A drive along the west coast of Sardinia – Flamingos, black rice and dancing candle men

November 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Europe, featured, Italy, Leisure, Museums, Sardinia, Sightseeing

In this article, our guest author, Astrid Ruffhead takes us on a drive along the west coast of Sardinia from the bustling capital Cagliari to the coastal resort of Alghero taking in the candle festival of Sassari.

Located on the southern coast of Sardinia, Cagliari has throughout history been a leading trading seaport in heart of the Mediterranean. The oldest part of this bustling capital is the Castello, perched like a crown on top of the hill in the town centre. Park the car outside the city walls and enter the city via the Porta Christina. Immediately to your left you find the former Arsenal, now housing the city’s most important museums; those of Archaeology, Oriental Art and the Municipal Art Gallery.

Entrance to Museum area in Cagliari

Entrance to Museum area in Cagliari

The grid-like layout of the city makes it easy to find your way around. Walk along the Via Martini and you will soon be standing outside the Town Hall. Inside is the helpful tourist office and on the first floor are the Sala Della Rappresentanza and Sala del Consiglio Comunale. On their walls hang numerous paintings of important events in Sardinian history. To me, it gave a visual aid to Sardinia and its relationship with mainland Italy, but what struck me most, being a paranoid and security-anxious Londoner, was the openness of the place, no security checks or guards anywhere.

Interior of Town Hall in Cagliari, Sardinia

Interior of Town Hall in Cagliari, Sardinia

The same street leads you down to the impressive Romanesque façade of the Cathedral on Piazza Palazzo, built by the Pisans in the 12th century. Dedicated to Santa Maria, this place of worship is extensively decorated in different types of marble in the Baroque style. I was there on a Sunday and the cathedral was packed full, so many locals and visitors chose to sit on the steps outside to listen to the ceremony and music in the glorious sunshine.

Cathedral facade in Cagliari

Cathedral facade in Cagliari

Antiques is one of my passions in life and I had months in advance planned to be in Cagliari on the second Sunday of the month so that I could fully indulge myself at the antique market on Piazza Carlo Alberto, an event which every website had assured me takes place every second Sunday of the month – the day I was there. Nobody though, had added the words ‘except for August’…Oh well, time for lunch instead. I found this lovely trattoria serving wonderful seafood in one of the many narrow alleyways within the Castello.

Prawn on black rice and honey sauce

Prawn on black rice and honey sauce

The coast road to Oristano

From Cagliari we took the motorway towards Oristano. From there on, the coastal road is one I will always remember, simply breathtakingly beautiful. Sandy beaches or rocky outlets are embraced by the clearest waters I have seen for a long time, colours ranging from dark ink and celestial blues to a soft shimmering turquoise. As cliffs get higher and the roads getting narrower, to my great surprise, long legged pink flamingos can be seen around the salt plains that are now vast nature reserves.

The coastal view at Oristano, Sardinia

The coastal view at Oristano, Sardinia

Continuing north, we made a stop at the pretty little town of Bosa on the river Temo. Here is a good market on a Wednesday morning selling fruit, cheese bread, a very good place for sampling delicious local produce. Get here early as market and everything else for that matter, closes at lunchtime. Boat trips are available on the river in the evenings and along the river you see the old tannery buildings from the turn of the last century.

Crispy bread puffs and fresh produce at the market

Crispy bread puffs and fresh produce at the market in Bosa

Arriving at Alghero

Closer to Alghero, the landscape changes again, becoming more fertile with many wine producing fields, including Sardinia’s favourite grape, the Vernaccia. Alghero has been a popular resort since the 1960s thanks to its long sandy beach but in the countryside south of Alghero you find may manifestations of the Nuraghi people, who lived on this island in the 10th-12th century BC.

In the countryside south of Alghero you find may manifestations of the Nuraghi people, who lived on this island in the 10th-12th century BC.

Evidence near Alghero of the Nuraghi people

Via Garibladi runs along the seafront and marina and its many bars and restaurants are filled with trendy people watchers. As always, I head for the oldest parts of town where I notice that this place has a very Spanish influence. Street names can be both in Italian and Catalan, going back to a time when the city was captured by the Aragonese. The San Francesco cloister from the 14th century is a reminder of this era and during summer months it becomes an atmospheric open air concert venue. In Via Calberto, you find many craftsmen selling local coral jewellery, much admired for its deep red colour.

Coral jewellery on sale in Alghero, Sardinia

Coral jewellery on sale in Alghero, Sardinia

As picturesque as Alghero is, particularly in the evening, it is the scenery outside the town that attracts me most. Do not miss the Capo Caccia peninsula. It appears like a huge sculpture before you, as you travel north of the city. In the air you might be lucky to see one of the few surviving Sardinian Griffon vultures or the more common peregrine falcons, who have masses of white cliffs to choose from as nesting grounds. But keep your eyes on the ground, particularly if you decide to take the 654 steps down the Escala Cabriol, (the goat’s steps) to Neptune’s Cave filled with remarkable stalactites and stalagmites. The only let-down is that you have to take all the steps back up again… It is easy to get out to Capo Caccia on a hop on – hop off sightseeing bus. The trip takes 2 hours and is the best value ever had for 18 Euros.

