Castelsardo’s Castel Genovese fortress was built in the 11th century to protect against incursions from North Africa and ever since it has been a symbol of Genoa’s political and commercial domination of this part of the island. Castel Genovese was one of the last strongholds to fall to the Aragonese, but it was finally conquered 1448. It then changed hands between the Austrians and Sicilians before finally becoming part of Sardinia in 1769.
Currently, the castle in Castelsardo is a museum housing a variety of objects from medieval weapons to traditional farming and fishing tools. A visit to the castle costs 2€ and I’d also recommend visiting the town’s port and historic center.
Alghero (o L'Alguer, as the locals call it), is a city that traces its origins back to the Spanish conquest, a fact which noticeable in the local dialect. The city is located on the west coast of Sardinia and rests above the sea upon a beautiful city wall. The most enchanting part about Alghero is that it still retains its medieval character even after all these years. When you visit, you feel at home. As you walk among the red and yellow buildings, you can chat and speak with the people as if they were family. It’s like being in a small village!
Make sure to visit the Caramelle dei Pirati, a small candy shop that looks like a pirate-themed attraction park on the inside. It’s so cool! I always find an excuse to buy some little knick-knack just to enter and have a look around. Also, the Café el Blau on the top floor of the Hotel Catalonia has the best views of the entire city, any time of day.
During your trip to Alghero, I’d also suggest visiting “Le Grotte di Nuttuno,” a cave of stalactites and stalagmites near Capo Caccia which you can reach by both land and sea. I went by boat and, honestly, the ride itself was pretty calm but docking and getting off the boat was quite an adventure!
As far as hotels go, I don’t have any recommendations in particular. There are many hotels in Alghero, but I think the best is Villa Las Tronas (though it’s definitely not cheap!). So, all in all, if you’re in Sardinia, Alghero is a must!
Sardinia, a Fiat and a sunny day ... Along the coast of Alghero, we thought we could not find more beautiful views of the coast that came our way. But what a surprise when we got to climb the northwest tip of the island, Capo Caccia. We took our sunglasses and climbed to see what was hidden on the other side of the rocks. A huge rock, a furious Mediterranean sea, an infinite climb, a lost cave and the image of the past in the Gruta of Neptune, the heart of Capo Caccia!
Cala Luna is the most popular beach on the Gulf of Orosei, mainly for being the closest to the main town, Cala Gonone, but also for being a simply amazing beach.
The beach is long and pebbly and the entrance isn't too steep so it's easy to reach. The water is stunningly clear and the surrounding cliffs and caves are impressive. They even seem to give the cove a sort of Southeast-Asian flavor. The only thing you need to make Cala Luna seem like a beach from southern Thailand is tropical fish swimming around!
Though Cala Luna is rather long, the truth is that it's really just a narrow strip of sand surrounded by a ferny forest. It's actually a bit hard to describe but I think the photos explain it all. For me, the combination of the bright blue water with the intensely green forest makes Cala Luna a really unique place. Cala Luna also has the advantage of being accessible by land (though not by car). You can get there via a trail that departs from Cala Gonone and has breathtaking views of the cliffs the entire way. You do, though, need to bring along some good hiking shoes and sufficient motivation to make the 4-hour round-trip hike.
Walking around any corner of the Emerald Coast is magnificent. Of course it is impossible to do it all with just a few weeks of vacation, but if you're around here and you have some time, you definitely should. My friends and I got up every morning to make short excursions to corners of this paradise that aren´t in the guides. We walked from the bay that is formed in the area of Olbia - another area that is not a waste of time.
La Pelosa Beach is famous for the clarity of its waters and its white sand. Some say it’s THE most beautiful beach in all of Sardinia. If it weren't for the typically Mediterranean vegetation surrounding the beach, you'd swear you were in the tropics. La Pelosa Beach is located on the Golf dell'Asinara and the waters are calm due to the natural protection from the stacks of Capo Falcone and the island a few miles from the coast. The shallow water and fine white sand have make La Pelosa popular among families with children. I'd suggest visiting in the off-season both for the smaller crowds and the spectacular colors as the plants come into bloom in late spring. The best months are in fact May and June when the plants at the edge of the beach form a beautiful multi-colored carpet of flowers.
