If you’d like a blissful Italian break, Sardinia could well be your answer. The island boasts some of the Mediterranean’s most idyllic beaches while being well served in terms of pretty seaside resorts, restaurants and sundown bars. Most people think of the up-market Costa Smeralda, but there’s so much more to Sardinia.
For a more down-to-earth holiday, there are plenty of lovely quiet beaches and rugged interior landscapes to for you to explore. There’s also fabulous seafood and, for history buffs, the evocative remnants of Sardinia’s ancient Nuragic heritage, as well as Roman ruins, Pisan churches and Spanish Baroque architecture.
Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most beautiful seaside resorts and is also a great base for exploring the wonderful Nuoro coast.
The town has a distinctive Catalan character, thanks to a Spanish invasion which left its mark from the fourteenth century. Here you can enjoy the car-free town with its modern marina and lovely sandy beaches.
2. Su Nuraxi
The 3,500 year old archaeological site Su Naraxi di Barumini lies at the foot of the Parco della Giara. The stunning structure is a type of fort unique to Sardinia, known as nuraghi, and is the most complete example of its kind.
Exploring the site through a network of tunnels carved from the walls on a guided tour is a must.
Argentiera is another attraction well worth a visit. This eerie, abandoned coastal mining town stands on one of the wildest parts of Sardinia’s coast.
Once a thriving silver mine, Argentiera dates back to the Roman era and the seams were finally exhausted as recently as 1963. Nothing much has been touched since the closure and the shafts, administration buildings, miner’s quarters and chapel are all empty and open to the public.
4. Grotta di Nettuno
West of Alghero is the stunning cave complex of Grotta di Nettuno. This is a subterranean wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites.
To get there, take a ferry from Alghero or, if you have a head for heights, descend the 654 steps known as the Escala del Cabirol to reach 110 metres of sheer cliff leading onwards to the caves.
Drive along the twisty, scenic road on Sardinia’s western coast and you’ll arrive at Bosa with its pastel coloured houses, medieval fortress, a beach resort and marina.
The town was founded by the Phoenicians and grew in importance under the Romans and in the 19th century, the Savoys started a number of tanneries here. Today, its main calling card is that of a working, yet quiet town, ripe for relaxation within unspoilt countryside. However, it is also an active and interesting place all the year round, although most people visit during the spring and autumn.
6. Costa Verde (Green Coast)
Beautiful beaches are a big part of Sardinia’s attraction. Costa Verde offers idyllic stretches of wild, sweeping sands as far as the eye can see. This quiet piece of coast on the southwest corner of the island is the ideal hideaway. Here you’ll find cliffs and rugged beaches, many of which need to be accessed on foot or using 4×4 vehicles. Rare grasses and bird life add to the natural beauty of the area.
Known locally as Casteddu Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia and features impressive Italian architecture, from medieval to modern. It also boasts a modern commercial centre in addition to a beautiful waterfront with broad avenues and arcades. Don’t miss a wander around the hilltop citadel and its surrounding ancient, narrow streets. The Archaeological Museum is a good place to start your visit while the imposing bastions (Bastione di Saint Remy) and San Benedetto fish market are must-sees too.
The picturesque, walled seaside citadel of Castelsardo hosts quaint shops crammed with souvenirs. Here’s the place to pick up a locally made basket, rug or even wrought iron if your baggage weight limit permits. Aside from souvenirs, this pretty historic town on the north western coast of Sardinia offers an old town with a castle to explore. Castelsardo’s location makes it a good stop-off if you are travelling between western and eastern Sardinia.
If you’re looking for stunning views, the highest part of the island is the place to head for. Fonni is a mountainous district encompassing Monte Spada and the Bruncu Spina refuge along with their rural villages which hardly seem to have changed since the Middle-Ages. High mountain roads wind through the landscape, dotted with small, isolated villages. This really is the place to get away from it all.
10. Porto Cervo
For buzzing, up-market holiday resorts, Porto Cervo on Sardinia’s north eastern coast is rich with glossy resorts like Porto Rotondo and Baia Sardinia where you’ll find some of the nation’s most exclusive hotels and yachts. Fringed with low cliffs, inlets, and small bays, Porto Cervo is picturesque yet well served for visitors. You’ll find plenty of golf courses, yacht clubs, along with swanky al-fresco restaurants and bars catering for fashionable crowds.