{Sardinian Flag} Sardinia, Italy

October 2004

Ironically, I got the idea to visit Sardinia from a scuba diving magazine (my father and I wanted to go diving) which as you will discover was a big mistake. Nevertheless, I want to visit as much of the world as possible and Sardinia is an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea and it needs to be seen. Fortunately, Ryan Air does cheap return flights to this island, even during late October half term school holidays, so we had nothing to lose.

On the 2am start, rapid 1 hour 20 minute drive down to Stansted Airport, I counted only 5 cars on my side of the road. I’d never flown from Stansted (London’s north eastern Airport) before. Ryan Air has a ‘no reserved seats’ policy. You grab what you can. But they also have a “let the families with small children on first”. This is obviously a discrimination against people who avoid children like the plague and since it was the school holidays, most passengers were families with small children.

Senior citizens came next and my mother battled her way through crowds of yelling children to grab a good seat. As a discriminated ‘normal’ person, I waited amongst the remnants and bordered last. The plane was nearly full and I was asked if I would take an emergency door seat. No problem. Meanwhile, my mother had grabbed another emergency exit with my dad so he could stretch his legs out.

The Air hostess asked my dad to move because emergency exits should only be manned by “young mobile people”. “I’m mobile” replied my dad “You’re telling me that Ryan Air has an anti-aged policy?” Much heated discussion, of which I, seated at the front, was oblivious to. Great. We’re on the plane for 5 minutes and my retired parents have already caused a riot (Note: never travel with your mother!). They were allowed to stay put. I kept my head down as air hostesses would give me a look to say “your parents are a pain in the ass. We’re thinking of having them arrested under the Terrorism Act”.

Sardinia is less than two hours by air from the UK and one hour ahead. We touched down at 9am at the small airport outside Alghero and queued for nearly an hour to collect our Ryan Air discounted rental car from Hertz, which I (and obviously many others) had booked via the internet. We were given a new Fiat something, which couldn’t take the weight of 3 passengers and luggage, unless you used the low gears to deal with the windy, steep roads. But what the hell, we were independent, unlike most tourists who were booked/stranded into resorts and suffered from an island that had ‘closed down’ for the season.

The Rough Guide said (and take it from me, the Lonely Planet edition is lousy) “Equidistant from the Italian mainland and the Tunisian coast, Sardinia is, in the words of D.H Lawrence, “lost between Europe and Africa and belonging from nowhere”. With its own language and distinct customs, the island boasts a fiercely independent character while remaining unmistakedly and exuberantly Italian”. Sardinia is the Mediterranean’s second biggest island after Sicily.

Before I left, I had contacted a dive school on the North East coast. I had had a reply in poor English to say “they would be proud to have us” (but in retrospect, I don’t think they thought we were coming later in the month). So we headed off in that direction, to take in a few sights along the way. The second largest city of Sassari was less than an hour away. The “Sassari province ranges from high tableland riven by unexpected gullies around the provincial capital to craggy peaks and valleys further east” (RG).

Parking up on a sleepy Sunday morning, we walked up the hill to penetrate the ‘Old Quarter’; a dense network of narrow medieval streets, old churches, ‘palazzi’ (small squares), and some rare examples of Renaissance buildings in Sardinia. We heard some local Italian woman giving her husband some serious verbal grief from one of the apartments above us. Her yelling echoed around the streets. “There, but for the grace of God, go I”, my father commented as we attempted to track down the Cathedral (Duomo). I attempted my appalling Italian to try and get directions. An Italian family indicated that they were going there for a service and to follow them. Their plump teenage daughter wearing platform shoes looked like the local fashion victim.

At the core of the old town, the Duomo di San Nichola is an unexpected eruption of flamboyance amid the cramped jumble of streets. Rearing above a Piazza, its florid 17th Century façade is Sardinia’s “most dazzling example of Baroque architecture” (RG) and its accompanying campanile (tower) surviving from the original 13th Century construction, was full of gargoyles and other Gothic remnants. We sneaked in during the service and sat at the back marvelling at the interior.

Photos of Sassari

This was a hit and run tour of Sardinia, so we left Sassari within 90 minutes. To the south and east is an area richly endowed with medieval churches, most of them splendidly positioned in improbably remote corners of the countryside. 15km south, Santa Trinita Saccargia, is one of the strangest sites in Sardinia. With its basalt and limestone zebra striped façade, a neighbouring rocket-like bell tower rises abruptly above the flat bare surrounding countryside, and makes a striking landmark along with the adjoining Romanesque church with the same black and white striping. It was built in 1116 and is one of the most attractive churches externally, I’ve ever seen. There was a service going on inside the tiny church and two dozen well dressed Italian people filed out in their Sunday best to roar off in their cars to the local restaurants like boy racers.

