Wednesday 27 October 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Caterpillar close-up


Monday 25 October 2010

Souvenirs from Sardinia

Frankly I don't care much about typical souvenirs. I think of them as dust collectors, because that is more or less all they are good for.

That is why I usually don't bring anything from my trips. However even with that kind of an attitude I sometimes find useful items that just have to come home with me.
Actually there are quite a few useful things I could recommend from Sardinia.

If you have a wall to hang wooden masks on, there are some interesting examples available from Sardinia. If you look around, you can get good prices for handmade goods of good quality.

If you like coral jewelry, Sardinia is a place where you can get a good selection of quality items for reasonable prices. From the places we visited on Sardinia, Alghero seemed the best for buying such items. One can choose from numerous shops in narrow streets of this medieval city. Some of them offer really interesting pieces of coral craft work, necklaces and earrings being the most popular of many.

The choice of various food products worth considering is really great. One can choose from a variety of pasta products, cheeses, wines and many more. I recommend looking for local wineries where you can try various sorts of wine. Also ask for Moscato - a strong liqueur-like dessert wine. They classify it as vino liquoroso.
The best place to buy local cheese is where they produce it. Look for sings advertising formaggi sardi or formaggi vendita when you drive on one of many inland winding road. Among various kinds I liked pecorino (sheep cheese) and caprino (goat cheese) best.
I should probably point out it can be a bit of a challenge to transport cheese in summer months since it should be stored at around 10 degrees Celsius.
As an alternative there are also many tasty dried meats you can choose from (Salsiccia is just one of them). Visit one of many agriturismi (tourist farms) to try and buy the real stuff.

An ideal item for transportation is Sardinian flat-bread. There are many varieties of it - Panne Guttiau and Pane Carasau being just two of them.

Apart from all these things you have to pay for, there are also some souvenirs, you can get for free. For instance, with a dash of inventiveness you can turn a bowl of beach sand in an interesting living room decoration. On Sardinia you can find stones and sand of virtually any colour.
Also there are almond trees growing practically everywhere. If you happen to be on Sardinia in September you can easily stop by the road and pick some almonds - considering it isn't from someone's garden of course. Almonds can be ideal for a quick snack or for taking them home. In this way even your friends back home can get a taste of Sardinia.


Wednesday 20 October 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset over Torre del Porticciolo


Monday 18 October 2010

Best camping sites of Sardinia

I have been camping for quite some time now (only around Europe so far). If I would have to name countries where I have had my best and the worst camping experience so far, I would have to say "Italy". Twice.

Luckily the best one happened this year on Sardinia. Twice.

A few years ago we were camping on Corsica (the French island just next to Sardinia) and we liked the experience. Prices were very affordable, camping sites well maintained with clean facilities.
On the other hand our experience from a trip to the southern Italy was not so great. When we took all this in account we just didn't know what to expect on Sardinia...

I guess first I should list the things that are important to us and those that could not matter less, when searching for a place to pitch our tent.

Important stuff:

  • shower and toilet facilities (cleanliness),

  • shady camping grounds,

  • possibility to park our car close to the tent,

  • proximity of a beach,

  • price,

  • hot water (preferably without additional payment).

Things we don't care about:
  • lousy musicians playing on the restaurant terrace every evening,

  • fancy pools,

  • overrated and overpriced restaurants,

  • guided exercise three times a day,

  • tennis club membership,

  • etc.

First few camping sites we checked on the north-eastern coast of the island were not all that special, pretty expensive and (despite it was almost September) they were still overrun with a throng of Italian tourists. I guess you could say we were not impressed.

I am not going to write about every camping ground we visited this time, but let me just say that many stars next to the name and also the price do not tell much. At least to us. We took a look around every time before we agreed to stay.

When we decided to stay in Arbatax for a couple of days and followed road signs to the nearest campeggio we were up for a surprise.
We found Camping Telis (Garmin GPS coordinates: 39° 55.483'N, 009° 42.413'E) which was by far the best one we saw until that moment. Oh, and did I mention - it was also the cheapest to that point of the trip (this was due to a switch of rates from Middle season to Low season, but was a nice surprise nonetheless).
I guess the facilities must have been renovated just recently and everything was really clean. In addition to all this, there was also hot water flowing out of every pipe and we were allowed to park our car just next to our tent.
Exactly what we wanted. This really could not get any better.