If you visit Cagliari without a car and want to go to the beach, you have no choice but to resort to the bus. Go to the Via Roma where the buses pass by the middle of the street. You have to catch one going in the opposite direction as the bus station. There will be a sign at the front of the bus saying PQ, PJ or PM/N (I don't remember if it was M or N). The trip is about 15 minutes. After leaving the city, the bus passes in front of a kind of camp site (the rest of the trip will be straight ahead), then you get off 1 or 2 stops later. There's a beachy background. It's not one of the best beaches on the island or anything, but I enjoyed it. It has a nice view, clean water, is quiet, and has a fairly relaxed atmosphere even though there was quite a few people (but if you're accustomed to Malvarrosa, then it won't be that many). I don't think I've ever had a better swim in my life, the water was great!
Sardinia is the best beach destination in all of Italy, but the coves in the Gulf of Orosei definitely take the cake. We're not talking about long, sandy beaches here, but rather small coves (many of them with pebble beaches) hidden among the cliffs. However, the color of the water in this part of the coast is absolutely incredible. The intense sapphire blue is like nothing I've ever seen before. Part of the charm of many of the coves is the lack of easy access. You either go hiking for a few hours over terrain which isn't marked on the map, or you go by boat from Cala Gonone or rent a zodiac boat (gommone, in Italian). Boats give you the most mobility and let you explore a lot of grottoes and caves that are scattered around the coast, the most stunning of which is the Bue Marino Grotto. I sincerely recommend visiting the coves in the Gulf of Orosei and spending a few days there. Aside from Cala Luna (the closest to Cala Gonone), other great beaches aer Cala Mariolu, Cala Biriola, Cala Sisine, and the spectacular cliffs at Cala Goloritze. Nonetheless, remember that in this part of Italy, these beaches are very well-known and sometimes access to boats and hotels shoots up and the beaches get crowded. I'd recommend visiting in the off-season.
Orgosolo is a town in the hills of the Sardinian interior whose inhabitants have garnered a reputation for rebellion. In the 1970’s, separatists took control of the town and covered its walls with political murals. The city even has a square named after Karl Marx! This uniquely-Sardinian separatist movement’s murals, most of which were actually criticizing consumerist society, have actually become popular tourist attractions in recent years. The influx of tourists, though, doesn't change the sleepy atmosphere of black-skirted women and old men chatting on the benches of the square. It’s a really unique place and a must if you want to understand the real soul of Sardinia.
The La Maddalena Archipelago in the north of Sardinia, is one of the island's many natural parks. The park's goal is to protect the marine ecosystem and, in the process, protect the park's spectacular beaches. La Maddalena is the main island and the one from which the archipelago gets its name. Far from being a sleepy beach town, La Maddalena is a pretty big port town that gets lively during the summer months.
The island is easy to explore with your own vehicle and you can explore the island's many coves and beaches. Beyond the main island, there are many smaller ones (some more accessible than others) and ferry routes from La Maddalena. Some, however, are off limits as they are protected ecosystems. The archipelago deserves to be explored for a few days; however I'd recommend avoiding a visit in August when it attracts a slightly larger crowd.
For me, the interior of the St. Mary and St. Ceclia Cathedral in Cagliari is one of the most amazing places in the entire city. The polychromed marble interior creates some truly beautiful images which evoke the majesty of Siena Cathedral (despite the distance between the two, of course). The interior is shaped like a Latin cross and has three naves and various lateral chapels. At the entrance, there are two wells of holy water dating back to the 17th century. The flooring, re-built in 1956 according to the original 17th-century design, is also made of polychromed marble. The vaults of the main nave have frescos depicting the exaltation of the cross, the history of Christianity’s spread through Sardinia, and the Piety. All were done by artist Filippo Figari (1885-1975).