Photos of Santa Trinita church
Another Photo of Santa Trinita church
Interior Photo of Santa Trinita church

Heading north into the dry green hills, along empty twisty narrow roads, my parents were demanding food as the older generation tend to do. Every village we passed through was deserted and closed. Eventually we found a small local Trattoria, tucked down an alleyway in Nulvi, offering home cooking by a large Italian woman. A couple of Italian families were seated around tables piled high with dishes of food and wine bottles. There was no menu so I did the English thing of saying ‘pranzo? (lunch) and pointed at my mouth. Lots of activity followed in the adjoining kitchen. We had no idea what was being prepared.

My parents are vegetarian (the RG said “some vegetarians might find their food principles stretched to the limit in Sardinia”) so I deliberately avoided telling them that mutton, beef, game, boar, horsemeat and donkey are the staples of cooking in the interior. A large tray of thin slices of cured ham on peeled prickly pears (this was a first) came out with a stack of flat, soft floury bread (guess who ate all the ham). Then a large dish of pasta with fresh tomato sauce followed. The ice cold local Sardinian beer was delicious. My parents were full and we politely asked for the bill, oblivious to the fact that the lady was cooking the main meat course. I don’t think the locals were used to having tourists around, my parents certainly weren’t used to a huge Sunday feast and the lady looked a little unimpressed to put it mildly.

On the northern coast by the sea, lies the impressive hill town of Castelsardo with reddish grey houses huddled below the stout castle and the cathedral’s tall campanile visible to one side and a belt of scrub covered hills landward. It is a wonderful view from the road looking across to the citadel, with a couple of old Spanish towers guarding the small harbour full of yachts. We drove up into the citadel for a view over the area and made for a major tourist site ‘Elephant Rock’ just outside town. “Roccia dell’Elefante’ is a wind eroded rock structure whose elephant shaped profile is featured on hundreds of postcards (if you can find any postcards in late October in Sardinia. I never saw any). Yes, it does look like an elephant in a strange kind of way. Two tour buses arrived for photo opps so it is obviously popular and worth about 5 minutes of your life!

Photo of View of Castelsardo
Photo of Elephant Rock

We followed the inland coastal road along the northern edge of Sardinia, the ‘Costa Paradiso’ until we reached St. Theresa Gallura in the far north east and turned south along the major resort towns of Palau and Cannigione which seemed to be deserted. The attractive hilly island of Maddalena lay offshore. Cannigione was where we were supposed to be diving from, but when we eventually tracked down the ‘dive school’, it was a closed shack! Late in the afternoon, we started to look for accommodation. Most tourists stay on package tours and Sardinia is expensive for the independent traveller. Parking up, I managed to destroy a plastic hub cab on a front wheels it crashed against a pavement. Left hand drive cars are a killer for parking.

We ended up in Olbia, a major port town with ferries to mainland Italy. Olbia gets a bad press in the tourist guides, but as a typical Italian town, I thought it was ok. We were able to park in the packed streets for free from 8pm to 9am just a few minutes from our chosen hotel, the cheapest in town. A comfortable en suite triple room with continental breakfast cost £62. Pizza for dinner. As the cheapest option, it became a staple diet! I wasn’t complaining.

The following morning, I got up early to explore and track down our dive school headquarters supposedly a few blocks away. There was no sign of any dive school. After breakfast, I visited the local in tourist office, where I got chatting to the attractive receptionist (as you do). She had a broad London accent. “Where did you learn your English?” I asked. “From my ex English boyfriend in London. He was a bastard, but I can now speak English” (like a local Londoner I wanted to add). She could find no trace of our dive school, or any dive school that was open. I thought that I had better not ask if she wanted another English boyfriend.

South of Olbia, about half way down the length of the island, lay the highest mountains, and we decided to spend the day touring them. Heading down the coastal road, we discovered a huge hypermarket and my mother stocked up on fresh fruit and picnic food while I stocked up on £1.20 bottles of Italian wine. Following the coastal road, I spotted a dive school billboard at Porto Istana. We checked it out and they were open! We were told that tomorrow they were starting an Instructor course, but they would probably be taking a boat out to dive. Call them first them tomorrow. More optimistic, we headed south to the mountains in the province of Nuoro. En route, we came across a quarry with huge square blocks of granite the size of trucks lying around by the side of the road.