Capo Caccia

Capo Caccia

Sassari and the Giant Candles

Sassari is the second most important city in Sardinia. Municipal buildings in the Neo Classical style surround the large Piazza Italia. In its centre is a huge statue of Victor Emanuel ll (Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Tommaso) not only the first king of a united Italy, but also gives his name to the long main shopping street, Corso Vittorio Emanuel, which winds its way through the old town. My main reason for visiting Sassari though, was the annual festival of the Candelieri. This is an incredible day to be there, as from around lunchtime you can hear music and singing in the street, getting louder by the hour, as the Candelieri start practicing for the evening.

The Candelieri festival at Sassari

The Candelieri festival at Sassari

The event has its roots in the 13th century when the city was under Pisan domination and there was a tradition of offering a candle to the Madonna on the eve of the Assumption. In the 17th century and after numerous plagues had hit the town it took the form of religious thanks from the town guilds.

To this day nine guilds including blacksmiths, farmworkers, carpenters, tailors, greengrocers etc. parade through the city, each carrying a huge wooden column with coloured ribbons on top, representing a candle stick. It takes 8-10 men to carry this 100 kilo candle, at the same time walking, singing and dancing in a procession through the city. Everybody joins in with this fantastic celebration which ends in the evening when wooden candles are ceremoniously placed at the church of Santa Maria.

Astrid head shot copyMy thanks for this guest post to Astrid Ruffhead who after growing up in Sweden, arrived in London in the late 1970s, first working for the Swedish Tourist Board and later for VisitDenmark. She has also owned her own PR company, The Travel Gallery PR and a second passion is hotels. She lives in North London and is today working as a freelance travel and antiques blogger/dealer. Contact Astrid at: elegantforever2010@gmail.com or elegantforever2010.blogspot.com

More things to see in Sardinia

Bandits and Murals at Orgosolo in Sardinia
Swimming in river pools – near Gola Gorruppu in Sardinia
Sea caves and a boat trip – in Sardinia

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Dreaming about the Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily

September 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Guest post, Italy, Leisure, Misc, Sardinia, Sightseeing

Italy isn’t just about the mainland – the islands of Sardinia and Sicily are unique culture and cuisine. Rougher around the edges – less style more substance. Sicily and Sardinia are the largest islands in the Mediterranean an like all of Italy, they ooze history, colourful festivals and traditions. The islands have thousands of miles of beautiful beaches, so are perfect if you really want to relax and enjoy some sunshine.

Cliffside sunset in Sardinia Photo by Christophe Mallet on Flickr

Cliffside sunset in Sardinia

Sardinia for All

Sardinia holidays offer something for just about everyone. The island has a warm, sunny climate with long summers. Typically, it is dry and quite hot from May to October with temperatures typically around 30C in July and August. It’s also lovely if you crave a little sunshine to break up a cold winter, particularly in March and April, when the spring flowers are in bloom, or the autumn when the days are still warm.

For history buffs, there’s lots to look at. Wander through some of the mysterious stone dwellings or nuraghi which date back some 3,500 years to add some ancient flavour to your Sardinia holiday, or spot the Roman influence on the buildings in the towns. Alghero has a lovely walled city, with cobbled streets and lookout towers in the ramparts.

If you want to rub shoulders with the jet-set, head to Costa Smeralda where you might bump into George Clooney and his girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis (she’s originally from the island), or footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. There are private jet and helicopter services to this part of the island which is all rather posh and exclusive. Conversely, if you want to get away for it all complete you can head for the unspoiled beaches to the south. The turquoise sea and deserted beaches give a jaded body the perfect opportunity to forget everything and simply ‘be’.

Eating out in Sardinia Photo by Heatheronhertravels.com

Eating out in Sardinia

And for foodies, Sardinia’s cuisine provides plenty of variety. Influenced by its neighbours, Italy and Corsica, the food is hearty and delicious. Recipes and ingredients vary from town to town with coastal menus bursting with seafood. Lobster, king prawns and octopus grace the tables here, along with just about every Mediterranean fish you can think of. Head inland for carnivore heaven with dishes such as spit-roasted suckling pig, rabbit dishes and lamb. A speciality, sanguinaccio, is a kind of sweet black pudding, studded with currants served roasted or boiled. Sardinian wines are also extremely good, so enjoy a glass or two with your meal.

Citrus-y Sicily

Sicily holidays are also full of lipsmacking food and cultural treasures. The island is packed full of archeology, history and folklore – you can immerse yourself in a different world here. Exploring its blend of European, African and Asian cultures is truly delightful, with more than enough temples and ancient amphitheatres to please the most budding of historians. At Agrigento, there’s a large archeological site surrounded by olive groves and almond trees, picture perfect for strolling around. And Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, dominates the skyline in the north east – you’ll see it glowing in the evenings.

