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Four Travellers on Sardinia (Sept 21- Oct. 4, 2015); three days in Rome (Oct. 4-6)

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
OVERVIEW

On Sunday September 20 four of us flew from Ottawa to Rome, via Philadelphia; then took a short flight to Alghero on the North-Western coast of Sardinia, arriving in the late afternoon on the 21st. We were on the island for 13 days . The first 8 days we were based in a villa a few kilometres outside Alghero, followed by one day on an ecopark in the interior, three days in Cala Gonone on the east coast & one day back on the west coast, near the airport - convenient for an early morning flight back to Rome, where we enjoyed 3 additional days before travelling back home to Canada. On Sardinia we got around with a rental VW Passat Station Wagon.

WHY SARDINIA?

Liz & I had toured Corsica 2012 and Crete in 2013. We enjoyed both experiences and I was interested in a visit to another large island in the Mediterranean. Sicily was an obvious choice, but I was drawn to Sardinia. I didn't know much about the island, nor did I know anybody who had been there - except vicariously via a single Trip Report on Slow Travel. Also, in 2012 from Bonifacio on Corsica we could see the northern tip of Sardinia. "Wonder what it's like?", I remember thinking.

And, for this trip we had the good fortune to be traveling with Colleen & Bob, friends from Ottawa. It's always great when there's more than just the two of us. For one thing, we don't have to eavesdrop on conversations at nearby tables in restaurants for something to do.

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11 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SARDINIA

1. Sardinia is part of Italy, situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west coast of the mainland and just below the French island of Corsica.

2. It is a holiday destination for Italians and other Europeans, with plenty of beaches, restaurants, hotels, at least in the coastal areas we visited. We encountered many people from the U.K.

3. The interior is a rugged land - hilly & not much arable land where we travelled - but lots of grazing sheep, scattered vineyards, olive groves and communities, both large and small.

4. There are not a lot of pretty villages on the island. Even the guidebooks mention it. Bosa is an exception.

5. We ate plenty of fish, but never saw a sardine.

6. It is one of only 5 Blue Zones in the world, where people live measurably longer lives, especially in the hilly area around Nuoro in the interior.

7. Sardinians tend to be short in stature. It is so obvious that I had to mention it.

8. There is only one navigable river on the island - and that is only for 5kms.

9. Nuraghi (plural form of nuraghe, a type of stone edifice), are unique to Sardinia. They are the remains of a civilization that thrived between 1900 & 730 BC. They are all over the island, some in a much better state than others.

10. It's a big place. I thought we might be able to see more of the island than we actually did. If you look at the accompanying map and draw a triangle linking Alghero, Dorgali and Oristano, that's about the limit of our travels on the island. There is a divided highway running north-south in the interior; other major roads are 2-lane and often follow a circuitous route.

11. Until World War II, malaria was common throughout the island. During the Napoleonic Wars Horatio Nelson stationed his fleet on the northern edge of the island, ready to attack the French fleet. He was there for a year and a half and he never left his ship. The United States Army eradicated the disease as they moved through and across the island.

More to come ......
 
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Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Great start, Doug. Looking forward to the rest. I always enjoy hearing about trips from other Canadians. And we're neighbours. I live in Ottawa and I believe your down the road.......I remember from reading in ST but now can't recall where.
Sardinia sounds quite wonderful. We were in Crete several years ago and I long to go back but this year we're off to new places.
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sardinia: ALGHERO, FERTILIA, BOSA

Alghero is a tourist magnet on the west coast of Sardinia. The three main features are the marina between the old town inside defensive ramparts called bastioni and the lido (beach). Away from these seafront features, Alghero is a bustling modern community, with a nearby airport. We stayed a few kilometres outside Alghero in Villa Gaskin, a large, secluded well-equipped home on 1/2 acre of land. We were 3-4 minutes from the 127 highway on an unpaved road. It was an excellent place to stay - plenty of space both inside and out; only a few minutes to a couple of supermarkets and even closer to a very enjoyable restaurant, and about five minutes along the highway to the marina area.

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We were in Alghero at some point most days - for our morning espresso or a walk through the old town, dropping into some of the shops or a stroll along the bastioni (pic below) or an evening meal at a recommended restaurant.

