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Sisters in Sardinia

Jun 5, 2024 | Travel | 0 comments

Those of you who have read my blog before know there’s an assorted cast of characters that I like to travel with. My sister is one of them and, for the past four years, we’ve discovered some interesting destinations where we have managed to have all kinds of adventures!

This year’s trip was to the “legendary”  Mediterranean islands of Sardinia (Italian) and Corsica (French) and organized by Secret Italia. Our group was made up of twelve Australians, American’s, and Canadians, one tour manager, and an absolutely stellar bus driver.

Sardinia is a fascinating melding of history, culture, and diverse geographical features. Here’s some standouts from my first three days in Cagliari, the seaport city that’s also the island’s capital.

Glasses of Vermentino white wine (not saying how many!) by the pool or with meals

Made locally, it has a crisp, light, fruity taste that’s irresistible. Though we visited in mid-May, temperatures were warm during the day and, after hours of tramping around sweltering museums, dusty archaeological sites, and other historical markers, we found it quite refreshing. Of course, if you prefer reds, relatively inexpensive options include Arenada, made from the Monica grape, a variety grown all over Sardinia, or Dolianova from South Sardinia.

Of note: The Italian idea of air conditioning is vastly different from what we call cool in the States. Though there’s a thermostat in most hotel rooms, our distinct impression was that, either didn’t work, or they were controlled by the front desk! Given this, make sure to pack lightweight shirts and pants (Rick Steves says avoid shorts because they, along with bare shoulders, aren’t allowed in many churches), a hat, and a big water bottle.

Stopping by the local market

Many Italians prefer to buy their food fresh each day, as opposed to loading up the cart on a weekly basis and the San Benedetto Market is the perfect place to do this. Not only are there loads of colorful photo opportunities, you can find seasonal items from the four food groups (plus dessert!)  there and many vendors offer free samples. Though I don’t eat seafood, those stands were my favorite, with their myriad of aquatic creatures displayed in all sorts of whimsical ways.

Warning- Both horse and donkey meat are sold here, along with frequently being offered on local menus. If this makes you squeamish, there are plenty of other Sardinian meats to choose from, along with numerous vegetarian options. Vegans might have a harder time, but there’s always the local grocery.

Swimming at Poetto Beach

This city beach is gorgeous with its soft white sand and crystal-clear blue waters. The salty water was the ideal temperature and paddling around in it while people-watching was the ultimate in relaxation. 

Keep in mind

The official summer season doesn’t start at most beaches, including Poetto, until June 1 so, if you visit in the spring, don’t expect to find lifeguards there.

An al fresco dinner featuring local tapas

A short walk from our hotel (straight uphill but through a lively shopping district) was Sa Panada, a family-owned business where a charcuterie-style board is loaded up with a variety of regional appetizers to sample. Our group sat at a long table in front of the restaurant where we had a birds-eye view of a group of children racing around playing school yard games. I might not understand Italian but I can always tell when someone is having a good time!

Archaeology and agritourism  

One morning we explored the archaeological area of Nora with a knowledgeable local guide. It was surprisingly cool, both in temperature and history. This impressive, self-contained village by the sea had everything a family (from royalty to peasants) would need to survive, and thrive. The more powerful and affluent residents even had slaves to sit on their toilet seats and pre-warm them in the colder months!

This deep dive into ancient Sardinian history was followed by a drive to the countryside where we had our most amazing meal thus far. The mouth-watering dishes just kept coming, each accompanied by a brief explanation from the farmer. Naturally, the Sardinian specialty porceddu was the highlight of the meal. The spit-roasted suckling pig is wrapped in myrtle and bay leaves, then roasted in an open fire. Though its appearance might have been off-putting to some, I have rarely tasted such a delicious “BBQ”, even down South.  

Fun fact

Day drinking in Italy is not only acceptable, its encouraged! Wine or beer with the meal is followed by liqueurs such as aquavita or Myrtle, a licor di mortula produced from blending the berries and (sometimes) leaves of the common island plant, myrtle.

Next stop Alghero!

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