We chose to go up into the mountains towards Cagliari (the capital) and it was again a wonderful drive with only a few abandoned houses and factories along the way. I could imagine a few of the Mafia who wanted to get lost would go into those mountains. They were heavily forested with cork trees (which looked half dead but were not). There was very little traffic on the roads and over the mountain passes and the roads were generally good. Unfortunately the campsite we chose was full (only one of two and 30kms from Cagliari) so we ended up next door at Cala D’Ostia which turned out to be a very good choice – simple but with many Italian families with old time music playing during the day. There was a good bus service from outside the camp to Pula and then a change of bus to Cagliari. The trip took about an hour in total and landed us near the centre of town where it was a pleasant 30degrees.
Many of the buildings near the port were Venetian in structure and decoration with many balconies and there were of course many large churches in the old part of the city. We walked along the harbour through a long columned arcade with it’s many shops,cafes and restaurants. It was another steep way up through the old town but the views from the top of the city were worth the effort. The city reminded us of Naples in many ways. Near the port there was a small square ringed with trees and seemingly homeless Africans who were plying various cheap wares.
We were reminded of home with the many jacaranda trees in the city. We found a working hospital which dated from the early 1800’s with it’s high ceilings and large corridors. A local gave us a recommendation for a seafood restaurant where we sat outside in the warmth of the afternoon and had a delicious seafood meal with a fresh salad. After our long tour on foot we sat in the arcade and revived ourselves before taking a good look around “Rinascente” Italy’s only department store and then found a photographic exhibition of Cagliari in a beautifully restored large cellar before catching the bus back to Pula and then to the campsite.
I managed to assist an African man from Ghana attending a medical conference in Cagliari but who was put in a resort 30kms away near our campsite. He spoke no Italian but managed to get on the bus with us so I asked a kind man to call him a taxi from Pula. We arrived back at the campsite at nearly 9pm but it was still light and nice and warm.
Cagliari is known for it’s flamingoes and there were hundreds in the lake close to the city and in lakes on the other side of the harbour near the salt flats.
Arbatax was our next stop about three hours north of Cagliari and the drive through the mountains was a relaxing one with very little traffic and lovely scenery. There were hundreds of oleander bushes along a river course and interesting rock formations. We came down into the plains which were full of vineyards and olive trees, many bordered by a fence of prickly pears.
At the small town of San Priamo and had a wonderful seafood risotto at “Restaurant Elisabeth”. The waitress was lovely and she had a brother who had been to Australia. Most of the Italians we spoke to had a relative or friend who had gone to live in Australia.
We found our way to Arbatax with it’s strange terracotta coloured rock formations in and near the sea. We hit on a “festa” in town with a display of old restored fiats and the latest Alfa Romeo “Giulia”. Many booths selling jewellery and local produce along the street near the port were doing a brisk trade and the cafes were full of locals enjoying a Sunday outing. We left and found our camping place “Orri” by the sea and had a relaxing night.
We had heard of the Tombs of the Giants – enormous sarcophagus like structures dotted in various places over the island and our friend Alan had said we should see the one near Dorgali on our way north again so we set off for it on the Monday morning after breakfast.
There was no signage as to where this site was, however, after a very helpful man gave us exact instructions we found a sign and a gate by the side of the road which e had to open and then walk about ten minutes to the interesting ossuary site, thousands of years old from the Nuraghic period.
There are a few worrying things while driving in both Corsica and Sardinia. There are very few advance warnings on the road telling you what tight curves or other obstacles could be a danger on the very winding roads. The other is that most of the bus drivers (who do an amazing job at manoevering around the very narrow streets in the cities) have their phones to their ears or are texting or reading things on their cellphones while driving their buses.
The stop at Arbatax for the night was uneventful and although most of the ads for the campsites state that they are on the beach most are a good walk away. We therefore decided to go back to our first campsite “Isuledda” which was right on the beach. Many of the campsites in Greece and Turkey that we visited last year were just near the water’s edge.
The variety of birds seem to differ all around the islands and if we woke early it was really pleasant to listen to the different bird calls (except for the monotonous cooing of the doves which was like chinese torture for me).
We stopped briefly at San Teodoro and then went back to Cannigioni for three days. It was very blustery all day and the wind did not let up for 24hours, howling at night and causing problems for tents and awnings. We were snug in our camper and at least it was not raining or cold.
We could at least have a swim and sit in the sun the next day when the wind had dropped. The weather pattern then seemed to be cloudy at midday then sun again in the late afternoon so we set off on foot for the nearby town to sit and enjoy the views of the bay and stock up on essentials from the supermarket. The supermarkets in Italy stock an enormous amount of wine as well as the wine shops and artisan shops in every town. The habit of going to the bar for an aperitif before dinner is a very civilised one. In Italy there are many non alcoholic as well as alcoholic ones and if one is ordered it always comes with some kind of snack or peanuts and snacks.
We enjoyed another relaxing day at the seaside before heading for the ferry to take us back to the mainland. It was a very overcast day but not cold.
We left Sardinia on Friday 17th June plenty of time luckily because when we arrived at the port (the only one that showed the route to Livorno on both our paper map and in google)the office was closed and a barman told me that the only ferry of which he knew was that afternoon but we were booked for 10am. I had a moment of panic until I asked a security person who told me that the Grimaldi lines left from Olbia and not Golfo Aranci which was 20minutes from the port of Olbia. We had enough time for me to get to the office to get our tickets (I had already booked and paid for them online but we needed the paper tickets!)and get Van Mauriceon on board. We expected with a name like “Grimaldi Lines” the ferry would be excellent however it was very average as ferrys go. It was however the tallest ferry we had taken. The trip back to Livorno took us about eight hours.
Sardinia is known for it’s beautiful bays, beaches and crystal clear water but for us Australians the beaches still didn’t compare to what we have at home. What is good are the services you can get at the campsites and on the beach in the way of cafes/restaurants/sun lounges and umbrellas. What we loved were the drives along the coastline with views of the sea below and the lovely scenery through the mountains.