Surprisingly, the guide books hardly mention this area, yet the ‘Supramonte’ range is the most scenic part of the island. Obviously you need a car to traverse the windy roads, which were mostly empty. There were no villages up on the high road which provides a massive barrier to the coast. A couple of old hotels in rustic red paint were bordered up, victims of both the car (why stop?) and the resort villages. It was a clear day and there were magnificent vistas across the wide valley and down to the settlements below. The highest point at Senna Cruxi was only 906m above sea level, but it felt like the roof of the world.

Photo of View of the mountains

Eventually, we had to drop down to the valley floor and then back up the other steep side. The road was narrow and twisty and the car had problems carrying the weight and tackling the gradients. We swung into the completely isolated and huddled village of Talana, perched on the edge of the mountains. As I turned the corner into the small central square, a school bus blocked the road and I had to reverse back out. I then learnt the Italian for “Get out of the way, you tourist twat!” Little old Italian widows dressed in black pottered around while the men, probably unemployed or retired, sat around the square passing their empty days.

At the top of the range was a rugged, rocky plateau, where shepherds herded cattle, with bells around their necks, goats and sheep along the desolate trail. Wild pigs rooted around the shrublands and took off every time I tried to take a photo. We made for the major 389 road heading north to Nuoro and zoomed back 150km along the fast motorway back to Olbia. My parents had been very impressed by the scenery.

We returned to Porto Istana the following morning to find that the diving had been cancelled. Well thanks a lot. So we moved on, retracing the fast motorway to Nuoro. D.H. Lawrence wrote in 1921 “There is nothing to see in Nuoro” and he wasn’t kidding. It was just full of endless unsightly apartment blocks and administrative buildings. What it did have was a crazy traffic system.

We were merely trying to pass through to head south into the hills, and when we found a road sign it would take us to a T-junction with no road sign and we would drive round in circles. I named Nouro as “The town that wouldn’t let us leave”. We must have gone around the main ring road four times for about an hour before I just ignored the signs and followed my nose to get us out. We later met another couple who had also had the same experience. Stay away from this place. It is doomed. What a great start to the day.

South of Nuoro stretches Sardinia’s Barbagia region named by the Romans who failed (along with every other conquering nation) to subdue it, foiled by the guerrilla warfare. Another straggly, twisty road took us south into the isolated hills where we found Orgosolo, the “bandit capital” of the island. The local clans, with nothing to do, spent their time sheep rustling or starting and revenging meaningless vendettas against anyone else in the vicinity. By the early part of the 20th Century, the two main families had virtually exterminated themselves. But it didn’t stop.

Between 1901 and 1954, Orgosolo, population 4000, clocked up an average of one murder every two months. Then they got bored with murders and the kidnappings started just to break up the monotony. I was surprised not to see a sign saying “Twinned with both Detroit, Michigan and Pigs’ Knuckle, Arkansas”. We had discovered the Red Neck capital of Sardinia and they had been ‘going postal’ before anyone else. (reference to US post office workers who, after getting fired seem to enjoy coming back to their previous places of work to blow all their colleagues and the management away with large firearms).

Now that the locals have been sedated with valium and pick up trucks, they seem to have taken up painting a vivid array of murals in a big way. Covering whole houses and shop fronts, most have a political element, graphically illustrating themes of exploitation of the landless and women or demanding Sardinian independence. The centre of the small farming village was covered in them. New murals had recently been painted: a statue of Suddham Hussein being pulled down as the US airforce flew overhead and a particularly splendid one of the Twin Towers in New York being blown up, which stretched up one side of a house. It had been painted within two weeks of the event.

Photos of Orgosolo Murals

I had never seen a village like this anywhere, and it is definitely the most interesting hill town in Sardinia. My opinion was reinforced by the fact that six tour buses all pulled in during our morning there, full of Germans who had come to see what they didn’t destroy in World War Two. No murals of Mussolini though. I wonder why? Failing to follow my own advice, we returned to Nuoro to rejoin the motorway and got lost again!

En route, we stopped by the side of the road for a picnic lunch. Prickly pear cactuses bearing their red oval fruit, lined the roadside. I picked some for lunch. My father then discovered why they are called ‘prickly’. He was pulling thorns out of his mouth for the rest of the day.

