Southern Sardinia is a beautiful piece of untouched nature. Far from the jetset life in the northern part of the island you can find small timeless villages with delightful coastal strips. In between villages you can meet local winemakers, proud cooks, secret islands and pink flamingos.
The sun sends its rays straight into the emerald green Mediterranean sea. Even if the water has exactly the same colour as the Caribbean there is still something very special about Sardinia. The stillness here in the south is a striking contrast to the cheery dolce vita that is lived by overpaid professional football players and media moguls along the Sardinian northern coast.
The reasons to choose this part of the country of the Mediterranean’s second largest island are many: the sea, the mountains, the food, the wine, the villages and the sympathetic local inhabitants. Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Spaniards are some of the people who conquered the island. In spite of the invasions Sardinia managed to retain its timeless, a little stubborn mentality.
The seclusion becomes especially noticeable when we leave the coastal landscape of the inland small communities. Our goal for the evening is visiting Mandas with 2000 inhabitants. At first glance it seems really small and secluded village, but soon we discover the life behind the wooden gates to the inner courtyards and squares. A small bed and breakfast with six rustic accommodation rooms and twelve beds opened in 2008 here in the village. We are looking forward to a good night’s sleep after a dinner where a handwritten menu is presented.
Sardinians are proud of their local food, instead of regular restaurant menu dishes, local owners usually serve the same food which is prepared daily in their
– Here we often exchange products, goods, fruit and wine with each other. We care about Sardinian environment, it is as an eternal food market that never passes the supermarket, says Monica Pasolini, the restaurant owner, and comes in with a bowl of zuppa di verza with rice. Verza is a kind of savoy cabbage and soup more like risotto. All topped with local olive oil and grated pecorino cheese.
The Communities Manda and Gergei are good entry points for discovering the hinterland. Nearby are some of Sardinia’s oldest “nuraghe”, fortification towers built back in the Bronze Age. We found one of the region’s best restaurants, S’Apposentu, in the area. Unfortunately, the Michelin-starred chef Roberto Petza was away during our visit, there are also some really nice wineries, like Su Entu and Olianas.
The latter is driven by the local winemaker Stefano Casadei, who discovered the local Sardinian grapes more than ten years ago. He runs Olianas as a kind of vineyard experiment where local traditions are preserved. He grows Vermentino grapes, the white wine has become one of the island’s features.
– Our production is completely ecological. We try to be as natural as possible, says site manager Enrico Menicalli. He added that it provides great advantages: the Earth breathe better which is good for the production of high quality wine.
There is a strong authenticity – in nature, people and food. Fantastic scenery interspersed with small beaches along the coasts where nothing is built and people are not yet tired of tourists.
In the evening we go to the island of Sant’Antioco in the south, to take the boat to another island: Isola di San Pietro. The bustling little port of the main town Carloforte meets with outdoor terraces and palm trees. Kids are playing football around the statue in the Piazza Repubblica while the barber is busy under the fig trees.
Carloforte exists partly by tourism but the hotels are few and quite small. The city has a remarkable history. In the mid-1700s poor families from Genoa in northern Italy moved to the island Tabarcha outside Tunisia to fish coral and tuna. When they later fled the island and moved north, the Sardinian King Carlo Emanuele III proclaimed Carloforte as a Ligurian colony. One of these families, who still speak a form of old-Genovese, called Pomella, own a small coastal restaurant.
– Our gastronomic culture is characterized by Tunisia, including many dishes based on couscous and tuna, says Antonello Pomella, and puts lemon peel over a spaghetti topped with bottarga-caviar, a Sardinian culinary pride.
Our final stop is the southern Sardinia’s main city Cagliari. A bustling port city awaits us with impressive Baroque buildings.
Southern Sardinia – undiscovered Mediterranean jewel is authentic in every single way.