Before our year in France I knew nothing about Sardinia. It showed up on flight options from our nearest major airport for 29 euros one way, and it was an Italian island in the Mediterranean. That sounded great, so we booked tickets without knowing much more for the first two-week school holiday break during the second half of October.
We packed light with lots of shorts and expecting to spend time in our suits, figuring it was the European off season but for Canadians who swam in the North Atlantic it would be like summer, but that proved overly optimistic.
We landed in Cagliari in the south, had a small rental car rented, and a general game plan including a few nights booked in the NW on the Costa Paradiso in the cheapest yet most appealing off season place I could find with a pool and a balcony with a view. It took two hours to go through the lineup for the car, and we got lost finding our first destination, a rural farmstay so it was a long tiring first day.
After this we were heading north, inland across the island, towards Alghero, only a 3 hour drive or so but because we tend to choose slower routes where possible took us longer through the winding, rocky, wild interior.
Alghero is a popular coastal town in the NW, with a walled medieval centre with cobblestone streets where we had our first real Italian pizza at a small local place down a hardly noticeable flight of stairs, casually hand tossed and cooked in a brick oven while we tried a local beer. Followed up by the first Italian gelatos and a walk along the wall beside canon fortifications and a sparkling sea. The children took the opportunity to have a rousing fight. Travel with kids, good times.
The thing to visit near Alghero is the Grotto Neptuno – a deep, dramatic stalactite cave at the water’s edge, accessed along sheer cliff walls by a 654 step long staircase. The staircase was possibly even more impressive than the cave, with sheer steep cliffs and thundering surf at the base. It was a highlight of Sardinia for us, a fun adventure everyone enjoyed.
The cave itself was stalactular, shall we say. A wide mouth right at sea level with crashing blue green and white waves and spray, and then a deep cavern extending over 4 km, though only a tenth of that perhaps, accessible. After a pricy entrance fee, we entered in to a well lit, warmly glowing interior and followed a path through the columns and around a small lake.
Then it was back up the staircase, 654 steps, and all three kids accepted Tris’s challenge to bunny hop up the whole way.
The other half of our visit to Sardinia was spent at a villa that was part of a huge (900 units?) holiday complex, much of it empty at that late date. We had a beautiful view and a pool that mostly was too chilly. Down by the water it was very rocky, reminding me of climbing around Peggy’s Cove back at home.
A path along the shore led to a spectacular beach, Li Cossi, forming a tight bay where a river empty out between cliff walls, passed down a gorgeous beach, and on to the sea. We visited almost every day and both Tris and I felt we had never seen a more beautiful beach.
As the sun lowered the walls and sand started to glow.
The weather was mostly cool and cloudy so we didn’t spend too much time in the water, but had lots of picnics and the kids spent lots of time in the river, or we’d find paths to hike along. Back at our little unit we had a balcony with an extra show: cats. Left by summer visitors and now a wild population fed in the summer, we were swarmed (to the kids’ delight) by meowing visitors. We put out cat kibble, probably part of the problem, but hard to ignore hungry cats.
The other local excitement was the sangliers, or wild boar, which lived in the hilly bush and worked their way through the forest floor snuffling out a meal, probably not always truffles but that’s what I imagined. They showed up at dusk only 20 feet from our deck.
Discussing the trip to Sardinia now, well over a year later, there was good recollection of the cats, hopping up the steps from the Grotto, and the barf in a hidden corner of the cave. And I worried they’d have forgotten all about it.
Sardinia was a world apart, rural Italy with drives and hikes on twisty rocky remote hills, with it’s own Catalan flavour. Rocky, wild, and dramatic. Sheep and birds more plentiful than people. We didn’t know what we would find and loved what we saw!