Year round the residents of Sardinia are out populated by sheep and in summer the residents of one of its major towns of Alghero are also outnumbered…this time by tourists.
This popular coastal town with its pretty harbour and lengthy sandy beach draws in visitors from all over Europe swelling the town nearly 3 fold! However springtime on this lush Mediterranean island is for me an excellent time to visit where you can make most of its many assets and have no crowds to hinder your progress. At this early part of the year the island is extremely verdant which is perfect for keeping the sheep population happy and the visitors with a green and pleasant land in which to tour it.
Located in the North West of the island and using Alghero as a base does offer the visitor a host of easy to reach attractions with coastal villages and numerous castles, archeology sites and churches a many! With an excellent and now year round connection via easyJet from Luton with direct trains on Thameslink to Luton Parkway. Once at Alghero airport this puts you just 3 miles from its centre and a transfer time of a few minutes.
My stay was at the Catalunyu Hotel located in flat easy walking distance from the shopping centre harbour and marina with first class views over its waterfront. The narrow criss-cross street layout is easy to negotiate. However many are used by cars and scooters, so be aware; pedestrian crossings seem to be an option for some car drivers as to whether they stop or not! Its streets are packed with numerous small and varied colourful shops. Here are located many of the specialist shops that sell ‘coral’ the precious red material harvested from great depths in the seas around Sardinia.
Purchasing from one of the licensed shops gives you the assurance that what you are buying is real coral! Other shops do sell similar looking items but the local artisans working in the approved shops are highly skilled and deserve their just rewards for the fine work they produce.
Another red and indeed white product of the islands is their wine. Certainly wine production goes a long way as its enthusiastically consumed by the residents but also by the many visitors that like me discovered a great product that may not be in such great quantities as other regional producers but quality is there so do make sure to enjoy it whilst you are there. They are famous for the Vermintino grapes and the island grows nearly half of that variety in the world. They also benefit on the island from reflected sunlight off the sea that helps in their ripening. There are many individual vineyard some large and some small all part of this cooperative of Cantina Santa Maria La Palma. However together they have a huge modern wine making facility and produce a whole range of wines for its 300 member’s. Tours of the shop and factory are possible it is located just a few miles along the coast from Alghero. Their most rare is NV Akenta Millesimato Spumante and this very special wine is matured 40 metres under the sea for 6 months and around 700 bottles are produced each year with the darkness and pressure at depth all contributing to the final taste. With a price per bottle of €60/€70 its hard to get but try it once at least if you have the chance!
This Italian island has the same desire to look after its guests as those on the mainland and the friendliness of the Sardinian’s is just as overwhelming here as there too!
With all those sheep comes an awful lot of milk and hence the production of many cheeses both hard and soft. Pecorino is to be found all over the islands in different styles and vintages. Ricotta that delightful soft sweeter cheese is found often in tarts and cakes, also as I tried it, literally a spoonful minutes old and still warm direct from a farm diary.
Its human history runs from before the Megalithic and Neolithic through to its Roman period and then its time of Spanish or rather Catalan rule. Still today that legacy of from the Catalan domination can still be heard in the language spoken in and around Alghero. Its Bronze age history has left the countryside dotted with some 7,000 dry stone constructions called ‘Nuraghe’ this civilization ran from the 1800BC to around 700BC although little is known as no written records have ever been found. These tower buildings some tens of metres high in there time would have looked very imposing in the landscape.
Touring one of the best preserved Nuraghe di Santu Antine at Torralba where its possible to go inside and climb the spiral stair case within the mortar-less walls and walk about in the inner chambers. Their survival is even more remarkable as they are of dry stone construction and many had multiple towers some reaching 60foot (20metres) in height. The Romans arrived in 238BC and after many uprisings the island settled into Roman ways and speaking Latin and still some areas people still speak with that Latin influence. At Porto Torres is well-preserved Roman ruin with some fine mosaics and a paved street layout with columns of the former town of Turris Libisonis. Hill top castles abound in many towns like the coastal one at Bosa and its medieval one high above the Temo River that snakes far below it. The views from the ramparts are wonderful as is the secret of the plain looking church’s interior at the castle where are to be found some excellent fresco’s that adorn the walls. A section of the last supper, but below the apostles are near perfect as is a depiction of stages of death on the opposite wall.
This is also the wine growing area but for the Malvasia grape and to carry the accreditation of Malvasia di Bosa it must be made up of 95% of those grapes a highly acclaimed badge indeed.
This time a snaking drive along the coast from Bosa to Alghereo is certainly best done during the day. Not only great views of the cliffs but here you can often see Griffin Vultures that breed in the hills circling high above.
Sardinia offers sun, sea and many surprises it also offers fine food and fine wine with that Italian way of making sure you have a bloody good time…and yes I did!
easyJet connects Luton and Alghero all year round.
Accomodation was provided by Hotel Catalunya 4*.
Santa Maria Lapalma wine producers….. http://www.santamarialapalma.it/
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Travel writer and photographer, Geoff has travelled the world in one way or another for 30 years. He is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and we welcome his contribution to Your Holiday TV