Sardinia: What to know before you go
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Before I began planning our trip to Sardinia, I’ll admit that I knew virtually nothing about it. Now that we’ve been, I can report that the Italian island is most certainly great for families, but it is more than a beach getaway — it’s a rustic escape to a place where time moves slowly and you can truly exhale.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
When to visit Sardinia
Sardinia is a seasonal destination. Many airline routes and many hotels are only open between May and October, with July and August being the peak tourist season. We visited in July and didn’t find it crowded, even though it was the busiest time of year. The weather was glorious: mid to high-70s, sunny with warm Mediterranean waters. In the inland mountains, the temperatures dipped into the low 70s.
Despite what most tourists prefer, I think a winter visit could be lovely — it rarely gets below freezing. You’ll just have to plan everything in advance and know that many restaurants and sites will be closed.
Where you settle is where you’ll stay
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean and boasts 1,149 miles of coastline. A car is essential for exploring most of the island. Outside of the roads connecting major towns, transportation is slower than you might imagine.
I don’t think I drove over 40 miles per hour my entire week in Sardinia and journeys seemed to take a long time for relatively short distances. The roads were well maintained and I never felt unsafe, but getting around was a challenge. On the other hand, around every corner was an incredible vista.
Limited points hotels
On paper, the four Marriott properties in Sardinia should fit the bill if you’re looking for sun and fun. All of them are Category 8, three are Luxury Collection properties and the fourth is a Sheraton. All four are on the Costa Smeralda, close to Olbia.
However, you won’t typically find rooms for more than two people on points at any of them. However, if you are just after a couple’s getaway, then those properties might be options.
The only other points property is a Doubletree, at about 17,000 Hilton Honors per night in November in downtown Olbia. I couldn’t imagine staying there unless you had an early flight to catch the next day.
What Sardinia lacks in points options it more than makes up for in unique properties. We chose L’Agnata di De André, just outside Tempio Pausania, for a nature-inspired getaway. Rooms at L’Agnata di de André go for around $210 per night during its season from June to October.
The boutique hotel featured an idyllic location that was equally suited for exploration and for swinging in a hammock with a glass of wine in hand. Best of all, my daughter loved it as much as I did. She spent hours floating in the natural rock pool while I read an entire novel. How often do you get to finish a book on vacation?
What makes Sardinia special
Sardinia has incredible beaches, but you can find gorgeous beaches all over southern Europe. After five weeks bouncing around the Mediterranean, I’m not convinced Sardinia’s beaches are any more beautiful than those in the Algarve in Portugal or the Calanques of the French Riviera.
I’ve been to rural Italy three times and all of the trips have been great, but what makes Sardinia extra-special is the rustic charm. While time feels as if it slows down when you are in rural Italy, in Sardinia it seems to move backward. Travel times were just one example. Type A personalities beware: meals took at least two hours and it took more than an hour just to pick up our rental car.
On an island, you might expect a lot of seafood, but we found more pork, lamb and goat than fish on most menus. We also found dishes that were uniquely Sardinian such as pane frattau — a lasagna-type dish made with thin crackers instead of pasta and topped with an egg. It’s better than it sounds. Our other favorite dish was an aubergine carpaccio.
I should also mention that restaurant meals were without question the cheapest we had in Europe. My daughter and I could easily order a starter, two mains, dessert, a bottle of water and a small carafe of wine for less than $35. We also found a roadside stand just outside Isola Rossa that sold wine from a steel tank for $3.50 a bottle — and it was delicious.
Sardinia is so much more than sun and fun: there are foods you won’t find anywhere else, a landscape that is both challenging and rewarding and people who are excited to share their island’s treasures with you. Best of all, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy your visit.
Featured photo by Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images
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