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As well as coming to Sardinia to join us in our celebration we strongly recommend that you take an extra week or two to explore the island, an increasingly popular tourist destination within the mediteranean. Below you will find information about the island, including the two entry points — Alghero and Cagliari — the island of San Pietro where the wedding takes place and the Festival of San Costantino (L’Ardia), which takes place the following week in Sedilo, not far from Alghero, and which would be well worth taking in by anyone staying on in Sardinia after the wedding. There is also information about the Emerald Coast (Costa Smeralda), on the north east of the island. Anyone flying from London who would like to take in this area should bear in mind that Easyjet fly from Gatwick to Olbia.
Introduction to Sardinia
Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean, is approximately 250 kilometres from north to south and 110 kilometres from east to west. Italian is the main language although various regions of the island have traditional languages of their own, from Catalan in the area of Alghero through to Campidanese in the south.
The landscape of the island is incredibly varied, from white sandy beaches on the coast to the mountainous terrain in the central parts of the island. From cities like Cagliari in the south to old coastal towns like Alghero in the north there is a varied array of architecture and culture. In the northeast of the island is the Costa Smerelda - the Emerald Coast - playground of the rich and famous. The island is also peppered with a vast array of archaeological remains including the Nuraghes, (a stone tepee like structure) which are among some of the oldest constructions known to man.
The cuisine of Sardinia is just as varied as it’s terrain with an abundance of seafood dishes to be found in coastal regions including what is said to be some of the finest lobster and tuna in the world. Traditional delicacies of Sardinia - wood roast suckling pig, wild boar and traditional Sardinian sausage - are to be found inland.
Be sure to check out the little green train (trenino verde), a summer-season, single-track railway that has a number of routes through lovely countryside. Treninoverde.com has the routes and timetables.
Useful sites for planning a holiday in Sardinia:
Getaroundsardinia.com — exploring the island without a car.
Ichnusa Bike offers bike hire and trekking itineraries.
Itineraries around Sardinia
About.com guide to Sardinia
Large map of Sardinia
With stunning beaches and an historic old town centre, Alghero offers both the opportunity of a beach holiday and a small city break. If you are looking to just relax and be somewhere that you can walk out the door and be on the beach you can stay in the Lido area, Alghero’s own beach. There are a number of hotels located in the area with sea views and private sun beds on the beach for residents. In the summer months there are many bars and restaurants either on the beach or in the area and when the sun goes down you can find live music and parties on the beach.
For those who want to experience a little more of the cultural side of Alghero there is the old town. which dates back to the 12th century. You can have lunch along the battlements looking out to sea or take a stroll through the shops in the warren of cobble stone streets. There are a number of churches and historical places of interest to visit and many guided tours are available.
Ruled by the Spanish and Catalans for over 400 years, the resort of Alghero is often called Barceloneta or 'Little Barcelona', and a dialect of Catalan is the official language. The Spanish influence is also felt in the Algheran food, with some dishes as typically Catalan as they are Italian.
Near Alghero is Porto Conte with its natural wildlife reserve that spreads along the coast line and reachable either by land or by boat there is Capo Caccia and Neptune’s Grotto which is a must for any visitor to Alghero.
Map of Alghero (Print Version)
Cagliari, the capital, is the island’s largest town and has a history stretching back to the Roman era. Cagliari is also one of the main attractions and is the main entry point for most tourists to the island. It boasts a slew of impressive fortifications including the Bastione San Remy and several lofty towers, a beautiful harbour and an ancient cathedral. The other main attraction for history buffs is the San Saturnino Church just outside town; it is the oldest church on the island, dating from the 5th century. Towering high over Cagliari is the museum citadel, worth spending time in not only for the magnificent artifacts of ancient cultures housed in it, but also because of its subtropical gardens with their inspiring panoramas of lagoons and salt water lakes. What should also not be missed is Cagliari’s fish market, Mercato di San Benedetto, whose medley of sights and sounds is truly unforgettable.
Isola di San Pietro
Isola di San Pietro (Island of Saint Peter) is a small island off the south-western coast of Sardinia. Because of its open position towards the Mediteranean the coast of this island is rough with beautiful rock formations. The main and only town on the island is Carloforte. The island is best known for its high quality tuna which is flown to the top sushi restaurants in Japan. In the summer the island also attracts quite a few tourists who come there for some beautiful beaches, wedged inbetween the beautiful rock-formations. Up on the hill you will find the old town walls and a small museum devoted to the history of the island. Almost all of the 6000 inhabitants of the island live in Carloforte where they are in some form connected to fishing (mostly Tuna) or tourism.
