Good food, beautiful people, phenomenal sights…what is not to like about Italy, one of Europe’s finest destinations? We have visited Italy numerous times over the years (Venice, Cinque Terre, Rome, Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Florence, Sardinia, Sicily, Naples), but alas, that was the 35mm era. Here are a few of the photos taken since we converted over to digital photography.
Sun, sea and fun were what we had in mind for a quick 3-day getaway to Sardinia, a beautiful Mediterranean Island. We flew on Hapag-Lloyd Express (www.hlx.com/en) from Stuttgart and were pleased to find out that we could escape the dismal German weather after only an hour-long flight! Sardinia in June was already scorching hot so we stripped down to bare essentials before negotiating for a rental car (prerequisites were unlimited mileage and AC!)
Distances in Sardinia can be deceiving…the island is a lot bigger than we imagined. Our first planned stop was at Castelsardo, a pretty city located on the Northern coast. However, to get there from Olbia required a drive through some curvy and hilly terrain. Becky never realized she could get carsick but then again, neither had she experienced Robby’s “Mario Andretti” impersonation before. A woozy 90 minutes later, we were in Castelsardo and figured a walk to the top of the promontory was the best place to start exploring. Castelsardo is considered a highlight of Northern Sardinia since it is very picturesque: a medieval castello surrounded by maze of pastel-hued houses all overlooking the sea. The castello has fantastic views of the surrounding harbor and houses a small museum on basket weaving (no joke)…we could have skipped the basket weaving tour but the view was really nice, especially the view towards the bell tower of the Cattedrale di Sant’Antonio Abate. The bell tower is made of brightly colored tiles and looks great with the blue sea and sky as a backdrop. We also checked out the Chiesa di Santa Maria, a 16th century church that has an interesting crucifix known as the Black Christ (Critu Nieddu). After hitting the main sights, we got lost wandering through the web of houses, and admiring the colorful straw handicrafts for sale. However, what we were really after was a bite to eat. It was close to 7 pm and we figured that would be late enough for dinner but boy did the locals laugh at us! Dinner is served from 8 to 11 and not a minute earlier, so we figured we had enough time to make our way to our next destination, Alghero, also known as “little Barcelona”. Alghero has a phenomenal skyline and we admired the city several kilometers out. Our hotel was located about 8 blocks away from the old city walls so by the time we wandered downtown to admire the old city sights, we had plenty of time to build up an appetite and had nothing but dinner on our minds. Al Vecchio Mulino serves some up some of the city’s best pizza in an atmospheric, vaulted-ceiling restaurant. After dinner, we joined in the Sardinians cheering on a football (soccer) game and strolled around the city walls overlooking the sea. It was pretty dark but we vowed to get up early to check out Alghero in the early morning light.
After a decent night’s rest, we checked out of the hotel and wandered back down to the Centro Storico (Old Town). The views of Alghero in the morning were amazing, as it is a beautiful city. The Torre dello Sperone, Chiesa di San Michele and Chiesa di San Francesco were especially stunning in the early morning light. We spent several hours strolling throughout the old city walls and wandering through every nook and cranny, finishing off at the city market where we bought a bunch of cherries, fresh bread, meat and cheese for a lunch picnic on the beach at Bosa, a small town about 50 km south of Alghero. The drive from Alghero to Bosa was fantastic, as the ocean danced before us in dazzling hues of emerald green, turquoise and baby blue. We stopped by the roadside to admire the view before finally making our way into Bosa. The city is dominated by castle walls that are surrounded by Sa Costa, an old town that weaves itself together along the hillside. We started off trekking to the top of the hill to see Castello Malaspina and were rewarded with a spectacular view across the countryside. Inside the drab looking Chiesa di Nostra Signora di Regnos altos were some amazing frescos of famous saints. We were initially inclined to skip the church but were glad we stuck our heads in for a quick look around. From the castello, we wandered down the hill to the Cattedrale del’ Immacolata and across the bridge, where fishing boats were docked along the Temo river. After wandering around the town, we headed for the golden sand beach a few kilometers away. It is no wonder why Bosa remains a favorite destination among travelers to Sardinia…the beach has super fine sand and was a perfect remedy for our tired legs! We didn’t want to stay too long as we had another destination (or two) in mind before the end of the day. After a brief snooze on the beach, we headed back inland towards Torralba, to see the Nuraghe Santu Antine. Robby scoffed at the Nuraghe when we first approached as it just looked like a pile of rocks. However, once we clambered in and around the ruins, we were both super impressed. This ancient ruin dates back to 1600 years BC. It truly is a spectacular sight when you imagine how old the ruins are. The complex consists of a 3-storey central tower (originally over 60 feet high!), as well as three shorter companion towers. The walls surrounding the towers were linked, forming a triangular defensive compound with which to meet as well as perform religious ceremonies. It is difficult to describe the Nuraghe to someone who hasn’t been there but suffice it to say that both of us were truly impressed and highly recommend any visitors to Sardinia to check it out. From there, we drove to Orosei via Nuoro. Driving in Sardinia is a lot of fun although it is impossible to build up significant speed due to the many curves in the road. However, this did not mean that Robby didn’t try his best to be a speed demon. Orosei is the gateway to the beautiful Golfo di Orosei, where the most amazing Sardinian coastline can be experienced (also where the 2002 movie “Swept Away” was filmed). We checked into Hotel S’Ortale (great digs) and strolled around town before hitting the beach to enjoy the sun set as well as down a few beers. The color of the water did not disappoint and we marveled at how water can look that amazing. Dinner of calamari and seafood spaghetti made us realize we have to live near a beach since good seafood is hard to come by in Germany!
Our last day brought us to Dorgali and Cala Gonone. In the 1930s, the Fascists used Cala Gonone as a privileged summer resort and it is easy to see why. The entire coastline is stunning. We wanted to hop on a boat to the Blue Grotto but didn’t have enough time so instead we opted to drive as far south along the coast as possible (about 3 km). The views were spectacular and we wished we had skipped all other parts of the tour and just hung out here instead! However, the clock was ticking so we headed back towards Dorgali and visited Europe’s tallest stalagmite (38 meters) at the Grotta di Ispinigoli. Tours are only held on the hour and we arrived a few minutes past the hour but were allowed to scramble down the cave to catch up with the tour. The stalagmite is pretty impressive and our tour leader did a great job describing the area to us. We had just enough time for a quick beach stop before heading back to Olbia airport so we decided to crash at Porto San Paulo for a quick dip in the sea before boarding our plane…overall it was a great getaway weekend!