The 131 was fast and smooth and took us in overcast and drizzly weather, two thirds of the length of the island, all the way down to the capital of Cagliari. The landscape was mostly flat, farming land but the farmers ploughed every inch of land (apart from the huge boulders they couldn’t dig out). We would see farmers in their tractors ploughing steep hills at crazy inclines wondering how they didn’t overturn.

Determined to try and find another dive school (the eternal optimists), we skirted Cagliari and headed further south past smelly industrial complexes by the coastal swamplands. Surprise, surprise, the dive school at St Margherita di Pula was closed for the season. We were nearly at the southern tip of Sardinia.

Retracing our route, we popped into Nora to check out the ‘famous’ ruins. The old Roman town was taken by the vandals around the 3rd Century AD, but they needn’t have bothered. It was submerged by the sea soon after. Its position at the tip of a peninsula gives the remnants plenty of atmosphere, overlooked by a defensive tower built by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Inevitably, because we have all seen far too many Roman ruins, we just drove up to the entrance had a look over the fence and drove away again! Typical Jack family behaviour. You spend five hours reaching somewhere and spend five minutes there. After you have seen some of the best Roman sites around the world, you don’t mess around with the also-rans.

The adjoining tourist town of Pula appeared to have no hotels for independent travellers, but a lot of impatient Italian drivers who honked if you took a nano-second at a red light when it turned green. They got short shrift from me…my tactic was to pretend to stall the car to wind them up even more and they were not happy. I didn’t understand what they were yelling but I’m sure they understood my middle digit. Later in the week, I discussed Italian driving with a local and they maintained the drivers in Sardinia were worse than on the mainland. Car crashes way above the national Italian average. Be warned.

So we joined the rush hour traffic back into Cagliari to tackle the Italian drivers in the pouring rain to try and find a hotel. Parking is a bugger in Italian towns so we headed just outside the centre. As dusk approached we finally found the isolated Calamosca Hotel. Right on the sea, it overlooked a secluded cove near a lighthouse and the inevitable Spanish defence tower. It had obviously seen better days and our spacious bedroom with a sea view had temperamental lighting but it was ideal for us.

I sat outside on the terrace undercover watching the darkness descend with a bottle of cheap plonk, while my parents despaired of the restaurant not opening until 8.30pm and tucked into all the hypermarket food for the second night in succession. I know that you are supposed to take advantage of local cuisine when you travel, but Sardinia is expensive to eat out (for what you get, usually pizza or spaghetti) and we eat enough Italian food at home so why not cut down on expenses and eat what you want when you want?

The next morning was sunny with clear blue skies and we extracted our own revenge on the restaurant by eating every Italian pastry available and drinking endless cappuccinos for breakfast which was thrown in with the £60 triple room. I liked the hotel, a kind of naff art deco job, which really needed a complete overhaul. We decided to stay a second night and go touring for the day. Meanwhile, there was a dive school leaflet and the receptionist said he would call it to book us in for tomorrow. Fingers crossed again.

Cagliari is visually the most impressive of Sardinia’s cities. As the island’s capital since Roman times it remains the busiest port. Down by the sea was a lovely broad main, traffic strewn, boulevard (Via Roma) lined with the classical facades of hotels we couldn’t afford to stay in (or find anywhere to park). On the hills behind it, lay the old citadel (‘Castello’) which was the only place we wanted to visit.

“Secure on its hill, the Castillo district was traditionally the seat of Sardinia’s administration, aristocracy and highest ecclesiastical offices” (RG). The intricate knot of alleys visible today, accessed from various points in its thick girth of defensive walls, has altered little since the Middle Ages, though most of the tall cramped dwellings date from much later. Traffic is mostly banned from the area, so it is very pleasant to explore the narrow cobbled streets.

We entered (via a complementary lift) up into the monumental Bastione San Remy terrace with views over the city, marred only by the graffiti artists who had ruined the fine sandstone walls. The ‘Cattredrale’, originally 13th Century had a make over in 1933, but the typical Pisan Romanesque arcaded facade still looks very impressive from outside. Inside the empty interior, was a mixture of Gothic and Baroque, with ornately painted ceilings, the usual Catholic finery and painted religious masterpieces and a pair of massive stone pulpits dated from 1160 and donated by Pisa’s Cathedral. It is definitely the best Cathedral in Sardinia.

The Citadel also boasts a couple of original and elegant defensive towers; the Torre San Pancrazio and Torre dell’ Elephante. Designed in the early 14th Century, both are considered masterpieces of military engineering. The sheer, unbattlemented (good word, look it up!) walls are constructed of great blocks of off white granite. They have a half finished look, with the side facing the old town completely open. My father was most impressed by the entire citadel and rated it as ‘unmissable’. It did look spectacular in the sunshine.

