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