I love Italy for the amazing wine, the cheese, the best tomatoes I have ever tasted, the wealth of history and of course the sunshine. Sardinia offers all of these and I am just back (June 2017) from a 5 day trip to Olbia and Cagliari with my boyfriend.
Olbia is a beautiful coastal city in the north of Sardinia. It has narrow street lined with rustic buildings, set against a bright blue sea and green mountains. We spent most of our evenings strolling through the town and enjoying the restaurants which spill onto the streets. By day we tried to venture a bit further.
Wine and Cheese Tour
My favourite trip was a Wine and Cheese Tour. I won’t lie it was quite pricey (95 euros) but it was well worth it to experience real Sardinia food culture in a small group (max 8). Our tour was just us, our guide and a friendly retired couple from Germany. The meeting point was a cafe in town and introductions were made Italian style over morning espresso.
We were driven first to a small organic cheese farm, reached only by bumpy track road. So rough that one point it appeared we might have to get out and wait as the car struggled over a rather large bump- luckily this was not needed in the end.
The farm was set up very much for work an not tourists, its yard scattered with farm machinery, cars and friendly dogs lounging in the shade. The cheese made here is rarely sold much further than Olbia so it felt a real treat to experience it. We were guided to watch cheese shaped and turned by hand. It was a relaxed and informal introduction to Sardinian cheese making, more of a conversation then a long demonstration. We even got see the goats/cows behind the cheese.
The best bit was the cheese tasting of course, held in a rustic kitchen and served with Pane carasau the thin crispy Sardinian bread, we had generous portions of 4 handmade cheeses. (And no we didn’t see any of Casu Marzu- this traditional Sardinia cheese made with maggots if illegal to sell- I was rather grateful of that!)
Next we headed to the Mura vineyard, where we were served white wine straight from the barrel and sipped it while strolling between the vines. Situated in a valley, the green vines were soaked in sunshine and we could see fledgling grapes growing. We enjoyed more wine in a purpose built dining room with open windows stretching the view across the vineyard to the mountains and blue sky.
Generous glasses of wine were served, no small samples or spitting buckets here! It was served with a lunch of Sardinia bread, meat and cheese. We admired the view over lunch for an hour or so, the perfect combo of sunshine with a cool breeze, stunning scenery, four good wines and interesting conversation with well traveled fellow tourists. It ran 10 to 2pm- well worth it if you have the time.
There is no shortage of Instagram worthy beaches in Sardinia. We visited Pittulongu beach an easy 15 minute bus ride from Olbia. At only 1.5 euros each it was a pleasent budget option and if you are worried about where to get off, just follow the Italians with all the beach gear! If you do have a car, there was also generous looking car park nearby.
You can sun yourself for free on the beach but we opted to hire a couple of beach chairs and most importantly for my pale Scottish skin a large beach umbrella. We did this at Mama beach for approx 18 euros in total. The sand was quite busy but not too crowded and I like the easy noise background noise of waves and happy beach chatter.
Reviews on TripAdvisor warn of the ‘looky looky men’ (street sellers) that work the beach. I would say that although there were quite a few they were not overly annoying, a simple no thanks and they walked away.
We had late lunch there after at MamaBeach, it had a fab seafood menu, a great meat/cheese platter and crisp Sardinian wine.
Sleeping: We stayed at the Hotel Panorama.
A hotel right in the centre of things, it has a 360 degree view of the city, sea and mountains. Just dial 9 on the roof terrace phone to enjoy a bottle of Sardinian wine or the local beer Ichnusa while lying under the bright blue sky.
We had a spacious room on the 5th floor with windows on two sides, so we could enjoy the view in our pants of we wished. It also came with with a huge bathroom and massive tub. We got a free bottle of wine for booking direct rather than via a hotels site.
The hotel also has a spa in the basement, which for 22 euros each we got private use of for 1.5 hours. Reception even brought ropes and slippers to our room in advance. The dimmed lighting with purple hues and incense relaxed you into the huge hot tub, sauna, and steam room. It also had a comfy space to chill, if like me you need a break from the heat of the tub or sauna once in a while.
Other things worth a visit
- National Archaeological Museum- bit of a work in progress but free and an quick way to get an insight into the island history. Headed to the rood after for a nice view of the habour.
- Amalia Sandali on Corso Umberto- a small sandal store, complete with in house cobbler who will make you an colour, style you desire. They are not cheap but mine were ready in 30 minutes and stamped on the sole with my initials.
Couple of bars we enjoyed were:
- Tujipa Beer Pub a small place with a selection of craft beers and a great aperitivo of homemade, served still warm potato crisps.
- In Vino Veritas a wine bar with a hip vibe serving lovely local wine. Sit outside in the hustle of the street and enjoy a summer night Italian style. The Italian patrons were enjoying seafood platters and cheese boards that made us seriously consider if a 2nd dinner could be accommodated by our pizza filled bellies.
Local Beer to try: Ichunusa
Any questions or to start a conversation please get in touch!