Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Falling in love with Sardinia (part 2)

If you've stumbled upon this page and would like to read part 1, it can be found here

From Alghero we headed to the Southern Capital of Cagliari. Our villa for the next few days being just outside the town in a tiny hamlet called San Paolo. As it as the weekend we really didn't venture much further than the local supermarket to stock the fridge, and the pool in the back garden.
The next day we packed a light picnic and headed up the road to the Sette Fratelli national park for a little hike. The mountains here are covered mainly by forest and are the natural habitat of Sardinian red deer, home to 5 pairs of golden eagles, plus some wildcat and wildboar. Unfortunately on our walk we didn't discover any of these but we did come a little too close to a tree snake!!

Our little road trip then took us up the East coast to Dorgali in Cala Gonone and our home for the next four nights, Rifugio Gorropu. This agriturismo looks over a majestic valley full of vineyards and olive groves with a breathtaking view of the Gola di Gorropu (Gorropu gorge).
We enjoyed the best food of the whole holiday here, I'll go in to greater detail later...

The main reason for our stay here in the Gulf of Orosei was the gorge itself, Gola su Gorropu. Hailed as the Grand Canyon of Europe, the spectacular canyon is flanked by towering limestone walls up to 500 metres in height and 4km long. The day we visited was probably the hottest day of our trip with the temperature hitting 42 degrees! Not the greatest conditions for hiking. However, on we went. The first thing we came across on leaving the car park was a man swimming naked in the river... Already we were thinking what a great idea that was. Only 20 minutes in to our walk and we came across a beautifully crystal clear natural rock pool, too tempting to resist...We threw our boots aside and waded in, fully clothed. Besides, in this heat we would be dry again in minutes. This would repeat itself again and again until we realised we would never make it in to the belly of the canyon at this rate, so turned around, stopping for one more dip where we'd seen the man swimming. Reason to come back later in the year perhaps!?

The next day we drove the coast road stopping at sheltered coves and beaches along the way. One to note was spiaggia Su Barone in the marina dei Orosei. A gently shelving beach with some great shallow waves which made for hours of fun diving in to. Its waters are crystal clear and changing blue due to the plays of light created by the sun reflecting off the sea bed. You do have to pay to visit this beach but it's a nominal fee and we really didn't mind given its beauty backed by lush greenery and thick pine forests.

Further on from here was the Oasi di Bidderosa. A stunning collection of five linked coves entered along a dirt path that goes through lush pinewood enriched by eucalyptuses and junipers. The sand itself is silver in colour and . Access to the protected beaches is managed by the local authority boards and limited to a number of cars each day. Naturally, you need to book tickets in advance which can only be done by visiting the forest station.

The last day of our trip we hired an inflatable boat from Palmasera Boat Rental to explore the coast of Orosei... Passing by some of the best beaches in the area such as Cala Fuili and Cala Luna, we wanted to find little deserted coves to land and swim. We'd packed a picnic and plenty of drinks, kept cool by the ice box provided by the rental company. The sea here is so clear you can see the sea bass swimming by, the spiky black sea urchins clinging to the rocks, even the odd starfish. Without a doubt, the most beautiful stretch of the island. 

Now it wouldn't be much of a food blog if I didn't mention the amazing food we had at Rifugio Gorropu.  Agriturismo are roughly translated as 'farm-stays'. They are independently owned farms where the owners have decided to turn over a portion of their property to accommodation. This means, you stay on a working farm where all or most of the produce you eat for breakfast and dinner is produced on the land or at least in the surrounding area. This also means that you will experience some of Italy's best traditional dining, just like nonna makes.
Home made breakfast pastries
Cured meats; grilled aubergine and courgette with roasted
peppers and olive oil; home made ricotta; music bread
Ricotta ravioli with meat sugo
8 hour suckling pig
Orecchiette with vegetables and cheese
Crema catalana

Beef steak
Pane carasau (music sheet bread)
baked with cheese and served with honey
Four cheese and potato ravioli with tomato sugo
Seadas - traditional dessert of
ricotta stuffed pastry with honey
Courgette filled with meat
Bresealo with leaves and cheese
Ravioli with ricotta and fennel

Courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta
Cheese filled pastry

I can't begin to tell you how much we fell in love with this little island... what I can tell you though is that we're going back again later this year. Maybe that gives you an idea!!

