Sardinia

Sardinia view by CC user fabulousfabs on Flickr

Introduction

Sitting south of Corsica and to the direct west of Italy, it can be tempting to think of Sardinia as just another territory of Italy. To do so though, would require you to ignore the thousands of years of history here that predates even the ancient Etruscan civilization on the mainland. With beaches that stand alongside the very best in the Mediterranean, and historic sites that date back to the time before history books, you have a place that is very unique in its own right, and thus, deserves a spot in your Mediterranean island hopping itinerary. Currency: Euro Languages: Italian, Sardinian, Catalan, Liguria   Basilica di Saccargia by CC user sweetdreamer_it on Flickr

What To Do

Start your tour of Sardinia by checking out the Basilica di Saccargia, which is easily one of the most significant churches that can be found on the island. Built over the ruins of an earlier church in the early 12th century, the Basilica di Saccargia’s Romanesque architecture makes it a gorgeous first stop for cultural travelers that are touring Sardinia. If nothing else, don’t miss the frescoes that can be found in the interior above the altar.

Go a little further back in time by making your next stop the ruins of Nora. Serving as an important trading centre since the days before the Roman Empire, Nora eventually met its end in the centuries that followed the fall of Rome, as it was abandoned as its importance diminished in the years that followed.

While anybody can walk the ruins of Nora and take in shows at its traditional Roman style theatre, the real treat of this part of Sardinia lies beneath the waves. Since this portion of the island is slowly sinking into the Mediterranean Sea, it has taken a good portion of the old town of Nora down with it, providing divers with an attraction that has few equals around the globe.

You need to go through a specific local dive company in order to access it though, which is a measure that was put into place to ensure that unauthorized divers wouldn’t be able to raid the site for artifacts as it was done in the early days of SCUBA diving technology.

Going back even further into the days before recorded history, you’ll find the Giants’ Graves, a series of Megalithic era tombs where Sardinia’s earliest residents buried their dead. With over 800 of these complexes scattered all over the island, fans of ancient history will have no shortage of amazing specimens to explore wherever they go here.

Costa Smeralda by CC user hansziel on FlickrWant to hang with Europe’s elite, or just want to relax on some of the Mediterranean’s most stunning beaches? You’ll have the chance to do both along the Costa Smeralda, where real estate prices can go as high as 30,000 Euros per square metre, and the water is some of the clearest in the entire Mediterranean basin. Apart from reclining on a beach towel or sun lounger, popular activities include star-watching (celebrities), golfing at championship calibre courses, and spectating as the Sardinia Cup sailing regatta goes off during the month of September. Fancy descending into a cave during your time in Sardinia? Try heading down into the depths of Grotta di Ispinigoli, a cavern that holds some of the most spectacular stalagmite formations found anywhere on the European Continent. Along with stalactites, this cave has the largest collection of these subterranean wonders in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. While they have since been removed, a number of other interesting items have been found inside, which include one of the best preserved specimens of an extinct species of otter, and human remains and jewelry dating back from the Bronze Age. Pane carasau by CC user heatheronhertravels on Flickr

What To Eat

Sardinian cuisine is heavily influenced by mainland Italian cuisine, which is understandable given its proximity to the country. However, its relative isolation from the hustle and bustle of the main part of Italy has allowed people here to evolve their own approach to food.

If you are seeking food that is uniquely Sardinian, start by getting your hands on some Pane Carasau, a popular type of bread that can be found everywhere here. This thin and crisp flat bread is massive, as it is often a half a metre wide when prepared in the traditional manner.

Concocted originally for shepherds that spent months at a time away from home, it is a simple, yet durable treat that will sustain you on your sightseeing adventures as you make your way across Sardinia.

Italy is famous for its pasta, and Sardinia is no different. A unique type of this starchy meal that can only be found here though is Fregula, which are ball-shaped noodles made from semolina dough. Toasted in an oven and served with a tomato sauces and clams, it will be a dinner that will be remembered fondly by you the first time you indulge in it.

After this meal, finish it off with some Pecorino Romano and Vernaccia, which is a local cheese and wine, respectively. The former is a very sharp tasting cheese derived from goat’s milk, while Vernaccia is a wine that contains elements of citrus that will pair very well with your wedge of Pecorino Romano at end of an excellent meal in Sardinia.