5th August, 2010 by Italian Indulgence
If you have travelled around the mainland of Italy but want to experience something a little different, then you might want to consider a side trip to Sardinia, or Sardegna, the correct Italian name. Ryanair, one of Europe’s budget airlines, flies from Rome Ciampino to Cagliari which is the south of the island and although there are many different ways to discover the island – this is the route we decided to take.
Cagliari – Oristano – Alghero
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia and has a delightful old town around an old port area. The main attraction of the area is the Castello (castle) neighbourhood which is still partially enclosed by the walls. The place to be seen is the main piazza where the locals gather at night to eat on the street, weather permitting, and catch up on the daily news. There are some wonderful inexpensive restaurants in this area so definitely worth visiting. We did notice on nearly every menu that ’cavallo’ or horse was on offer – so be careful when ordering and take a good phrase book if this is not what you would like to try.
Our base: Sa Domu Cheta – a great small hotel, more of a bed and breakfast really, it consists of two buildings next to each other. Walking distance to the main piazza, comfortable beds, newly renovated, delicious and healthy breakfast, and free internet.
Oristano is placed in the centre of Sardinia and besides having a historical town full of interesting architecture and quaint shops, it is very near the area of San Salvatore which was well used in the 60s as the backdrop for many of the spaghetti westerns. In fact, when you visit the small town, with the incredible house facades, it feels as though Clint Eastwood will appear toting his 6 guns at any moment.
The town is fascinating as it is deserted for most of the year but on the first weekend in September it is host to one of the oldest festivals in Sardina. Many families maintain the small houses there so that they have accommodation just for this weekend. The festival involves around a thousand runners, all barefoot young men in whites robes carrying the simulacrum of San Salvatore. Even though the festival only takes place on one weekend a year, and the rest of the time the town is deserted, there is a western bar, of course, which is open most weekends in the summer and a great place for a drink after exploring this fascinating town.
Our base: Eleonora B & B this bed and breakfast is run by a young couple and they are really doing things well. The building is in a quiet piazza, close to the action, the rooms are huge and the beds are very comfy. Breakfast delicious.
Alghero – was built around a fortified port and has a delightful old town, you will want to stay quite close to the town as there are great restaurants and bars in this area. We visited the daily market for picnic supplies and this was great fun. One activity you shouldn’t miss when in Alghero is the Grotta di Nettuno (Neptune’s Grotto). These marine caves are truly fascinating and are located to the west of the town. If you have a car it is a short drive but then you must trek down around 700 steps! The entrance is around 10 euros but this includes a guided tour. When you finish the tour then you need to trek the 700 steps UP!! Another way to visit the caves is to take a tour from the town, not too expensive, around 30 euro and the boat takes you right to the mouth of the cave.
Another great activity while near Alghero is the Giara de Gesturi
Our base: Hotel San Francesco Set right in the middle of the old town, the location is perfect – but… this hotel is rated as a 3 star (and charges accordingly) which it definitely is not. This is a monastery stay, the church is right next door. The hotel rooms face a cloister and the monks still use the same building. The rooms are very small, the beds extremely uncomfortable and it has a feel of a monastery – and that is fine if it is what you were expecting. I was expecting a 3 star hotel.