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Episode #219: 10 (or more) Reasons to Visit Sardinia

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The Italian island of Sardinia can be found nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, a beacon of natural splendor, historical richness, and cultural vibrancy. This island is renowned for its crystalline waters, incredible beaches, and rugged landscapes and captivates visitors with its timeless allure and diverse attractions. We unveil some of the compelling reasons why this enchanting island is worth exploring. Alongside its stunning terrain, these include its ancient ruins, culinary delights and warm hospitality.

Show notes
In this episode, we talk to Angela Corrias who is from Sardinia. Angela has traveled and lived all over the world and is now living in Rome whilst regularly heading back to Sardinia. She loves to spend time in her hometown, as well as exploring new things on this fascinating Mediterranean island. Sardinia is a destination that is a little bit off the radar for many who don’t live in Europe and offers an array of contrasting and stunning landscapes, amazing food, and fascinating, incredibly ancient historical sites, many of which are unique to the island. 

What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. Angela and Katy recently got to know one another over a few coffees, some snacks, and a wander through the Vatican museums
  2. Italian Angela now lives in Rome but was born and raised in Sardinia. She was born in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia in the South of the island, but grew up in the center of the island in a very small village called Ghilarza
  3. She lived in Sardinia until she was 19 before heading off first to Rome to study journalism, and then taking off to travel around the world, including South America, Asia, and around Europe – for around 10 years. She then moved back to Italy and settled in Rome. She is based in Rome but travels to Sardinia every year for extended periods
  4. She’s planning to spend a couple of months in Sardinia this summer. The beaches will be incredibly crowded as it is peak season, so she will plan some other exploring around the island as well as a little beach time. Even though she is from Sardinia, Angela still loves to explore the areas she doesn’t yet know
  5. Sardinia is a fairly large island and is not connected to mainland Italy by any bridge. The only way to reach Sardina is by ferry or  plane
  6. The island is located off the Rome Coast on the western side of Rome and north of Sicily. It’s the second biggest island in Italy
  7. You can reach it by plane from many European cities and many Italian cities with one of the European low-cost airlines like Wiz Air, EasyJet and Ryan Air. You can reach Sardina by ferry from Rome – at the Civitavecchio port or from other ports like Genoa and Palermo. Also from other European ports like Barcelona, Nice and Marseille.
  8. Angela and her family always go by ferry from Rome because they take their car. They have a four-year-old, so they can take everything they need by car. Before she had her son, Angela used to go by plane which is just 45 minutes from Rome. By ferry, if you go from Civitavecchia to Cagliari, in the South, it’s 13 hours. If you go from Civitavecchia to Olbia, in the north, it’s 8 hours and a similar time to Porto Torres
  9. Many people, especially other Europeans come with a camper van, so they have to go by ferry
  10. The flight is, of course, shorter, but the ferry is often overnight, so you save on a night’s hotel cost. You wake up in the morning and you are in Sardinia
  11. Your choices are going to depend on how much time you have and where you want to go and see
  12. Many think of Sardinia as quite small, like Capri or some of the other Mediterranean islands, but it’s actually pretty big and you need quite a bit of time to explore it properly
  13. Angela recommends that if you are only staying a week, to pick one area, like Northern Sardinia and explore lots of the plates around there. If you want to stay two weeks or a month, then you can travel across the island and see more, but take your time to visit the places

