many scuba divers.
- Hills and 'mountains': while Sardinia's highest elevation does not reach 2000 m (6500 ft), do not be fooled: terrain is steep, snow falls in winter, and there are 4 ski resorts in the Gennargentu area. Hills are everywhere in Sardinia, from the northeastern Monte Limbara Range to the Iglesiente area in the southwest, even at the outskirts of Cagliari. The rainiest areas are quite lush with Mediterranean vegetation. Another advantage is that people (including Sardinians) generally fill the beaches and leave the rest nearly deserted. A popular destination for mountain climbers is the Domusnovas area (close to Iglesias), with its nice vertical walls of limestone. Large caves are accessible (Dorgali, Oliena, Santadi, Domusnovas, Fluminimaggiore, Alghero). There are many hiking trails (though not always well signalled) for beginners and veterans alike.
- Monuments and sites: Sardinia has few monuments but many are well worth visiting. Check in particular Cagliari (Sard. Casteddu, Castle), Oristano, Sassari, Alghero, Olbia, and Nuoro. Nuraghi and Domus de janas (Sard. for witch houses) are found in many places, in particular in Barumini (Su Nuraxi, in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1997) and around Alghero. Tharros, Nora, and Monte Sirai (just off Carbonia) are fine examples of the Phoenician/Carthaginian presence. Roman remains are also found in Sardinia, among which Nora, the Sant'Antioco bridge or the amphitheatre in Cagliari; the Antas site in Fluminimaggiore is also of interest, even if the present temple is a reconstruction of the original. Pisans have left important traces in the South (Cagliari, Iglesias) and the well-preserved Castello di Acquafredda (It. for cold water castle) near Siliqua is worth a visit, as well as the back country. Bosa is of interest for its medieval urbanism; Burgos (Castle of Goceano) is also worth a visit. Some fine churches are found in the island, from the early Christian times to the Baroque period, in the aforementioned cities but also in Porto Torres and Iglesias (Spanish for church). Examples of industrial architecture can also be found in and around Cagliari, in Porto Torres, and in the Sulcis-Iglesiente area, where organized tours can be booked to visit mines, for instance the Buggerru mines with galleries just above the sea. Finally, several museums dedicated to Sardinia are of interest; the Museo sardo di antropologia ed etnografia and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Cagliari, and the Museo etnografico sardo in Nuoro are important starting places.
- Folklore: Sardinia has strong traditions which are expressed also through costumes and celebrations. Quite often, even small centres have local celebrations where people dress in rich traditional costumes. However, it is simpler to go to the major venues as there is a considerable afflux from all over Sardinia. A non comprehensive list includes: Sant'Efisio (Cagliari, 1 May, actually lasts several days), Sagra del Redentore (Nuoro, last Sunday of August), Cavalcata sarda (Sassari, penultimate Sunday of May, horse parade and races), Faradda di li candareri (Sassari, 14 August), Sa Sartiglia (Oristano, Carnival period, horse races), and everywhere the celebrations during Carnival and the Holy Week.
The traditions and habits are very strong. You will not get any pizzas in restaurants before 7PM, furthermore be aware that you will get nothing to eat in restaurants between 4PM and 7PM, besides 'panini' that is usually a cold sandwich with ham and cheese. The exception may be some tourist-oriented restaurants in tourist-oriented places.
- Try the Culurgiones. They are similar to Ravioli (made with typical pasta of Ogliastra) with a filling of potatoes, 'Pecorino' cheese (sheep's milk cheese, see below), egg, onion, mint and garlic - available in many Sardinian restaurants.
- Malloreddus are a type of gnocchi that are served al dente with a tomato, meat or cheese sauce.
- There are a number of Pizzerias serving fresh, stone oven baked authentic style pizzas as well as pasta dishes.
- Porcheddu is a local specialty of inner Sardinia, it's a young pig roasted in a special manner over a wood fire with an aromatic local shrub called mirto. The pig is frequently basted.
- Sausages are of many types, for instance the Salsiccia di cinghiale (wild boar sausage).
- Stufato di capretto is a rich casserole made from kid goat, artichokes, wine and also egg.
- Try the Mediterranean fish (pesce azzurro). Look for a fish market in any small coast town and buy early in the morning, cook and eat: it's simply fantastic barbecued. The Bottarga (the dried roe of tuna [Bottarga di tonno] in Carloforte or of flathead mullet [Bottarga di muggine] elsewhere) is rather expensive but quite good.
- Many locally-produced vegetables and fruit are very tasty, as they are grown in small farms and are mostly organic; vendors along the roads are a frequent sight. Apart from the usual assortment of typical Mediterranean products (such as eggplants, bell peppers, orange, grapes, etc.), you will also find among others wild asparagus, figs, water-melons, and nuts (hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds). Spices (such as thyme, rosemary, fennel) are found in abundance in the country.
- Pecorino cheese (It. Pecora, sheep) is found everywhere with all degrees of ripeness from fresh to seasoned (the latter being stronger in taste). Sale of Casu marzu (Sard. for rotten cheese) is forbidden; but its production is perfectly legal and it may be found with the help of locals. As usual with this kind of product, precautions must be taken; it is highly recommended to eat it with trusted locals. Goat cheese can also be found.
