Take one island, five days in April 2008, a blue Chevrolet lovingly nicknamed Luigi and a well-charged camera battery. Add a dash of Italian and copious amounts of sunshine, and voila! – you have Sardinia.
Sardinia is an Italian island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the most consistently beautiful places I have ever been – rivalling New Zealand for stunning landscapes and striking views. Rugged mountains, hidden valleys and unspoiled coastline take your breath away with every turn as you wind your way up mountains and through narrow, cobbled streets, swerving to avoid hitting randomly-parked cars parked and rickety three-wheeled trucks.
This trip was about relaxing and soaking up some much-needed sun after a long English winter; no church or museum or historic building was entered, and this isn’t a place where you need to visit such sites to experience the culture and beauty of the island.
We spent our first night in the capital, Cagliari. In search of a beach famous for its endless white sands (Poetto), we wandered aimlessly for about four hours and ended up climbing a rather steep hill, quite by accident. However, the views were amazing and we saw the beach we were aiming for…we just never actually made it there.
We then travelled to Arbatax, on the east coast, where the beaches were amazing and deserted. Considering the time of year (April), the water wasn’t all that warm, but the views were picturesque: the water was green and blue and crystal clear, the sand was white and soft, and the sky was such a deep neon blue. We took a drive to Baunei late one afternoon, and the views were breathtaking as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains.
From there, we journeyed on to San Teodoro, home of the best pizza we found in all of Italy (in fact, food in Sardinia was far superior to most of the meals we had in mainland Italy). We stumbled upon a beautiful, quaint little village one evening – Santa Maria Navarrese – which was an absolute treat. There were gangs of old men sitting outside homes and on the edges of parks; they looked like gossiping old women, with a touch of mafia about them.
The food, the wine, the scenery, the people – everything about Sardinia touched our hearts and memories like no other place we have travelled to. Perhaps it was the lack of other tourists, or the way we were welcomed into restaurants like the locals and offered dishes that were not on the menu.
Or perhaps, it was the fact that on our favourite beach – the gorgeous, deserted Lido di Orri – my super-unromantic then-boyfriend* took me completely by surprise by proffering a small wooden box and dropping to one knee in the pristine white sand. I’d just picked two very pretty shells** off the sand and was wondering about making a necklace from them, when he distracted me with the most beautiful, sparkling diamond, and those amazing words, “Will you marry me?”
Needless to say, I said a very shocked but very ecsatic “YES!”, and the rest of our trip was spent in a blissful, sparkly haze of newly-engagedness (<– not a real word. Should be).
Even if this trip hadn’t had such an amazing punchline, we would still view Sardinia as one of our favourite destinations. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind, and renting a car or scooters is the best way of getting around. It’s a magical place with scenery to die for, a Mediterranean climate, and an abundance of fresh seafood – you really can’t go wrong with that combination!
* My wonderful husband and I often joke that he saved up all his energy for that one romantic gesture, and that it will be another few years before he has the energy for another. He had been planning this proposal for some time, and on the day we left, he had to rush madly into St Albans to pick up the ring he had chosen because he’d been too late to collect it the night before. He spun me some line about having to go into town to pay his cricket subs, and I spent the entire train journey to Luton Airport silently fuming because I was sure we’d almost missed our flight because of his bl**dy cricket! I did apologise once I knew the real reason he’d had to race into town – all was most definitely forgiven at that point!
** I vaguely remember asking Tall to hold those shells for me, and to this day, neither of us can remember what happened to them…