Reasons to visit Sardinia

  • There are many reasons to fall in love with Sardinia. Firstly, there is the landscape. Sardinia is famous for its Coast and the beaches in Sardinia are indeed beautiful, but Sardinia actually has an extremely diverse landscape. There are mountains and  here is desert and the beaches are really different from each other. The East Coast is completely different to the West Coast
  • If you come in the summer, no doubt you will head to the coast as it is so hot, but Angela suggests that if you come in Spring, to visit the inland – around the small towns and mountains 
  • Each town has a different landscape, different customs and different traditions. The traditions are another great reason to visit Sardinia. Each town has its own it’s own dialect, traditional customs and it’s own food.
  • Food is another big reason to visit Sardinia. They have many different types of bread, many different types of pasta and so many different dishes
  • Where Angela comes from, where he goes to the beach is called Cabras, and is a town that is very famous for seafood. If you want to eat seafood in Sardinia, Angela highly recommends heading to Cabras which is famous for the mullet roe called Bottarga. It’s used in many dishes in Cabras.  You can grate it and season the pasta, or you can have it very finely sliced and you can eaten on a piece of bruschetta
    It’s slightly salty and is really nice with a little olive oil or butter
  • For more seafood, you can go to Alghero for the lobster. They are influenced by the Catalan culture and in Alghero, they even speak Catalan, so the lobster they make is a Catalan-influenced recipe
  • Sardina was invaded by so many countries and cultures and also had relationships with people from all over. These include the ancient Punic civilization and the Romans. Sardinia has Roman baths and cities and ancient Punic cities more in the south and central parts of the island. They have Spanish influences and the Aragonese from Aragon (part of now Spain). In the north are the Catalan influences. In the south, they have food and culture more influenced by Genoa
  • They also had Arab invasions. Angela finds that in Cagliari, some of the words remind her of Arabic
  • Sardinians consider themselves to be Italian but Sardinian first
  • Then within Sardinia, the culture is very rich with each town being different. So not only is Sardinia different to the rest of Italy, but the various areas and towns of Sardinia are very different from each other

Language

  • The language and dialect is completely different to other parts of Rome. If Angela speaks Sardinian in Rome, nobody understands her
  • Some words in Sardinian come out by accident, like the Sardinian word for window – ventana, which is close to Spanish. In Italian, it’s finestra. If she says ventana in Rome, they sometimes start speaking Spanish or don’t understand it at all

Beaches

  • In Sardinia, they have a variety of beach types – fine, sandy beaches to very rocky beaches.  Beaches that are close to where Angela stays are great for families because the water is not very deep and it’s very fine white, soft sand
  • But then also close to me, we have another beach, like it’s a peninsula. It’s the Sinis peninsula. A few beaches in there. They have quartz. So it’s like the sand is like rice.
  • In the north, on another archipelago, La Maddalena, they have pink quartz
  • Sardinia in Europe is known for having some of the best beaches in Europe, yet for some reason, this seems to be known by other Europeans, but off the radar off the broader English-speaking population. The beaches are often compared to the Maldives and the Caribbean
  • La Pelosa in Stintino, near Alghero in the north of Sardinia, is often compared to Caribbean beaches. From afar, you can see the water changing between emerald, blue, very light blue, and then green
  • In Sardinia, you are never more than an hour away from a beach
  • The island has a mix of beach clubs and free beaches but there are plenty of free beaches. Everywhere Angela goes it’s free
  • There are some beaches that have a limit on the number of people that can enter each day. La Pelosa is one example. From June to September, when it’s the high season, they limit the numbers to around 1,500 a day. You book online from the day before – preferably a couple of days before in high season. When you arrive, you show your booking and they give you a bracelet, and you have the whole day. But once the number is reached, no one else can enter
  • Other beaches are private, with a lot of private clubs for hotels
  • In Sardinia, it is illegal to take the sand from the beaches. This is because it simply is not sustainable. Every year they stop lots of tourists at the airport or at the ports because they find them with full bags of sand, bags. The beach is beautiful because of the sand, but if too many tourists take it away, it destroys it for the locals and tourists.
  • Sardinia is a little bit more natural than some of the other beachy places in Italy – much, much wilder. If you see it also from the airplane, when you’re landing, you see a completely different landscape to say Sicily. Whilst Sicily has agricultural land, Sardinia is wilder and more green

Agriturismi

  • There are many agriturismi (farm stays) in Sardinia. Unfortunately, they are not great at marketing because there are many that Angela doesn’t know about. She has stumbled across some great ones in the past
  • There are also B&Bs and hotels, but with the wild and rustic scenery, staying in an Agriturismo is a wonderful choice. You can get to know the countryside and the people a little bit better when you stay in a place like that
  • Listen to our podcast explaining this type of accommodation in What is an Agriturismo and why you should stay in one