Photos of Cagliari Citadel (scroll down page):

No rest for the wicked. We escaped Cagliari and headed west for Iglesias. Just outside the centre was a hypermarket that sold wonderful fresh (and cheap) take away pizzas for lunch. We ate them outside by the car like mobile homeless people. I can safely say that my mother’s highlights of Sardinia were the hypermarkets. She might as well have gone to Calais, France for a holiday! The words “I’ll just pop in to get…” always bought our tour to a dreaded temporary halt. She did the food, I checked out the wine selection and my dad wandered around looking dismayed like someone suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. “They all look the same to me, have we been here before?” Never, ever, go on holiday with your mother! When they visited me in Japan, her highlight was the 100 Yen shop (£0.55 shop). Forget the culture, let’s go and buy some household goods at cut down prices. Only my mother would fly to Japan to pick up cheap batteries for the garage door remote control.

Iglesias is surrounded by mine shafts and quarries gouged out of the red rocks and it has a splendid old city centre. A labyrinth of narrow, traffic free, lanes with towering apartments either side, lovely old decorated facades, washing hanging out on the balconies. The Piazza Municipio is the only true square in the old town and one of the few really typical Italian piazzas on the whole island. It is an elegant composition, with the town hall taking up one entire side opposite the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, which are joined by a harmonious enclosed bridge. You can take a photo and there is no evidence of modern life. We strolled around the area, checking out other landmarks during the sleepy siesta afternoon. Best of all, during the 1-4pm siesta, parking is free! Recommended.

We followed the twisty road north from Iglesias, past old abandoned quarries by the river, into verdant valleys thick with olive trees. Tucked up and hidden from anywhere was the old Roman temple of ‘Tempio di Antas’. Just for a change we paid the admission and went to explore. My first reaction was why would the Romans build a town/temple in the middle of nowhere?

They used an original Carthaginian sanctuary from 500BC and built a town on top of it. The Ionic style columns are still standing (but it obvious they had been rebuilt; using the same coloured cement would have disguised this fact). There isn’t much to see but the setting amongst the wooden valleys is wonderful with the sound of livestock bells echoing in the distance. It’s worth 20 minutes! On the coast, is a town called Buggerru and we were tempted to drive there just for the photo of the town sign, but the twisty roads took an age to traverse and we cut our losses.

Time to visit two more sites. On the other side of the motorway , the scenery was a stretching flat landscape of cultivated fields interspersed with some pastorage, all overlooked by a horizon of knobbly brown peaks (and more tractors ploughing at insane angles). The most prominent feature for miles around is the extraordinary conical hill of Las Plassas (274m), on whose round pinnacle fragments of the 12th century Castilo di Marmilla stick up like broken teeth.

A few kilometres further on, past the flat farmlands and small farming hamlets lay “Nuraghe su Nuraxi”. This is the largest nuraghic complex on the island, dating from 1500 BC. The trouble with ancient history sites is that they are essentially a bunch of old low lying excavated ruins or rebuilt walls. The “imposing” (not my words) central tower, “built of dark grey basalt blocks lies at the centre of a tight mesh of walled dwellings” (RG). This is Sardinia’s most famous ancient ruin. We parked up outside the fence, took a photo of the tower and left. Something else to tick off…we would see similar ancient towers dotted around the island on our travels.

Photo of Nuraghe su Nuraxi

Back at the hotel, I was able to enjoy a lovely sunset on the terrace. News from the dive school was that we could go snorkelling with spear guns to hunt fish. Great. I thought the idea of diving was to look at the fish not kill them!

The following morning, we headed out from Caligari north back up the motorway to towards Oristano and then made inland into the hills to the small town of Fortongianus. This was originally an old Roman spa town, which still conserves its old Roman bridge over the river, on whose banks, the old Roman baths are still in fairly good condition with the steaming 54’C water flowing through the ruins to the river. A local woman was squatted down doing her laundry in a pool of hot water.

Photo of woman using Roman baths for laundry

Oristano was pretty non descript. We went on the hunt for a replacement hubcap (to replace the one I destroyed). We found a Fiat dealership who redirected us to the supply depot, which was closed for the siesta. So we explored the old city centre which was being dug up, to find it was a poor version of Iglesias. We treated ourselves to a pizza lunch, where the owner couldn’t wait to get rid of us to have his siesta. Back at the depot, we discovered that the car was so new that parts had yet to be distributed. Doh!

