Every tourist to Sardinia is probably going to see Cagliari, the capital city, or Alghero, the biggest city in the north, and the Costa Smeralda. What they’re going to miss, to their consequence, are the little towns in between, where glimpses of the old, authentic Sardinia are still visible.
In this post, I want to talk about a couple of my favorite small towns and why you should go see them. You’re not going to go there for the nightclubs, or the package tour, or the shiny English-speaking Sardinian tour guide. You’re going to go there to see life at a slower pace, meet some lovely people, and see some of the hidden corners of ancient Sardinia.
The capital of the world. Seriously. My uncle says so. I think if there ever was Eden on earth, Gonnosfanadiga comes pretty damn close. In the southeastern region of Medio Campidano, this tiny Sardinian hill community is known for its olives, plums, grapes, and pretty much anything else that grows. The town center is dominated by a long (loooooong) stairway that takes you up a hill to a scenic overlook where you can see the small town and the farming areas surrounding it. Don’t miss the church of Santa Barbara, founded in the 14th century and completed over the next several centuries.
Spend some time driving around the periphery and perhaps you’ll meet someone willing to show you around their farm. Depending on when you’re there, you might be offered a taste of the region’s famous fruits. Keep your eyes out for cork trees – you’ll know them by their stripped bark.
Travelers going west from Cagliari on the SS196 will pass through before reaching Guspini.
Best time to visit: late October during the annual Festa del Pane Tipico Gonnese or festival of local bread. A local festival featuring the town’s many bakers, this is a great opportunity to taste a regional delicacy made by some of the best local artisans.
Local place to stay: Agriturismo La Quercia in Riu Martini Sibiri www.turismolaquercia.it
A truly rustic Sardinian village, Pattada sits smack in the north center of the island, remote among the hills. It’s famous for the Pattada knives, ubiquitous in Sardinian markets and tourist stores, which take their name from the village. These are shepherds knives made of carbon steel with handles made of ram’s horn. They are very pricey but that’s simply because they’re still made by hand by local artisans.
Walking through the cobblestone streets, you really see the old Sardinia. Old men sit and drink coffee and chat in Sardo. A spring, sorgente, flows in the center of town. It’s perfectly safe to drink and is known for its healing and diuretic properties.
Best time to go: Anytime, really. The sole reason you would come here is on a day trip from Alghero or Porto Cervo to see a lovely old village. And buy a knife. When you do, stop at a grocer's and pick up some Pecorino Sardo, a sharp sheep's milk cheese. Slice some off with your new knife and enjoy. This is the real Sardinia.
Take the SP128bis from Alghero and then follow the signs.
UPDATE: Found an article from a NYTimes author who went to both Ozieri & Pattada in search of the authentic Sardinia experience. He also mentions DH Lawrence. Ha!
Dreaming of Pecorino Sardo,