Ancient and archeological sites

  • Sardinia has a long history. In Sardinia, it’s all about archeological, ancient relics and sites to visit. The Nuraghe are a Bronze Age type of stone monument found around the island. In many sites, you see only the tower, but in many other areas, you see the whole village. There are some in Barumini, Su Nuraxi and Nuraghe Losa in Central Sardinia
  • The Nuraghe are thousands of years old but were built with these huge stones, placed on top of each other – no glue and yet they are still standing
  • The Ozieri culture even pre-dates the Nuraghe era. Then we have the Punic sites with Nora, an ancient city close to Cagliari and Tharros on the West Coast
  • You can visit both the tower and the villages and there are always local guides staffing these places and in various languages – English, Spanish and French. They will explain how each village connected to the territory because there are about 10,000 all over Sardinia, with different purposes and functions
  • Sardinia has some of the oldest inhabited places in Europe. People have been living in these spots for thousands and thousands of years
  • Another interesting archeological site is the Tomba dei Giganti, which means the giant tombs These were necropolis, like graveyards
  • There is also the Domus de Janas which is the houses of the fairies. These are tombs, older than the Nuraghei, belonging to this even older Ozieri culture
  • Sardinia also has sacred wells. Close to where Angela lives is a very famous one called Santa Cristina which is from the Nuraghe period. It’s a well and in the bottom, you can see there is still water, but it was not a well used for retrieving the water, it’s more like a temple and was used for religious purposes. Built many thousands of years ago, every 18 years, the moon’s reflection goes straight to the bottom – it is perfectly calculated. Not only can we not these days easily replicate such a thing, they are still trying to understand how they made it back then

Mountains and canyons

  • There are mountains in the Nuoro province and Monte Arci is in Oristano. In Nuoro, which probably has the tallest mountains, you can visit Barbagia and Ogliastra and go hiking
  • In Ogliastra, there is the famous Su Gorropu, It is a canyon which you can go down into. They do tours into it – Angela personally would not go by herself for risk of getting lost. There are routes and paths that you can follow, but it is only recommended for the more experienced walker

Culture

  • Angela feels that the areas around Barbagia or Ollastra are a true, authentic Sardinia, partly because they were not invaded as much as they were on the coast
  • The town of Mamoiada is in Barbagia, close to Nuoro, and holds a very ancient festival called the Mamuthones. They wear wooden masks, designed to be very ugly and they dance around the fire for Saint Anthony in January. They wear sheepskin and carry 30 kilos of sheep bells. They have a specific rhythmical dance. They also come out also for carnival, but they don’t do the fire for carnival – they just parade along the streets with different, more modern masks
  • The Mamuthones also come out once in summer, but  it is not great for them as it is very warm, even in the mountains
  • This is a pagan ritual from pagan times before Christianity and it coincides with welcoming the new harvest

Food

  • As well as the lobster in Alghero and the Bottarga in Cabras and the many bread types, there are lots of other amazing local dishes across Sardinia
  • The island is famous for  spit-roasted suckling pig – that is something you will find everywhere
  • If you visit at the beginning of November, they celebrate the Day of the Dead and eat a particular cake, Pabassini. You can find it throughout the year, but it’s traditional for eating during that time
  • In Easter, there is a type of bread made with a whole egg in the center of the bread. They also have a specific cake for Easter, Pardulas, which is made with ricotta
  • Panada can be found in the north, and is eaten for Santa Teresa. This is a stew served in a loaf of bread – acting as the bowl. You can find a meat-based or fish-based version. You can find it particularly in the north and also in a small village called Cuglieri in central-western Sardinia. It’s more of a winter dish because it takes time to make. Tourists can find it in summer though
  • Sardinian food is very well known throughout the world for being very healthy. A lot of people are studying this cuisine because there are a lot of people over 100 in Sardinia
  • Ogliastra and Barbagia are in the blue zone, but generally, in Sardinia, people live a long time. In Angela’s dad’s village, there was a point where there were five or more people older than 100. There was a man who died last year at 100, when he was 90 years old, he was still climbing trees
  • Angela lives in Rome, which has what many of us outside of Italy would consider superior ingredients, but when she goes to Sardinia, she finds a difference in the ingredients and finds them even more genuine
  • If you find a vegetable shop in Sardinia, very often, the seller is actually the farmer
  • Those people that live to 100, are more often than not farmers. They work really, really hard, but they spend a lot of time outside with nature – connected to nature and just soaking up the sun and the fresh air 