There are various underground chambers below the cathedral floor, the majority are used as tombs for local archbishops, nobles, viceroys, and saints, and are off-limits to visitors. The most notable part of the underground vaults is the Sanctuary of the Martyrs, conveniently also the only chamber open to the public. It was carved into the bedrock at the orders of the Archbishop Esquivel in the early 17th century and finished in 1618. It contains 179 nooks which hold various relics from the martyred saints buried in the early Christian cemeteries of Cagliari. The sanctuary has three chapels: that of the Virgin of the Martyrs, Lucifer of Cagliari, and St. Saturnine, all done in a mixture of Baroque, Renaissance, and Neo-Classical styles and covered in marble. The chamber also serves as the tomb of certain members of the House of Savoy, rulers of Sardinia from 1730 to 1861. In the cathedral’s interior, you can also see the famous polychromed Baroque altars, funerary monuments to the archbishops and viceroys, the mausoleum of Martino Il Giovane, King of Sicily, and various accessories made of silver.
We didn't have a motorcycle, or a car, not even a bike. We went with our surest mode of transportation- our traveler's legs. After visiting the Caves of Neptune, there from the top of the mountain we saw some little crystalline coves of water, green, shining turquoise that looked like it was dancing. We didn't know how many kilometers could have been there, but dazzled by the call of the sea, we started walking. I don't know how long it took us, but those waters were ours. We succumbed to its charms and immersed ourselves for hours. The salt, the sea, the perfect temperature and our bodies united...
Isola Rossa is a small town in the north of Sardinia. It’s no surprise that it’s a favorite destination for many Sardinians and makes for a great starting point to explore the island.
The name “Isola Rossa” (“Red Island”) comes from a small nearby island whose red silhouette is a characteristic an unavoidable part of the landscape. While the beaches get pretty crowded during some summer months, it’s still one of the more peaceful and calm corners of the island.
Isola Rossa has two particularly nice beaches: Playa Longa (the largest one) and Li Femini (a smaller urban beach). Also, a walk along the seaside promenade at sundown makes for a truly magical moment.
Bosa is small city in western Sardinia. You notice it from the highway due to its brightly colored houses (“Sa Costa,” locally) and the maze-like mesh of cobblestone streets in the historic center. In a way, Bosa is a city which blends tradition and modernity. The old city’s main street, Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II, is lined with 19th-century buildings and ornate iron balconies and the entire town is watched over by the 10th-century Malaspina Castle. The Temo River crosses through the village and is lined on one side by high palm trees and by historic abandoned tanneries on the other.
Bosa locals are also big fans of pizza and the best place to grab a slice is Giovanni, a small pizzeria near the main square. The city also has a beach area called the Bosa Marina where you can enjoy a seaside walk with views of the Spanish lookout tower and the lighthouse. If you go in summer, you’ll have the opportunity to see the sunset from a small outdoor bar they set up. Don’t miss it if you have the chance! Having a icy cocktail (with food, of course) while enjoying an evening by the sea is an unforgettable moment. If you go with your significant other, it’ll be one of the most romantic moments of your trip!
If you're looking for a great beach with fine white sand in southern Sardinia, Porto Giunco is the place. It's located in Villasimius just over 40km from the capital city of Cagliari.
The beach at Porto Giunco is known for its crystal-clear waters and the famous Notteri salt lagoon behind it. It's not uncommon to see pink flamingos hanging out in the lagoon. The beach has shallow water and is great for kids in that sense, but it's also windy and a haven for surfers and windsurfers as well.
There's a majestic cape to the right with a scenic lookout tower on top. Porto Giunco is very popular during summer but considering its size and length, you should have no problem finding your own little patch of sand. At the beach, there' a bar, handicapped access, and umbrella/sun chair rentals.
Palau is a small population of just over 4,000 in Olbia-Tempio in Sardinia, 30 km northwest of Olbia. We rented a car for a tour of Sardinia for a week and to explore the island. Before leaving, I researched the points of interest and things to see, but in this kind of travel, there is always room for improvisation and we were hungry and we were somewhat tired and stopped in Palau. Despite being a small town, the coast is spectacular. The road along the coast and there is plenty of parking and a curb and benches. We had heard that sunsets are spectacular in Sardinia, so we made some time until the sunset. The view was beautiful, orange-yellow, the sun was setting behind the mountains. No doubt, it was worth the stop.