Late summer is the perfect time to experience the Mediterranean vacation island, which is now open to vaccinated British travelers, says Sarah Marshall.
With turquoise water comparable to Tahiti and fine sandy beaches that can rival the Seychelles, Sardinia is a mosaic of so many paradisiacal places. But his identity remains hidden from most of them.
The island’s history, shrouded in myths and legends, goes way back before the great temples and citadels of the Romans, while a thriving population of centenarians defies science on their red wine and cheese diet.
Enigmatic and mysterious, Sardinia invites you to discover – especially at this time of the year.
Once the heat has subsided and the Italian vacationers have gone home, the Mediterranean island is a late summer treat. And now Italy has abolished a five-day quarantine for vaccinated British comers that only requires a negative PCR or antigen test done no more than 48 hours in advance, the last of the sun drops are within reach.
With more than 200 beaches to choose from, it’s hard to look beyond the sea. But inland there are mountains for hiking, deep canyons for descent and villages so independent that they have developed microcultures of customs, language and food.
Despite their differences, they all share a common beauty; dazzling visitors with a treasure trove of precious jewels.
Here are some of the dazzling delights.
The ruby coral
The red coral is used to make jewelry and has been valued for centuries and underpins the economy of the Catalan city of Alghero on the northwest coast. Only 25 licenses are awarded each year to specialized deep-sea divers who do not dig up more than 2.5 kg of the fragile branches with an ax.
Hundreds of ships arrived for the “red gold rush” during the late 19th century, but now the only boats in Alghero port are tourist ships that take visitors to sea caves such as Neptune’s Grotto, an underground lake adorned with spiky stalactites.
The sapphire water
The water on Sardinia’s coast is reliably clear and clean and offers excellent conditions for swimming, snorkeling and diving. The most beautiful beaches include Stintinos La Pelosa on the west coast and the 9 km long La Poetto in the south.
But one of the most beautiful places is undoubtedly the Maddalena archipelago, which lies between the Strait of Bonifacio and Corsica. Take a boat trip to explore the protected pink sands of Budelli, colored by tiny fragments of coral, and keep an eye out for wild boars swimming in pine-lined bays.
The settlements from the Bronze Age
More than 7,000 conical watchtowers known as nuraghi were excavated across the island, dating back to between the 18th and 15th centuries BC. Were built. Not found anywhere else on earth, little is known about the megalithic stone buildings – although many are still remarkably well preserved.
The largest settlement that has been recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site is in Su Nuraxi di Barumini in the south. Stroll between a geometric maze of dry stone walls and end up at a magnificent observation tower.
The rose quartz feathers
A staple of exotic settings, flamingos feed, flock and stretch their spindly legs along the Sardinian coast. You can find them in a lagoon behind La Cinta beach in San Teodoro, south of Olbia on the Costa Smeralda, where the new Hotel Baglioni Resort Sardinia (baglionihotels.com) opened in July.
Alternatively, larger populations can be observed in the Macchiareddu salt pans and ponds outside of Sardinia’s capital, Cagliari, at dusk. Although it can be seen from the street, you will have to park and walk through Molentargius Park to get a closer look.
The silver sky
Outside the cities, the low light pollution makes Sardinia an excellent place to study the night sky. An hour’s drive from Cagliari, the impressive Sardinia radio telescope is the largest of its kind in Italy – although tours are currently suspended due to Covid.
But you don’t need a scientific platform to see constellations. Not far from Alghero in the northwest, the cliffs of Capo Caccia have become a popular vantage point for observing the Milky Way.