Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sardinia and its Secrets: beaches, nature and mystery

In Sardinia is possible to enjoy a holiday in lots and different ways. The geological nature of the territory, its climate and geographic position make Sardinia a special and unique place. Everyone arriving in Sardinia for the first time has the feeling of entering another world consisting of endless spaces and majestic landscapes. The sea reigns over this region with its colors that migrate into the coves, along the coasts, towards the beaches and the most popular resorts.

BEACHES AND NATURE


Visiting the Maddalena Archipelago and its “seven sisters,” the main islands of the archipelago, and sailing along the coast of the Maddalena National Park with its lively seabeds, perfect for scuba-diving lovers, is an incredible experience.
Caprera, the second biggest Island after Maddalena, is full of pastures and pinewoods, and shows its visitors the places where Garibaldi lived, with a house museum in the typical Mediterranean vegetation, which guards the memorabilia of the “hero of two worlds,” as well as his and his family’s grave.


Again on Sardinia's northwest coast, in front of the Natural Park of Asinara Island, we can find one of the most famous tourist resorts, Stintino, which combines the charm of a lively fishing village with high-quality accommodation facilities. This small seaside town, appearing as a painting with its white houses and the contrast between the crystal-clear sea and light blue sky, offers endless leisure possibilities, from golf to excursions and scuba diving, from cycling to horseback riding.


On the northwest coast Costa Smeralda is surely the most renowned place in Sardinia not only for its constant society life, but also for its unforgettable beauty. A charming and contradictory environment, characterized by the wild and proud Mediterranean shrub-land (Macchia or Maquis), strange-shaped white granite rocks, beaches, coves and bays that your eyes have never seen yet.
On the southern coast one of the most magical as well as diversified stretches of coastline is to be found in Pula. Balmy beaches and coves, Roman excavations and blindingly white sand dunes endow the area with its richness.


A few kilometers down the road to the west is the expansive sandy cove and aquamarine waters of Baia Chia.  With its silky sand, up to 30 meter-high white dunes and crystalline, turquoise-hued water is the reminiscent of an idyllic Caribbean beach. The bay is bordered by majestic, age-old junipers and a few stone traces of the Phoenician city of Bithia whose site Baia Chia now occupies. And if it’s your lucky day, you might catch a glimpse of dolphins and, on the lake, flamingos. Chia is also a wonderful venue for surfers because the winds blow just the right way. On this lovely bay there is also a lovely restaurant, Dune di Campana, where the aromatic Mediterranean maquis can be enjoyed along with a cool, refreshing drink.,


Facing the bay is Su Giudeu, a teeny island that you can wade across to. And Baia Chia Restaurant on the opposite side of the bay is also a lovely place to while away a hot summer afternoon. Cala Cipolla, the bay next door to Baia Chia, is only accessible on foot, but its picturesque beach and cliffs make it worth the walk. It also features seven reefs at a depth of 25 meters, a veritable paradise for scuba divers. A few kilometers down the road is the expansive sandy cove and aquamarine waters of Tuerredda. Those wishing to explore Sardinia’s numerous bays extending to the island’s southernmost point, Capo Teluada, can rent a boat here for the trip.

ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY


How many times did you hear about Stonehenge? Do you know that Sardinia has many mysterious buildings very likely with Stonehenge? This is a land rich of mystery so let's travel from Cagliari to Nuoro to discover the evidence of a millennial civilization and the traditions and customs of this marvellous people.
Away from crowded beaches there is a charming and mysterious place to visit.
Not very much is known of the ancient Nuragic civilization, except that it was a people of shepherds and farmers grouped into small communities who lived in Sardinia for 8 centuries. It built these extraordinary structures (there are about 700 throughout the island) whose use is still not known: Perhaps defensive fortresses or palaces or temples. In any event, a nuraghe represented the centre of the social life of these tribes that left us other megalithic buildings such as necropolises, tombs and places of worship.The starting point is Cagliari, the regional capital and main Sardinian harbour where visitors should visit the National Museum of Archaeology, which is the most important one in the world in terms of the Nuragic civilization. It holds most of the materials discovered in the Nuraghes. They did produce art in the form of beautiful small bronze statues; typically representing Gods, the chief of the village, soldiers, animals and women. There are also stone carvings or statues representing female divinities.


Take the trunk road from Cagliari that crosses the Campidano plain, where the ruins of nuraghi appear, including the quite visible one of Sa Uga. The second leg in this trip is Barumini, the location of the extraordinary complex of Su Nuraxi (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is dominated by a majestic nuraghe surrounded by a large village that was inhabited from 1600 BC to the 3rd century AD. 4 lateral towers joined by a wall surround the main nuraghe, which is 15 metres high. Both floors are intact inside the nuraghe, where there is also a semi-circular courtyard and a well (20 m deep). The huts are also quite visible and are generally round. Continuing north, a stop should be made on the Giara plateau to admire the horses that live in the wild. The third destination is Isili, a small town overlooking the Sarcidano Valley and destination for free climbers and rowers. There are several nuraghi in the area, including Is Paras, whose beautiful façade is the highest in Sardinia (almost 12 metres). There are also domus de janas here (house of fairies or of witches), which are Neolithic tombs dug out of the rock and simulating the inside of houses. There are also several examples of domus de janas in Goni and Pimentel. After a stop in Nurallao, which is the location of the megalithic tomb of Aiodda, the journey continues towards Laconi, the town of the menhirs, that is monoliths of various sizes, at times finely engraved, and many of which are in the Civic Museum of Archaeology. The ruins of a medieval castle surrounded by a regional park and several nuraghi are also worth visiting here. Aritzo is situated on the lower slopes of the Gennargentu Mountain, which is home to the mouflon and golden eagle. It is characterized by houses with stone façades and large wooden balconies. Heading north, 3 other stops should be made: Fonni, the highest town in Sardinia at 1,000 m asl, Gavoi and beautiful Gusana Lake and Ollolai, in the area of San Basilio, where there are ancient burials that were obtained by using dry stone walls to enclose the clefts created by nature. Make a detour to Sedilo before reaching Nuoro. It is the location of tombe dei giganti (a type of gallery grave) and a Nuragic palace. This is also where there is one of the largest hypogeum necropolises in Sardinia - the domus de janas of Iloi with 34 tombs uncovered to date.

SARDINIAN CRAFTS

All Sardinian crafts can be purchased in Cagliari. Isili is home to hand-woven carpets, bedspreads and knapsacks. Visitors in Nuoro can buy unique jewellery, including magnificent filigree pieces, wooden masks, carpets, tapestries, and handmade pillows and curtains. Wooden engraved chests can be bought in Aritzo, and braided asphodel baskets can be purchased in Ollolai. Marvellous pottery is available throughout Sardinia.


Gastronomic products to purchase or taste: Bread, extra virgin olive oil, ravioli and dumplings, honey, spit-roasted meat (above all suckling pig, followed by lamb and goat) scented with aromatic herbs, cheese (pecorino, ricotta and caciocavallo), cured meats (sausage, ham and bacon) and sweets, which are often filled with fresh cheese or walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and raisins. Quality Sardinian wines: Cannonau, Nuragus, Monica, Mandrolisai and Girò. Excellent dessert wines: Malvasia, Moscato and Nasco.



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