West of Oristano lies a peninsula, which the guide books rave about. Yes it was a nice drive to the ruins at Tharros (another peak over the fence) but nothing special. Better still, was the drive along the coastal road up to Bosa. Late in the afternoon, we discovered the lovely little coastal town of St Caterina but the only hotel was closed, so we made for Bosa.

The old town in the hills, has an isolated seaside resort 5km away called the Marina, where we found a family run hotel called ‘Costa Corallo’. It was empty and at the end of the season, the grandmother blabbered in Italian, handed over the keys, explained how we could let ourselves back into the hotel and disappeared. We had the run of the place to ourselves. It was official. Sardinia had closed down for the rest of the year. Exploring the hamlet, we discovered a dive school! It was closed. All the restaurants were closed so another hypermarket picnic polished off the evening.

Encircled by mountains, Bosa huddles around the base of a hill capped by a ruined castle, with narrow cobbled lanes of local apartments, swirling around the hill, interconnected by steep narrow stone staircases which gave my father’s knees a run for their money. Both the upper medieval town called ‘Sa Costa’ and the lower town called ‘Sa Piana’ by the river, have all escaped the dreaded ‘makeover’ to attract the tourists. The Rough Guide said “The town appears curiously suspended, stranded in the middle of one of Sardinia’s last remaining stretches of undeveloped coast and cocooned from the main currents of Sardinian life…it makes a soothing place to hole up for a few days”. We gave it 2 hours! But it was a nice local town with lots of character and a complete lack of tourists and well worth a visit.

Photos of Bosa

The coastal drive up to Alghero was beautiful. Twisting roads and views over the sheer red cliffs to crashing waves below and the sea stretching to the horizon. There were no towns or hamlets anywhere. But Sardinia is full of awesome scenic coastal drives. It is one of its best features. It should be. Its an island!

Pulling into Alghero, we went on another search for a replacement hubcap. If you were to ask me what I did in Sardinia, I’d have to answer “looking for dive schools and hubcaps”. A mechanic waved us into an underground garage, drilled off the hubcap, made a few calls and then discovered that the car was so new, no parts had been sent out. Where had I heard that before? So he drilled the hubcap back on and bade us farewell. Which was nice.

For most of the week, we had not seen many tourists, except for the tour buses. Alghero as the major resort town (near the airport) was a brutal reintroduction to package tourism. The very ‘made over’ old town was full of English people, on day excursions from their isolated resorts, poking around the souvenir shops and trying to find a decent meal. We dipped into a take away pizzeria and heard an accent we recognised. Two couples were from Norwich (where I work and up the road from my parent’s house). They had been stranded on some resort and were ‘starving’ from the inadequate portions at mealtimes. “We’ve been here 10 days and this is the best meal we’ve had” they said as they tucked into large pizzas and chips. Be warned!

Photos of Alghero
More Photos of Alghero

Grabbing our pizzas, we ate them outside the old city walls by the yacht harbour. An English tourist sat reading a ‘Daily Mirror’ (English tabloid newspaper) on the next seat. “John Peel has died” I said, eyeing the front page headline. “How do you know?” perked up my mother. “Oh I had some kind of karma experience.” “Don’t take the piss, son” my father added and winked, when he caught the headline (John Peel will mean nothing to non English readers but it was big news because the English media likes to milk any story about any media personality dying. Like we could care less).

The good news about Alghero was that you could park down by the yacht harbour for free. The bad news was that the public toilets cost 1 Euro to use. Surely they were taking the piss out of piss?

With time to spare, we drove out to Capo Caccia at the tip of a picturesque peninsula about 20km from Alghero. We parked up in the middle of nowhere, overlooking a bay where local surfers floated around looking for non existent waves. As we reorganised our luggage before departure, a police car turned up to ask if we intending on camping there, because it was illegal. They laughed when we told them we were leaving the country within two hours.

Back at the airport, we returned the car. When someone came out to inspect it, my father stood in front of the damaged hub cap and noone was any the wiser. Result! Please note that Alghero Airport has no duty free shops!

Despite the lack of diving off season, Sardinia has enough decent sights to keep you occupied for a few days, but make sure you rent a car to give you independence.

When I returned to work two days later, I talked to a colleague who had spent a week in Sardinia on a package holiday. “How was it” I asked. “It was closed” he replied. I rest my case.

Sardinian Roadkill: 2 dogs, 2 cats, 1 rat

{Sardinia Map}

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