Sardinia’s Costa Esmeralda was always on my bucket list; I imagined the rich and famous celebs roaming the streets, the cafes and the beaches like in St. Tropez or Cannes.
In reality Costa Esmeralda is very secluded and quiet; there are indeed lavish villas and huge private yachts but the owners keep it on the down low vacationing and entertaining privately.
The first week was mainly swimming eating and drinking with local friends on Costa Esmeralda. We visited the Santa Teresa di Gallura on the Northern Gallura Coast; ventured by ferry to the Arcipelago di La Maddalena nearby where we did a short hike and visited the Garibaldi museum. Another day we sailed to Corsica and spent a day there.
The second week a real island exploration began. First of all, I have to mention that we were unable to get the car we reserved because they didn’t accept our international driver’s license we got from one of the online places. They only accept “an official” one from AAA. This was not a good beginning; we did prepay an un-refundable deposit and were left stranded in the airport in an unbearable midday heat. Luckily, someone suggested a local agency that turned a blind eye to the license issue but charged us twice as much for the rental. So beware!
Our first stop on the road trip was Porto Cervo, the main town of Costa Esmeralda. Even though I was told that there is nothing to see here I was still curious. It was definitely a disappointment; a small Piazzeta, the focal point of this place has more designer shops per square foot then any place in the world and after 20 minutes of aimless strolling we left in search of more exciting places.
We crossed the island from Costa Esmeralda to the west coast but first stopped in a beautiful town of Sassari. Sassari is the second largest city in Sardinia and is worth a stop. The center is at Piazza Italia, beautiful vast place with impressive 19th century buildings. Unfortunately, we were there in the middle of a very hot day and the place felt sleepy. We strolled down the main drag to Piazza Duomo which actually was very small comparing to Piazza Italia. From there a must see is the famous Fontana di Rosello right behind Piazza Mercado. By the time we got there the market was closed but the fountain is extremely impressive. It would be nice to stay in town till evening to see its night life but we were in a hurry to get to Alghero before dark since we had no reservations for a hotel and we don’t like driving at night on an unknown road.
I loved Alghero; its old town –“Centro Storico” is flanked by the famous sea walls accessible for walking; its numerous cafes and restaurants by the water are perfect for watching the sunset while sipping cocktails. At night the old town becomes alive with music and restaurants and its numerous shops remain open till very late.
We stayed two nights in Alghero. The fist night we explored the old town, the sea walls, had drinks at sunset and dinner. The next day we drove to a nearby beach Spiaggia dele Bombarde, an organized beach with sun beds and services. At sunset we had cocktails at Hotel Catalunya’s rooftop bar called Blau Skybar overlooking the old town and the sea. In the evening we had dinner in the old town and befriended an Italian couple from Milan who insisted on buying us drinks and made us taste every local desert on the menu.
There is also a market in Alghero, but it was pretty disappointing, so no reason to waste time on it.
We checked out of our hotel and took a boat trip to Grotto Neptune –“Grotto di Nettuno” that leaves from the port slightly south of the Old town. It is recommended to reserve the tickets ahead during busy months. The ride takes about an hour and then there is a guided tour of the Grotto. The trip was nice and the Grotto impressive but we have seen so many of those that decided that this was probably the last one we want to do.
After the Grotto trip we continued driving south to Bosa. First we had a nice seafood lunch in one of the restaurants on the beach and then went to explore the Bosa town. Bosa is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Sardinia. Its main drag Corso Vittorio Emanuel is stretched between the two main piazzas: Constituzione and IV Novembre. There are numerous cafes and ice cream places for an afternoon snack and apparently Piazza Constituzione is the place to hang out if one is staying in Bosa overnight. The beautiful bridge Ponte Vecchio is a good photo op.
After spending an afternoon in Bosa we continued to Oristano. At this point the weather turned cold but we couldn’t give up; we bundled up and strolled the historic center of Oristano. The center is a typical historic European town with cobble stones and numerous cafes, bars and shops. Notwithstanding the cold the outdoor bars were full and we ended up drinking ice cold Aperols outdoors freezing.
Since we already had a full day and a big lunch there was nothing else to do but to go back to the hotel.
We woke up to a sunny weather and decided to try to go to the beach one last time before fall begins. The best beach place around Oristano is the village of Torregrande, not to be confused with Marina Torregrande recommended by the Lonely Planet. Marina is a commercial port closed to public while the village is a long sandy stretch of beach with services and beach bars and restaurants. We stayed there for couple of hours and I even dipped in the sea but it was obvious that the beach season is over.
After the beach we continued to the largest city on the island, Cagliari, where we stayed for two nights in a small but charming very modest B&B right on the central square Piazza Yenne. One of the challenges was to figure out the parking; they have parking machines which sometimes did or didn’t take our credit cards and the instructions were all in Italian. Luckily the second day was a Sunday so we struggled for one day only.
Cagliari is a bustling exciting historical town. First, they have the best happy hour culture with lots of outdoor bars around Piazza Yenne and we took full advantage of it. Corso Vittorio Emanuel II is the place to find a good dinner and a walking tour of the castle area is a must to understand and to admire the history of the island. I could stay in Cagliari a little longer as there are more things to explore like visiting the market which we missed and several good hiking options round the city, but we had to move on leaving wanting for more of this city.
In the morning on our way out of town we drove around the bay trying to catch a glimpse of the famous pink flamingos. Our guide from the day before told us that there is a restaurant on the water where we can seat and watch the flamingos but we didn’t find it. We did see the pink flamingos though and they are fabulous!
One thought on “2 WEEKS IN SARDINIA”