- A Seada (pl. Seadas or Sebadas), typical of Barbagia, is a dessert similar to Ravioli. It has a characteristic filling of fresh cheese and lemon rind, and melts when Seada is cooked. It must be fried and served with honey.
- There are numerous types of Sardinian bread and pastries, with specialties such as Carasau (a type of thin crispy bread), sponge biscuits and almond pastries. What distinguishes Sardinian pastry is the use of pig lard for fat and honey for sugar.
- The torrone (Sardinian version of nougat), with honey instead of sugar, and almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts (all locally produced); the torrone capital of Sardinia is Tonara (Nuoro province): just going there is worth your time.
- Beer is the most common alchoolic drink among Sardinians; in fact, Sardinia gets the highest consumption of beer in all of Italy. Birra Ichnusa is the main local beer brand, however many artisan beers are produced, some of them even awarded at international level.
- Cannonau is a very strong red wine.
- Monica di Sardegna is a lighter, more accessible red wine.
- Mirto is an alcoholic drink that's a local speciality. It is made of wine spirit flavoured with the berries of mirto, a local shrub.
- Fil'e ferru is another alcoholic local speciality. Its name means "iron wire" because in the 19th century it was clandestinely distilled and hidden in small holes covered with soil. Only a small iron wire came out from the soil, to remember where the bottles were hidden. The original name in Sardinian language is Abbardente ( Fil'e ferru is in Sardinian too, but it's used more by non Sardinian-speakers).
- Limoncello is a sweet drink made with lemon rind, usually best served chilled. It is widely produced in locally.
- Vernaccia di Oristano is a high alcoholic wine produced in Oristano zone. It's a special wine to drink with pastry.
- Vermentino di Sardegna is light wine with a strong minerally taste.
Sardinians are generally a quiet and reserved people, especially those from the interior where they are, more than the other islanders, deeply attached to their land and culture; surely they may prove to be different from the archetype of the outgoing and talkative Mediterranean.
Stay safe / healthy
Sardinia has a very low crime rate.
Be wary of game hunters during the September-February period; check with locals, hotel employees, and the website of the Sardinian Region for legal hunting dates. Do not hike in the wilderness during these days. There are protected areas (It. Oasi di protezione della fauna) but even these are regularly raided by poachers, especially during the night.
From April/May to September, fires plague Sardinia as the rest of the Mediterranean area; some are spontaneous wildfires, but most are criminal. Observe the usual precautions. It is generally forbidden to start domestic fires in forests. Check with local authorities; Sardinia is an autonomous region and Italian laws might be superseded by local provisions.
Sardinia is part of the Mediterranean area and shares its specific hazards. A few basic precautions are generally enough to stay out of trouble, especially during summer and autumn.
Sardinia is sparsely populated, in particular the interior; help is not always easily found, and there remain large patches of land where mobile-phone coverage is non-existent (e.g. at the bottom of sheltered valleys). Terrain, despite the lack of high elevations, is generally rugged and steep; this, in combination with heat and lack of water, can quickly lead to disaster. Beware!
Summer is hot and the sun quite strong; the usual precautions to avoid heatstroke and sunburns apply. From May to September, water scarcity in the country is a serious problem. Always take a lot of water with you (especially so when hiking), even if you plan a short trip; bringing along fresh watery fruit (such as peaches) is also helpful. While tap water is generally (but not always) safe, it is recommended to buy bottled mineral water; remember that sweating implies loss of water and of mineral salts.
Autumn is generally fine, but can become very unpleasant because of the heavy rainstorms and hilly topography, creating possibilities for land- and mud- slides; always check the weather before planning a trip, even with your car. Winter and spring are generally safer, with pleasantly mild weather (especially during the day) and abundance of water; but remember that to higher elevations corresponds an increasingly colder weather and larger precipitation. Much of Sardinia (especially the Western part) is very windy from September to April; all drivers, and in particular those with campers, must exercise caution.
Some open-sea beaches are notorious for strong underwater currents (in particular on the West coast); beware that warning signs are not always posted. Ask at your hotel or locals. The Mediterranean Sea is no lily pond; every year, there are several people killed by drowning in Sardinia, and regularly victims are imprudent persons dragged from the shore by large waves.
Be careful when hiking in old mining districts (Sulcis-Iglesiente, Sarrabus, Nurra); while local authorities have sealed off many dangerous areas, there remain some. Always avoid dark galleries, because they might hide vertical ventilation shafts; do not venture into closed areas (look for the word Pericolo [Danger] or the usual warning signs). If you want to explore mines, go to the local tourist information agencies; they will direct you to organized tours. There have been tales of individuals (mostly ex-mineworkers) running their own private tours; avoid these, as they are illegal and extremely unsafe, because of risks of cave-ins, water infiltration, etc.
Local fauna and flora can be dangerous or source of discomfort:
- Ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) carry infectious diseases and are endemic to certain areas: avoid tall grass fields or close prolonged contact with domesticated animals (in particular sheep).
- Lethal mushrooms (among which Amanita phalloides) are found in the island.