Well, actually it could. After another camp switch or two we decided to check out what I guess is the most advertised campeggio on Sardinia. Road signs advertising it can be seen all over the island.
It is called Camping Village Baia Blu La Tortuga and it is located near the town of Vignola Mare (Garmin GPS coordinates: 41° 07.469'N, 009° 04.058'E).
This is a much larger site compared to Telis, but for us it was at least as good. For a similar price we got all the things as in the other one described, plus free electricity. Really neat.

I guess there might be also some other camping sites on Sardinia like the two described above but we haven't seen them. Not on Sardinia, nor anywhere else we have been so far. Has someone had a similar experience while on Sardinia? Any recommendations maybe?


Monday 11 October 2010

Top 5 things to see and do on Sardinia

During our three-week drive around the island of Sardinia we saw so many beautiful sights and did so many wonderful things, that it is quite a challenge to single out just five of them. Anyway, here is the list:

5. Charming towns and cities
There are countless charming little towns in Sardinia worth visiting. Some of them are full of museums and tourist attractions, some host interesting music and folk festivals, others are just picture-postcard beautiful.
We liked many of them, but Alghero (you can find the best selection of coral jewellery in narrow city streets enclosed within its imposing city walls), Bosa (heavily influenced by the Spanish, today a colourful ancient city, overlooked by an imposing castle) and Cagliari (busy and always alive like every capital city) were the ones we liked best.

4. Local food and wine
Everywhere in Italy food and wine is a special treat not to be missed. Sardinia is no different. There are many local pasta dishes (e.g. ravioli-like culingiones), meats (e.g. salsiccia - local pork sausage), excellent cheeses (e.g. pecorino - sheep cheese and caprino - goat cheese), various kinds of flat bread (Pane Guttiau and Pane Carasau), fresh seafood of all kinds, local wines like Cannonau and Vermentino, delicious ice cream (almost everywhere we went it was very good, but at Gelateria Peter Pan on Piazza Vitorio Emanuelle in Nuoro it was the best) and even Ichnusa - the local brand of beer (which, compared to everything above, is really not all that special).

3. Neptune's Grotto
The mythological cave dwelling of the sea God Neptune (Grotta di Nettuno) is an impressive cave full of stalactites and stalagmites partly filled with sea water. It is accessible only by boat (excursions run from nearby towns) or by 654-step Escala del cabirol (Goat's steps) from a car park at the top of the cliff.
This can be an expensive thing (especially if one chooses to get there by boat). We took the steps and did not regret it - we enjoyed spectacular views and spent "just" the 12 Euros per person at the entrance. An excellent guided tour (in flawless English) added greatly to the experience and we are happy to recommend it.

2. Nuraghi
The nuraghe is an example of ancient megalithic architecture. Most of the stony structures were built during the Bronze Age (that is more then 3.500 years ago!) and they still stand tall and proud. Some of them are as high as 20 meters. Today nuraghe is the symbol of Sardinia and a visitor can hardly avoid visiting at least one of the 8.000 still standing today.
We visited Nuraghe Losa and were moved by the size of the structure. It really makes you wonder how they moved all those stones into place back then - some of them must weigh several tons.

1. Beautiful beaches
If you like picture postcard beaches, Sardinia is definitely a place to visit. There are literally countless beaches of all kinds around the edges of the island. Most of them are sandy, but also weirdos like us who don't like all that fine sand getting everywhere, have plenty of choice.
Some of the more memorable ones we have visited are: the Is Aruttas beach with its special sand (it is even forbidden to take it away), the picture-postcard beach of La Pelosa with its white sand and turquoise waters (but way too crowded for our taste) and the rocky peninsula of Capo Testa with its surreal stone formations.

I guess some of you might disagree with my Top 5 list, but this is just my opinion based on things we managed to see and do in those way too short three weeks of our trip.
I also plan to write about some other places we visited and things we did in the next few posts. If they didn't make it to this list, it doesn't mean you won't like them. Especially if you are putting together an itinerary for your adventure in Sardinia, I suggest you also check out my other posts under the tag "Sardinia".

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