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One day (Wed. Sept. 23) we booked a day-long snorkeling expedition at the marina and had a great time. The boat took us out to the area around Capo Caccia, a prominent point of land on the west coast of the island.

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When we drove into Alghero, we parked at the large lot across from the marina, where we were a short walk to most places of interest. Like most holiday areas, many of the people we encountered in Alghero were just like ourselves - only most were from England. We never made it to the lido, but we did spend parts of several days on other beaches in the area.

Fertilia is a small village a few kms north of Alghero, so insignificant that it is not mentioned in some guidebooks. It was built by the fascist government of Mussolini in the 1930's and the architecture reflects that sterile period. However, we actually enjoyed Fertilia. Every morning after breakfast we would leave the villa and go out for an espresso or cappucino. One option was Cafe Latino in Alghero - a pleasant setting at the edge of the old town, overlooking the marina, very popular with tourists and recommended in the guide books - and we did that for a couple of days. But one day we drove into Fertilia - all commercial activity on one street, easy (and free) parking a few steps from cafes and a bank, with a pleasant seafront park area. We enjoyed our first morning so much that we returned a few more times during our 8 days. We spent parts of two days on Maria Pia beach between Fertilia and Alghero and a third day on another beach on the other side of the village. On our final evening, we opted for a modest restaurant in Fertilia over Alghero for our last dinner.

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Bosa is a charming town, unique on Sardinia in that it is located along banks of the River Temo, the only navigable river on the island. The town is dominated by a castello, on a hill above the town and features several well-preserved and colourful buildings along with some small piazzas and attractive shops. The coastal drive from Alghero to Bosa along an undulating road is rated among the most scenic travel experiences on the island. We enjoyed a day (Tuesday Sept. 22) in Bosa, including a tour of the castle grounds. We were fortunate to latch on to a tour group from Hamilton, Ontario and were treated to a detailed history of the castle & the frescoes in the chapel in English.

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More to come .....
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sardinia: ORISTANO and THARROS

On Friday Sept, 25 we left our villa by 9:00am and drove over two hours south to the city of Oristano, a provincial capital with a medieval tower in Piazza Roma and the nearby Santa Maria Assunta, the largest cathedral on Sardinia. While the church is impressive and the central area is pedestrian friendly - a good place to stop for a drink - there really wasn't much to make us linger long in Oristano.

So off we went out along the Sinis Peninsula and the amazing Phoenician-Roman ruins at Tharros.

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About 50 years ago I learned about the ancient Phoenician seagoing commercial network in the Mediterranean, which linked a number of coastal outposts with the main centre in the eastern Mediterranean. I never imagined that some day I would visit one of those trading outposts. Wrong again.

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While much of the ruins reflect its later Roman period and not much has been happening in Tharros since 1071, our time in the once-thriving Phoenician outpost was a personal highlight. The experience recalled memories of a summer course in Classical Civilizations at Carleton University as a young teacher in the early '70's.

There is also a very popular beach area nearby and some roadside restaurants in a pleasant setting. We paused for lunch at one, the Chiosco La Playa.

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More to come .....
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sardinia: NURAGHI

Nuraghi are both unique to Sardinia and ubiquitious on the island. They are the physical remnants of a civilization that flourished over 3000 years ago and left no written records. Nuraghi are circular stone ruins, built without mortar by laying large stones of similar size on top of each other, leaving a cavity in the middle and covered by a stone domed roof. Some of the nuraghi stand alone while others are at the centre of a settlement built around them. It is estimated that there were 7-10,000 nuraghi built between 1700BC and 730BC. There are scores (hundreds?) still around in varying states of preservation (or ruin). We visited two, stopped to look at a third from afar and searched in vain for another one on a "nature walk" in the interior.

Palmavera Nuraghe

Palmavera Nuraghe, a short drive from Alghero and only a few kilometres beyond Fertilia, is conveniently located roadside on the drive to Capo Caccia. Our first time visiting a nuraghe. We were very impressed. Afterwards we headed to a nearby beach for the rest of the afternoon.

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Nuraghe Losa

Nuraghe Losa is one of the largest and best preserved monuments to the Nuraghic civilization, a few minutes off the north-south Carlo Felice Highway and about half an hour from Oristano. The central tower is 43 feet high and was almost certainly significantly higher. A narrow stone interior corridor leads to the top and provides excellent views of the settlement and surrounding area. Highly recommended.

