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The Sardinian Legend is that after completing his creation of the rest of the world, God had some rocks remaining.
He decided to drop them in the Mediterranean . He then looked at what he had already created and removed a little of the best from elsewhere. This he sprinkled liberally over the island that became Sardinia . Many would say that he left the best until last and that this island of breathtaking quality and beauty was his masterpiece.
Sardinia, which has more hours of sunshine than any other part of Italy and lies further from a mainland than any other Mediterranean island, only became part of the Italian nation in 1861. Together with Piedmont, it was a founding member of the nation, so carefully crafted by Giuseppe Garibaldi, who died in Sardinia and is buried in the La Maddalena archipelago, on the tiny island of Caprera.
Known as “L' Isola del Vento” – The Island of Winds, Sardinia enjoys offshore breezes throughout each season, which significantly reduce humidity and have made the island a mecca for wind sports of all kinds. To many, Sardinia is “Where the Wind Lives.”
The expression “Old Europe” is more appropriate to Sardinia than any other part of the continent. Lying undiscovered by tourism until the 1960’s and even now unheard of by many, Sardinia still lives in another era, seemingly untouched by time.
This island of 1.5 million inhabitants and 7.5 million sheep has been occupied over the centuries by armies from the various Italian kingdoms, Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Byzantines, Arabs and lastly Catalans. These have now all gone. They may have left evidence of their presence, particularly around the coast, especially in the old, walled City of Alghero , but the essential timeless Sardinia lives on.
The island is referred to as "The Small Continent," as there is so much contrast and variation around every corner. People also refer to it as being an "Island within an Island." The origin of this reference relates to the fact that the 'True Sardinia' is stated as being the interior, as the historical, ouside influences referred to a couple of paragraphs above are said, by purists, to have "Diluted the blood of the Kingdom."
The interior is recognised as that region of Sardinia known as Barbagia. It is said that this part of Europe was the only one that the invading Romans were unable occupy and tame - they gave its name, which in English translates as Barbarians. Interestingly, the honey that emanates from the Barbagia is actually quite bitter - not sweet. Something that the Barbagians are immensely proud of!
Apart from a growth in tourism over the last decade or two, the main source of income for Sardinians is agriculture, wine production and fish. Over the centuries, the harvesting of coral has been of economic importance, particularly in Alghero, which lies on what is known as the Coral Riviera. Coral formed the centrepiece of the City’s coat of arms as far back as the 14th century.
The rugged, spectacular interior of the island is littered with historic remains, sheep, small vineyards and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Sardinia was and continues to be Organic in everything that it produces. For that reason, Sardinian produce is more expensive than that “imported” from the mainland.
By many, Sardinian fare is considered to be the finest in the Mediterranean . In fact it is almost impossible to eat badly here. Traditional dishes can be traced back centuries and are still faithfully prepared and presented the same way.
Sardinian wine is amongst the finest in the world, but it is so sought after and produced in such small quantities, that vintages often run out after a few months. Shortage of supply and transportation cost militate against export and it becoming better known to the worlds growing and discerning wine loving population.
Sardinians have realised the importance of preserving the islands character. The Regional Government have passed laws prohibiting new building within 3 kms of the sea and restricting the height extensions of buildings new and old.
As a further step, in order to prevent the peaceful invasion of those from the more affluent parts of the world, in 2006; they introduced hefty taxes payable by any person who was not resident and did not pay their taxes in Sardinia . The taxes apply to those who want to buy second homes, land private aircraft or moor their boats here.
Despite the advent of low-cost airlines, which have increased access to and the popularity of Sardinia, the island does not cater for year round tourism if what you're looking for is a mass market hotel + restaurant + beach + bar experience. For this sort holiday, the season runs from May - October in Alghero whereas almost everywhere else, it runs from June - September. In some resorts, especially those with little identity beyond being holiday resorts, for example Porto Cervo, on the Costa Smeralda, everything is closed outside July - August.
Potential visitors should realise that trains, buses and ferries may not run outside High Season or run to restricted timetables. More mainstream hotels, agriturismo, B&B's and restaurants on the island may be closed. To avoid disappointment and significant wasted expenditure, It is very important to ensure that transfers, and accomodation are available and confirmed prior to flights being booked. Car hire is available all the year round.
However, if what you seek is a unique experience of the real Sardinia, come out of the High Season. Sardinia is a working culture which has many interesting events throughout the year. Each month has a festival, and different areas have their own regional or local themes. These can be fascinating to participate in. The Spring and Autumn are cooler and therefore may be easier for people from northern climes, such as the UK. As the island is unspoilt and wild, nature's changes through the seasons are striking. The Spring is vibrant, with millions of flowers. The Autumn is when the green returns after the browns and tans of the parched summer. Winter can be rainy, although it is likely to be warmer than the UK. And as is the case in many popular holiday destinations, it is out of season that you may have a better chance of meeting local people who may invite you for a drink in their cantina, or to share their meal of bread, meat and wine.
Sardinia does not have to be an expensive place for a holiday. It is possible to buy fresh food at small shops or supermarkets and eat al fresco, to stay in small hotels or B + Bs, or to rent self-catering accommodation. For meals out, look for pizzerias or trattorias. Only one small part of Sardinia, the Costa Smeralda, is the playground of billionaires -- the more authentic parts of the island -- which is basically everywhere else -- are welcoming to all.
To get the most of what the island has to offer, visitors are strongly recommended to hire a car. Public transport routes are thin on the ground and the system tends to run to its own timetable. With a car you will be able to visit absolutely stunning, wild, unspoilt countryside at your own pace.
If you are a fan of walking, trekking, climbing, wind sports, water sports, eating or drinking, you will find the island a paradise. If you want to laze around or explore nature, the sense of relaxation can be deep. If you want to get a sense of the real Sardinia, it is there to be discovered if you linger, smile, and strike up a conversation with a passing local person. It doesn't matter if your Italian is limited or very basic, although of course the more you can say the better. People are friendly and want to communicate and many unexpected adventures can be found if you are openhearted. Sardinia is an island of intrigue. It is here to be explored, discovered, tasted and flavoured. And the Sardinian people are friendly, warm and communicative and very proud of their beautiful and unique island home, and its heritage.