When the vanity and cultivation of mainland Italy starts to wear thin, when one more church interior will send you into the path of the nearest speeding Fiat, Sardinia’s savage coastline and rugged people will be a reality check for your soul. D. H. Lawrence sought respite here from the deadly net of European civilization, and he found his escape among the wild horses, wind-carved rock formations, and pink flamingos of this remote island.
Tirrenia ferries (081 317 29 99; www.tirrenia.it) run to Olbia from Civitavecchia, just north of Rome (6hr. 4 per day, from ‚30), and Genoa (9hr. 6 per week, from ‚28). They also chug to Cagliari from Civitavecchia (15-18hr. 2 per day, from ‚26); Genoa (20hr. July-Sept. 2 per week, from ‚37); Naples (16hr. Jan.-Sept. 1 per week, ‚26); and Palermo (13V&hr. 1 per week, from ‚24). Trains run from Cagliari to Olbia (4hr. daily, ‚13) via Oristano (lMhr. 16 per day ‚4.55) and to Sassari (4hr. 2 per day, from ‚ 12). From Sassari, trains run to Alghero (40min. 11 per day, ‚1.80). PANI buses connect Cagliari to Oristano (lVhr. ‚5.80).
Cagliari combines the bustle and energy of a modem Italian city with the endearing rural atmosphere of the rest of the islaind. Its Roman ruins, medieval towers, and cobblestone streets contrast with the regal tree-lined streets and sweeping beaches downtown. Climb Largo Carlo Felice to reach the city’s impressive duomo, P. Palazzo 3, with dazzling gold mosaics topping each of its entryways. Open daily 8am-12:30pm and 4-8pm.) The 2nd-century Roman amphitheater comes alive with concerts, operas, and classic plays during the summer arts festival in July and August. If you prefer to sun-worship, take city bus P, PQ, or PF to II Poetto beach (20min. ‚0.80), which has pure white sand and turquoise water. The tourist office is on P. Matteotti. (070 66 92 55; fax 070 66 49 23. Open in summer M-Sa 8:30am-l:30pm and 2:30-7:30pm; off-season reduced hours.) Albergo Palmas 0, V. Sardegna 14 is the town’s best budget option. Cross V. Roma and turn right; take the first left on Largo Carlo Felice, and turn right onto V. Sardegna. ( 070 65 16 79. Singles ‚21; doubles ‚31-37. AmExMCV.) Postal Code: 09100.
Vineyards, ruins, and horseback rides are all a short trip away from Alghero’s palm-lined parks and twisting medieval streets. The nearby CJGrotte di Nettuno, an eerie, stalactite-filled 70-million-year-old cavern complex in Capo Caccia, can be reached by bus (lhr. 3 per day, round-trip ‚1.80). Visitors descend 632 steps between massive white cliffs. (Open Apr.-Sept. daily 9am-7pm; Oct. 10am-4pm; Nov.-Mar. 8am-2pm. ‚10.) The tourist office, P. Porta Terra 9, is to the right from the bus stop, (a 079 97 90 54. Open Apr.-Oct. M-Sa 8am-8pm, Su lOam-lpm; Nov.-Mar. M-Sa 9am-lpm.) To get to Hotel San Francesco , V. Machin 2, walk straight from the tourist office and take the 3rd right, (a 079 98 03 30; www.sanfrancesco-hotel.com. Singles ‚35-43; doubles ‚62-77. MCV.) Postal Code: 07041.
The town of Oristano is an excellent base for excursions to the nearby Sinis Peninsula. From the train station, follow V. Vittorio Veneto straight to P. Mariano, then take V. Mazzini to P. Roma to reach the town center (25min.). Rent a moped or car to explore the tranquil beaches, stark white cliffs, and ancient ruins on the mystical Sinis Peninsula. At the tip, 17km west of Oristano, lie the ruins of the ancient Phoenician port of Tharros. Take the ARST bus to San Giovanni di Sinis (dir.: Is Arutas; 40min. 5 per day, ‚1.50). Slightly to the north off the road to Cuglieri is S’Archittu, where people leap from a 15m limestone arch into the waters of a rocky inlet. ARST buses go to S’Archittu (30min. 7 per day, ‚1.45). The secluded white quartz sands of Is Arutas are well worth the trip. The ARST bus to Is Arutas runs only during July and August (50min. 5 per day, ‚ 1.50). The tourist office, V. Vittorio Emanuele 8, provides maps. (fax 0783 30 32 12. Open M-F 9am-12:30pm and 4:30-8pm, Sa 9am-12:30pm.) Piccolo Hotel , V. Martignano 19, on a quiet side street in the historic center, is spacious and tastefully decorated. (0783 71 500. Singles ‚31; doubles ‚52.) Postal Code: 09170.
A recent tourist brochure amusingly mislabeled the already tiny 160 sq. km country as an even tinier 160 sq. m. That’s just about how much most tourists see of the world’s only German-speaking monarchy, but the cliff-hugging roads are gateways to unspoiled mountains with great biking and hiking. Above the valley towns, cliff-hanging roads lead to places truly worth visiting the quiet mountains offer hiking and skiing without the touristy atmosphere of many other alpine resorts.
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