Angela’s favorites

  • It is very hard for Angela to pick a favorite place in Sardinia, of course, but she does love Barbagia and Ogliastra for their more authentic Sardinian spirit. The people of Sardinia are very friendly and warm wherever you go around the island but in Barbagia, Ogliastra, they are warm, hospitable, in an older style. Even if they don’t know you, they’ll actually open the door of their home and invite you in. When there is a festival and there is no Airbnb and no more space in hotels etc, private, locals, often actually say, “Okay, come stay in my house.”
  • In Sardinia, you can still experience real wilderness and a really warm, really real hospitality
  • With it’s diversity, the island is like a little continent on its own

Visiting Sardinia

  • Angela’s website is sardiniarevealed.com which has lots of info and tips on how to visit Sardinia. She also have a Facebook group Sardinia Revealed – a group anyone can join and ask questions about visiting. A road trip to Sardinia, for instance, still requires planning because sometimes the roads are not marked properly and Google maps will certainly not work everywhere in Sardinia

About our guest – Angela Corrias

 
Angela Corrias is an Italian journalist and travel writer born and bred in Sardegna (Sardinia).  She has traveled all over the world and lived abroad for a decade. After feeling a strong pull to return home to Italy, she returned and now shares her love for her country through writing. She has created the Sardinia Revealed travel blog, which is dedicated to showcasing the wonders of Sardinia, where she aims to provide readers with an authentic and immersive experience of Sardinia, sharing just with travel tips but also local recipes and insights into the culture.

You can find Angela on these channels:

Places mentioned in the show

  • Cagliari – capital city of the Italian island of Sardinia
  • Civitavecchia – major port/cruise terminal near Rome
  • Cabras – northwest of Cagliari and where the Phoenician archaeological site of Tharros is found
  • Alghero – city in North West Sardinia where they speak Catalan and whose name comes from ‘Aleguerium’, a medieval Latin word meaning ‘stagnation of algae’
  • Sinis peninsula – coastal area on the north-western coast of the island
  • La Maddalena Archipelago – protected beach area where the pink sand beaches are found
  • La Pelosa – beach in Stintino, near Alghero in the north of Sardinia which compares with the Caribbean
  • Bonorva – small town in the Province of Sassari
  • Dorgali – town east of Nuoro
  • Barumini, Su Nuraxi and Nuraghe Losa – sites of Nuraghe (cone bronze age stone monuments) you can visit
  • Tomba dei giganti – megalithic grave site in Sardinia from during the Bronze Age 
  • Domus de Janas – re-Nuragic rock-cut chamber tomb, known as fairy houses
  • Monte Arci – a massif in south-western Sardinia
  • Mamoiada – town in Nuoro known for its festival Mamuthones of Mamoiada
  • Cuglieri –  small village in central-western Sardinia.
  • Ogliastra and Barbagia – regions in Nuoro province
  • Ollastra – area northwest of Cagliari 
  • Ghilarza – Angela’s town
  • Santa Cristina well – a sacred well that dates back around 3000 years 
  • Nuraghe (plural: nuraghi), Su Nuraxi in Barumini, Nuraghe Losa in Abbasanta
  • Nora ancient city – one of Sardinia’s most important archaeological site
  • Tharros ancient city – spectacular ancient archaeological site in Sardinia

Food & Drink

  • Bottarga – mullet roe from Cabras
  • Panada – a pie coming from Cuglieri
  • Pabassini – cakes for the day of the dead
  • Pardulas – a  Sardinian Easter cake

Resources

  • The Punic – a people also known as the Carthaginians, who migrated from Phoenicia to the Western Mediterranean during the Early Iron Age
  • Nuraghe – cone-shaped stone monuments found all over Sardinia
  • Mamuthones of Mamoiada – festival where the menfolk wear black masks and dressein dark furs with cowbells hanging from their backs

Resources from Untold Italy

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