The people of this island are not Sards, but Carlofortinian. Their dialect is an old-fashioned form of Genovese, with vowel sounds that are quite different from standard Italian and more like French. Carloforte was founded in 1738 by Ligurian fishermen originally from the Genoese suburb of Pegli. Before coming to S. Pietro, they had settled on Tabarka Island off the coast of Tunisia. Subject to constant pirate raids, they were finally granted the feudal title to S. Pietro by Carlo Emanuele III, King of Piedmont and Sardinia. In gratitude, they named the main town after him, and erected a statue which is still standing on the Lungomare (seaside promenade). Dominated by the belltower of San Carlo, Carloforte is one of the most characteristic fishing villages on the island, with its bastions and defense walls, memories of the ever present pirate threat. Strangely enough, the ramparts have survived only on the inland side of town. Those which faced the sea have been replaced by the enchanting Lungomare.
The hinterland is mountainous and green, abounding with pine groves, junipers and strawberries. The Phoenicians called it Sparrow-Hawk Island, because of the abundance of that and other birds of prey that feed on the flourishing population of hares and other small animals. In recent years, the rose-colored flamingo has chosen the island as one of its refuges. The coastline is spectacular, ranging from the northern beaches of Cala Lunga and Cala Fico, to panoramic Capo Sandalo with its lighthouse, on the western shores, to the rocky cliffs of Mezzaluna and the breathtaking pinnacles called "Le Colonne" (the Columns) in the south. The cliffs and columns are formed of a magnificent rose-colored trachyte common to the island.
The island is easily reached by a convenient ferry boat that leaves every hour or so and takes 35 minutes from Porto Vesme, a tiny harbor one kilometer south of Portoscuro, on Sardinia's southwest coast. For your return, consider the variation of ferrying to Calasetta, a harbor town on the neighboring island of S. Antioco. Filled with whitewashed homes, this charming town is more Oriental in flavor than most Sardinian villages. From here, a Roman causeway leads back to the mainland.
Map of Isola di San Pietro (Print Version)
L’Ardia – The festival of San Costantino
L’Ardia takes place on the 6th and 7th of July in two places in Sardinia, the most famous is in Sedilo in the province of Oristano and the other in the small village of Pozzomaggiore in the province of Sassari. This ancient horse racing festival, a dangerous race with a spiritual twist, is a celebration in honour of San Costantino. In actual fact, this Saint is not even recognised by the Catholic Church, but the festival is nonetheless deeply rooted in the traditions of these two towns and the race represents the defence of the values of Christianity.
Hundreds of horsemen take part in the race, they parade and then gallop at breakneck speed in pairs and threes keeping the pace in a choreographic movement. The group is led by the first three horsemen: the first one on a white horse carries the colours of the Saint and the other two just behind have the other two bands. The horsemen that follow must be careful not to ever overtake the leader; should that happen, it would be a bad omen meaning that the values of Christianity have been defeated. Before the race there is the celebration of Mass in the main church and then the procession led by the horsemen followed by the rolling of the drums and a music band to the church of San Costantino to return the statue of the Saint to its original place from where it had been removed earlier in the day. With the simulacrum safe in its church, the race starts: the horsemen first gallop to the church and then around it in a series of ritual rounds that vary between three and seven. Celebrations continue with music and shows until late in the evening.
More Information on L’Ardia
The Emerald Coast
Olbia (Easyjet fly direct from London) is located on the Costa Smeralda, one of the most beautiful stretches of coast on the Mediterranean. It is therefore a popular holiday destination for the rich and famous, but this fantastic area has much to offer the budget traveller also. A wild and rocky coast on the one hand, catering for the more active holidaymaker – excellent opportunities for hiking and climbing. On the other hand there are beautiful sandy beaches, ideal for long lazy days by the sea.
The rest of Sardinia is easily accessible from Olbia. The island offers many historical sites, with remnants of the many cultures that have passed through here. The Carthaginians, the Romans, and the Genoans have all left their traces – there are even examples of Spanish Baroque architecture to be found. But the Nuraghic civilisation was unique to Sardinia, and the mysterious structures they built are dotted all over the island. They are often situated in remote parts, so it is essential to get your own transport to see these. Failing that, the museums of Cagliari or Sassari have collections of artefacts left by this uniquely Sardinian culture.
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