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Following our vist to Nuraghe Losa we drove to the nearby town of Ghilarza, where, after a comedy of errors due to our almost non-existent command of Italian, we enjoyed a very pleasant lunch, al fresco.

More to come .....
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sardinia: EATING IN & OUT, in & around Alghero

We prepared some of our meals at Villa Gaskin, always preceded by Happy Hour(s) on the outdoor patio. Sardinian cheeses and olives are varied and very good; ditto with the wine.

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Our splurge meal was at Ristorante Angedras, with outdoor seating on the bastioni and great views of the sunset

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Espresso and/or lunch at Cafe Latino in Alghero and Cohiba in Fertilia

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By far our favourite "away" eatery was actually quite close. Ristorante Pizzaria Bacchus is only a couple of kms along, and just off, the road into Alghero. We went there three times - great pizza, very friendly atmosphere & staff, and filled with locals, at least when we were there late in September. Bacchus is affiliated with a nearby hotel, but it is an excellent choice for anybody in the area.

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Quite a bit farther afield we had a very good lunch at Valpariso in Ghilarza, after our visit to Nuraghe Losa, enroute to Ecoparco Neule.

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More to come .....
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sardinia: ECOPARCO NEULE

On our way over to the east coast of the island we spent one day & night at an ecopark to experience the interior of Sardinia. Ecoparco Neule, high above Lago Cedrino, is actually close to our destination of Cala Gonone, but it is quite different from a beach experience - a variety of animals, rough terrain, hiking trails, horseback riding, trail bikes and other physical options. However, many of the in-season activities were not available in late September, as the facility was closing for the season.

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The best part of our stay was our interaction with other guests, mainly young professionals from the UK with a couple of Germans & a Dutch woman added in. We had the communal use of the kitchen for our evening meal and later sat around a large table sharing stories and Limoncello well into the night.

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Not highly recommended - our timing was not very good - but I suspect that the evening conversation with our fellow guests, will remain a pleasant memory for a long time.

More to come .....
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sardinia: CALA GONONE

Cala Gonone
, on the the Golfo di Orosei, has a beautiful setting around a harbour framed by soaring mountains.

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It is a tourist destination with several hotels, dozens of restaurants, lots of stores catering to holiday visitors and a variety of offshore activities, including boat rentals, snorkeling & scuba trips, boat excursions and even a ferry service to a nearby beach. However, there are three excellent beaches a short walk from anywhere in Cala Gonone and some more secluded options in nearby bays, reachable after a slightly harrowing drive (especially after a heavy rain). We were in Cala Gonone for 3 days - about the right amount of time - well, maybe a few more days would be OK, too.

We stayed at Hotel Bue Marino, near the marina and across the street from a beach....

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... visited several other beaches ...

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.... including Spiaggia Cartoe

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... enjoyed good food in attractive settings

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A pleasant place to visit. Recommended.

More to come .....
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Three days in ROME (Oct. 4-6, 2015)

We were last in Rome in 2007, but guess what, not a lot has changed. Rome is still a walking city. It's easy to spend three days retracing familiar routes, visiting unfamiliar venues, pausing for a drink or snack along the way and trying a new restaurant each evening. We were fortunate in our choice of hotels. Hotel Navona is centrally located, reasonably priced with a helpful staff. Highly recommended.

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One day the four of us visited Palazzo Valentini; another day I went to the excellent Capitoline Museum, adjacent to the Campoglio, on my own; our companions booked an underground tour of the Colosseum.

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Among the highlights for all of us were our evening dining experiences: Taverna del Seminario near the Pantheon,

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Vincenzo alla Lungareta in Trastevere

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and, especially, Ristorante Angelino ai Fori where we combined a visit with my brother and a GTG with Sandra Cordon.

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Is three days enough for Rome? Of course not, but we took advantage of our plane connections to enjoy this great city for a brief time.

There was a glitch with my attempt to check in online for our flight home on the 7th, but after cooling our heels at Fiumicino while the agents corrected the problem, we had an uneventful return flight from Rome to Ottawa, via Philadelphia. Just the way I like it.
 
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