Agrigento, Sicily Photo by Pacamanca

Agrigento, Sicily

Along the coasts you’ll spot orchards of orange and lemon trees, which perfume the air in spring, and are used in many of the local dishes. Sicilian lemons or citron as they are sometimes known, are renowned for being large and juicy, but can be knobbly or shaped like strange sea creatures. Don’t be put off as their flavour is superb, so make the most of them while you’re there – try them in a simple pasta dish with lots of fresh herbs or savour a granite – a kind of slushy mix of ice and fruit juice – tangy, refreshing and delicious all in one!

And make sure to try the classic Sicilian dish, caponata. Served as an appetizer, this mix of aubergine, olives and capers really captures the essence of the Mediterranean diet. All along the coast, you’ll find the freshest seafood, including swordfish and a local delicacy cuttlefish served in its ink on pasta.

More Mediterranean dreams

Swimming in river pools in Sardinia
A prehistoric village with a sea view in Sardinia
Sea caves and a boat trip in Sardinia

My thanks for this article, written by Belinda Weber, to Italy holidays specialist Citalia.

Photo credits: Cliffside sunset in Sardinia by christophe mallet, Agrigento, Sicily by pacamanca

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscribe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

Explore the smaller islands of Sardinia

If you’re planning your Sardinia holiday, this article will inspire you to explore some of the smaller and unspoilt islands off the coast of Sardinia, such as the pink sand beach at Budelli, the old town of Calloforte on San Pietro, and the former prison of Mafia bosses on Asinara.

Sardinia is the second biggest Italian island after Sicily. You can easily recognize it as it’s the one that is foot-shaped, which is why it was once called Ichnusa (from the Greek Ichnion meaning track or footstep). Ichnusa has also become the name of the regional beer, which you can’t really miss tasting once here!

The island has a strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and has a varied inner geography, as well as more than 30 smaller islands surrounding the mainland. Most of these islands are very tiny and uninhabited, while the biggest ones have at least one populated centre and always a particular story. Let’s discover the most important minor islands in Sardinia….

Pink Beach at La Maddalena, Sardinia

Pink Beach at La Maddalena, Sardinia

La Maddalena Archipelago: Maddalena and Caprera islands

This is the most popular Sardinian Archipelago, well known around the world for the beauty and singularity of its beaches and waters. The Archipelago is part of the National Park and is a well loved tourist location. The main island of the Archipelago is La Maddalena, while Caprera Island is popular for having hosted the Italian general and hero Giuseppe Garibaldi during his exile and until his death in 1882. You can find the Museum dedicated to him, called the “Hero of two Worlds” for his expeditions both in Europe and South America. If you are on holidays here,don’t miss visiting the spectacular pink beach, on Budelli Island.

Sant Antioco beach in Sardinia

Sant Antioco beach in Sardinia

Sulcis Archipelago: Sant Antioco and San Pietro islands

Located in south-western Sardinia, the archipelago has two main islands: Sant’Antioco (108 Km2, connected to the mainland by an artificial stretch of land) and San Pietro (51 Km2). San Pietro’s unique centre is Carloforte, a small jewel and much appreciated tourist resort.

Carloforte on San Pietro

Carloforte on San Pietro

Carloforte has been listed among “the best Italian municipalities” and has a linguistic and cultural particularity: the island was colonized in 1738 by Ligurian people who introduced their dialect and habits. The language people speak today comes directly from Ligurian and has literally nothing to do with Sardinian language! Carloforte is a very charming locationwhere you can enjoy the old town, the small beaches with clear blue sea and a delicious plate of Spaghetti alla Carlofortina (Carloforte style) with fresh tuna (a typical local product), pesto and cherry tomatoes.

Asinara Island

Devils’s island, as it was called in the past, is today a true corner of paradise. Asinara is found in the northern part of Sardinia and was closed to the public from 1885 to 1997. It has been health quarantine station, prison camp during World War I and finally maximum-security prison in the 70s, hosting a few Mafia bosses. This isolation enabled to preserve its natural beauty, which is today finally safeguarded as Asinara has been declared National Park and can be visited only by following authorized paths and procedures.

Pan di zucchero in Asinara

Scoglio di Pan di Zucchero

Visiting some of the smaller islands off Sardinia will enable you to get in touch with a unique and unspoilt aspect of Sardinia.

This article is by Giulia Garau, an Italian travel lover living in Sardinia. She works in tourism field for the travel agency CharmingSardinia.com, which deals with Sardinia Holidays. She also runs the blog CharmingItaly.com, where she shares information about Italy.

You can download Charming Sardinia’s free guide to Sardinia from their website here

Photo Credits: Scoglio di Pan di Zuchero by monastereo, Calaforte on San Pietro by chaz 77, San Antioco beach in Sardinia by Giulia Garau, Pink beach La Maddalena by lamaddalenapark

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

32min

Next Page »