A Wide Range of Natural Attractions
It is true that the sea, beaches and islands are the primary tourist attractions in the region, but also the mountains, hills, plateaus and plains crossed by rivers and lakes, ponds and lagoons, constitute destinations of great interest for the natural beauty they offer.
You can travel just a few kilometers inland from the coast to discover the varied and luxuriant Mediterranean scrub, which has developed thanks to the mild climate of the island. The mastic, the rock rose, the berries and the renowned myrtle are just some examples of the typical Sardinian evergreen vegetation.
Continuing towards the innermost areas, we find woods of cork oaks, holm oaks, ancient junipers and millenary olive trees. Few know it, but Sardinia is the Italian region with the largest forest area, it has recovered remarkably well from deforestation thanks to the establishment of numerous and large natural parks.
Moving further north, in Upper Gallura we find the Archipelago di La Maddalena, with its seven islands and various islets. The notoriety of the wild beauty of this corner of the Mediterranean has now crossed international borders, creating an increasing interest in these breathtaking places. This area has achieved the important prerogative of having remained intact ecologically: the numerous beaches, bays, coves and creeks fringed with thick vegetation all have a common denominator, the crystal clear water. Only Isola La Maddalena and Caprera can be visited by car. To fully enjoy the beauty of the Archipelago and discover its secrets, you need to travel by boat.
In the territory of Santa Teresa di Gallura we find an isthmus that leads to Capo Testa, a rocky promontory sculpted by the wind and full of historical relics, such as the nuragic village of Lu Brandali and the Roman Quarries in Cala di Levante. The path that leads to the lighthouse at the top of the promontory is a sensory overload of colors and perfumes that ends in an unforgettable view.
In the northeastern part of the island, in a large area called Gallura, we find the city of Olbia, known by the ancient Greeks and Romans for the particular shape of its gulf which offers a deep inlet, and almost creates a natural lake protected from all winds. This city that hosts various archaeological sites and the Romanesque basilica of S. Simplicio, founded in the 11th century, is also a modern city and important tourist center, with a busy port that hosts large cruise ships.
In the southern part of the large gulf of Olbia we find the promontory of Capo Ceraso with its jagged coasts of granite rock. Here too is the Isola di Tavolara with its limestone cliffs that drop from 600 meters high into the intense blue of the sea. In the northern part of the gulf we find the promontory of Capo Figari, also characterized by high limestone cliffs, from whose top Guglielmo Marconi was able to establish the first radio contact in history with the Italian peninsula.
On the northwestern side of the island we find the village of Alghero, where the influence of the Spanish colonizations is still found in the Catalan dialect spoken by its inhabitants, and in its ramparts and towers. In Alghero we find an important airport, marina, long white sand beaches and the enchanting promontory of Capo Caccia. The extreme northwestern tip of the island is home to an oasis of wildlife, from where you can admire one of the most thought-provoking panoramas in all of Sardinia.
Less than 40 km away is the city of Sassari, the second largest city in Sardinia. The town was founded in the early Middle Ages and is famous for its churches and ancient buildings such as its university, the oldest in Sardinia, founded in 1562. The town boasts important archaeological sites dating back to the Neolithic and up to the Roman Empire in its surroundings.
On the western coast of Sardinia, south of the medieval city of Oristano, we find Stagno di Cabras, kingdom of the mullet bottarga, a Sardinian delicacy of salted and cured fish row that is brilliant grated on top of pasta.
Recently, the town of Cabras has been made famous by the discovery of some stone sculptures known as the Giants of Mont’e Prama, one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the last century. Hidden underground for more than 3000 years, these hand-carved giants are between 2 and 2.5 meters high. They form gigantic warriors with shields, archers armed with bows and boxers ready to fight.
Cagliari is the capital city and the only metropolis on the whole island. Overlooking the wide Gulf of Angels and surrounded by an immense lagoon that houses thousands of specimens of pink flamingos. Cagliari it is one of the oldest Phoenician settlements and offers an archaeological museum, castles and ramparts, long white sandy beaches and thousands of shades of blue between the sea and the sky to make it a must-see destination.
The tradition of typical Sardinian cuisine boasts very ancient roots, at the beginning agro-pastoral which gradually expanded, also including over time dishes based on fish, mollusks and crustaceans typical of the fishing villages. During the long periods on the pastures with the flock, the shepherds needed simple and nutritious dishes, accompanied by the characteristic “house wine”, easy to transport and resistant to high and low temperatures. For this reason Sardinian cuisine has a wide selection of sausages and cheeses, full of timeless flavor.
The dishes vary according to the areas; some typical examples are the Gallurese soup, typical of Gallura. It is a dish baked in the oven with cheese, sheep broth and various herbs. La Fregula, small balls of durum wheat pasta, seasoned with mussels, clams and seafood is served in the lower Campidano. Lorighittas and Malloreddus, two types of pasta made from semolina flour and usually seasoned with sausage sauce, are instead typical of the Oristano area. Panadas are excellent meat, fish or vegetable pies and are widespread throughout Sardinia.
Sardinian viticulture deserves more attention because of its quality and history. The vines are grown almost everywhere in this region: from the fertile plain near the sea, to the innermost areas of the island, on the high hills of Oliena and Dorgali, and in the schistose territory of Jerzu. The variety of red grapes most cultivated on the island is Cannonau di Sardegna (Garnacha in Spanish, Grenache in French) which has a characteristic spicy aroma and a rich, warm and soft flavor. Among the Cannonau wines, made immortal by Gabriele D’Annunzio, Nepente di Oliena stands out. One of the centers of Sardinian red wines is Carignano del Sulcis, a territory located at the south-western end, whose vines are planted near the sea, exposed to the sun and wind, on sandy soils. The wine obtained from this cultivation is a ruby red, capable of expressing intense aromas of small berries and Mediterranean scrub, with a moderate propensity for aging.
The winner of first place in red wine in the Italian ranking at Vinitaly 2019 was Serranu, a blend of red island grape varieties grown on granite soils at 600 meters above sea level, in the high hills of Monti in Gallura. The maturation of the Serranu takes place in fine barriques that enrich this blend with a noble elegance. A perfect wine to pair with Sardinian cuisine.
The symbolic wine of the island’s white grapes is Vermentino which is widely produced throughout Sardinia, but a particular mention goes to that produced in Gallura, in the north-eastern part, where this grape gets, with Vermentino di Gallura, the only DOCG of all regional DOC production.