Take a Trip to Sardinia at Home

Share

Soaking up one of Italy’s most memorable regions through food, film and literature.

Your travel plans may have to wait, but with a little creativity, you can imagine you’re anywhere you want to be. As you dream of where your next trip may take you, our Bring Travel Home series will make you feel like you’re exploring another place in the world right now – from the comfort of your own home.

The first time my husband travelled to Sardinia, I didn’t consult a map or guidebook. Even though he was going for work, I wasn’t about to torture myself by discovering what part of Italy he was visiting without me.

Had I looked, I would have seen that his destination was the second‑largest island in the Mediterranean, with nearly 1,900 kilometres of coastline, some of it home to flocks of pink flamingos. I would have found beautiful beaches, many of them notable for their fine white sand, none of which he would have had time for, what with work and all.

As it turned out, he saw plenty.

April 9, 2021
Swimmers standing along the rocky cliffs of a Sardinian beach
The view of a speed boat from the top of a cliff
   Photos: Massimo Virgilio (left); Riccardo Pitzalis (right)

“You have to come with me next time,” he insisted, which is how I found myself flying to Rome before catching the hour‑long flight to Sardinia in the fall of 2019.

My one‑week stay didn’t afford nearly enough time to see all that the island has to offer. I can’t wait to return when the world re‑opens. In the meantime, please join me in pretending I’m there now.

Buon appetito

It’s always best to travel on a full stomach, even if you’re not actually leaving your living room. British travel documentarian‑turned‑chef Rick Stein offers a fine introduction to Sardinian cuisine in this charming BBC documentary.

On an island where sheep outnumber people by more than two to one, cheese is as much a part of the daily diet as seafood, so stock up at your favourite local fine cheese shop. Ditto for pane carasau, bread designed specifically for shepherds, which you can also find at specialty Italian grocers.

Among the island’s signature pastas are culurgiones, shaped like a half moon and filled with cheese, boiled potatoes, and mint; and malloreddus, small, ridged and typically served with a sauce made of ground pork and tomatoes. Learn to make both in these videos featuring the Pasta Grannies. Then fill your plate and get ready to go.

A lighthouse at the top of a rocky hill in Sardinia
   Photo: Riccardo Pitzalis

Starring Sardinia

With its high cliffs and rocky crags overlooking water that looks as if someone tinted it with blue and green food colouring, Sardinia is a natural beauty, an ideal backdrop for major (and minor) motion pictures.

Start your visit with the 1977 James Bond hit, The Spy Who Loved Me, which was filmed partly in Porto Cervo, the northeastern seaside resort developed by the Aga Khan and investors. You needn’t be a Bond fan to appreciate the scenery (and Carly Simon’s rendition of “Nobody Does It Better”).

A boat going through Port Cervo in Sardinia
Porto Cervo.   Photo: Red Charlie
A staircase integrated into the rocky coast of Capo Caccia, Sardinia
Capo Caccia.   Photo: Jurgen Scheeff

The Black Stallion provides a more in‑depth tour of the island. The cast (both two‑ and four‑legged) and crew of the 1979 movie filmed some of the most difficult, memorable scenes in multiple locations, including Marina di Arbus on the southwest coast, Capo Caccia, and Costa Paradiso in the north and La Caletta and Cala Gonone on the east coast.

If you can tolerate movies considered sexist, terrible or both, discover how much Sardinia changed between the late 20th and early 21st centuries by watching Lina Wertmüller’s 1974 controversial classic, Swept Away, followed by Guy Ritchie’s 2002 remake starring his then‑wife, Madonna. Ritchie’s version was panned, but the scenery along Sardinia’s east coast – Cala Fuili, Cala Luna and Capo Comino – is a winner.

Sunlight illuminating the rocky coast and blue waters of Sardinia
   Photo: Matteo Pilleri
Rock climbing in Sardinia
   Photo: Riccardo Pitzalis

Sardinia for climbers

Sardinia’s east coast is a hot destination for rock climbers, drawn by vertical formations that are challenging and photogenic.

If you suffer from vertigo, you might want to avoid this video of climbers scaling the iconic Pedra Longa, literally “the big stone,” a 128‑meter‑high limestone tower at the water’s edge. For equally impressive scenery, check out this clip of climbers high above the Mediterranean near Ulassai.

You needn’t be a climber to appreciate Sardinia’s geological wonders. Another way to experience rocks is by visiting one of the island’s many caves. Su Marmuri, also in Ulassai, is the star in this video. The aptly named Neptune’s Grotto, whose entrance a metre above sea level is accessible only by boat or by descending 654 steps from a parking lot at the Capo Caccia cliffs, is particularly spectacular, as seen in this awe‑inspiring footage.

Back in time

This virtual tour of the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari provides a first‑rate introduction to Sardinia’s impressive ancient history. The most ubiquitous examples of the island’s past are nuraghes, fortresses dating to around 1800 BC, which were crafted from stones held together not with mortar but with engineering wizardry. The best‑preserved of the more than 7,000 nuraghes still standing is Su Nuraxi at Barumini, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about an hour drive north of Cagliari. You can see it from all angles in this virtual tour.

The nuraghes of Sardinia
   Photo: Jurgen Scheeff

Reading Sardinia

One of Sardinia’s most famous daughters is 1926 Nobel laureate in literature, Grazia Deledda (1871‑1936), who wrote roughly a book a year from the time she was in her early twenties. Although she moved to Rome as a young adult, many of her novels are set on the island. Among those translated into English, Reeds in the Wind is regarded as one of her best.

There’s nothing better than curling up with a book at the end of a long day of sightseeing – and if the book is about sightseeing, so much the better. D.H. Lawrence’s Sea and Sardinia is the British author’s account of the trip that he and his wife took from their Sicilian home to Sardinia in 1921.

Nearly a century later, Niall Allsop and his nephew, photographer Graham Allsop, retraced the Lawrences’ route in their travelogue, Keeping up with the Lawrences: Sicily, Sea and Sardinia Revisited.

The Allsops aren’t as celebrated as Lawrence, but their adventures seem equally well‑suited to inspire sweet dreams of Sardinia.