Julie xx

Further information;

Falling in love with Sardinia (part 1)

Sardinia, a large island in the Mediterranean Sea, has nearly 2,000km of coastline, sandy beaches and a mountainous interior popular for hiking. Its rugged landscape is dotted with thousands of “nuraghi” – ruins of mysterious Bronze-age stone structures shaped like beehives.
Sardinia is the second island in the Mediterranean sea. Because of its geographic position in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and its resources, especially the mining resources, Sardinia has always represented the colonizers' destination. Sardinia is a very ancient island rich in history and legends and everywhere there are traces of human settlements dated from the Neolithic Age. The climate allows to have a very long summer season, from April to November. Sardinia is politically divided into 4 provinces; Cagliari, Nuoro, Oristano and Sassari.

My trip started in the lovely old town of Alghero, one of Sardinia's most beautiful medieval cities. The Catalan influence is huge owing to the arrival of Catalan colonists back in the 1300's. Today, Catalan remains the official language of Alghero, alongside Italian, making it unique to anywhere else in Italy.

After a very rocky start; our hire car broke down just 16km from Olbia airport and we had to wait nearly 2 hours in the blistering sun until we could be towed back to the airport for a new car! With that behind us we drove through torrential rain and thunder storms with lightning appearing to strike the road before us, finally reaching our first stop the Alghero Resort Country Hotel. What a gem, a real oasis in a hot, desert like landscape and only a few miles from Alghero city centre.

And then the sun appeared....

Our plans to explore that afternoon were scuppered by two 10 year olds wanting to dive straight in to the cool pool... With temperatures in the high 30's and being hot and bothered from our little breakdown, the only thing for us to do was to join them.

Oops, where did that come from?

That evening, we joined other guests on the terrace for a BBQ of local meats, including pork and sausages, and accompanied by a beautiful aubergine parmigiana and mixed salads.

The exploring could start tomorrow!

Bags packed, we headed out to the nearby beach of Porto Ferro. Not the best beach apparently because "the sea wasn't the colour of the sky" but we thought it came pretty close. After driving through Alghero's coastline we'd passed a few beaches that were just too crowded for our liking so were pretty pleased with our choice when we were met with a vast expanse of deserted fine sand and crystal clear seas. There's a great little beach bar at one end serving freshly made hot sandwiches and pizza. I'd recommend walking along the shoreline though as the sand is pretty HOT!!

After lunch, we left Porto Ferro for the coastal drive from Alghero to Bosa, said to resemble the pacific coastal highway in California. 

I was completely charmed by the sellers at the side of the road who had turned their driveway over to a mini market stall, I couldn't resist stopping for some fresh sun ripened fruit.

 Bosa is a unique unspoilt town just 40km south of Alghero, boasting a beautiful and wild countryside, stunning beaches and coastline. The historic town centre is an intriguing maze of medieval streets, stone staircases, gracious palazzos and terraced houses painted in bright colours, all nestled under the hilltop Malaspina castle.

 The view from the castle down the valley towards the river Temo

The next day we were up bright and early for a day on the sea with the fantastic Andrea Jensen, a traditional wooden sailing boat. It is run by a British couple who now reside near Bosa, and spend half their time sailing the crystal seas. This will probably be remembered as the best day of our holiday. The crew, Geoff, Vivien, Tim and Juliano were fantastic, allowing the children to take turns in skippering the craft.
Leaving Alghero behind, we sailed past the dramatic coastline towards Fertilia. After some time, I lost track, we set anchor down in a small bay, were kitted out with snorkels and explored the warm sea... Lunch was a delicious salad of mozzarella and tomato with a selection of meat, followed by pesto pasta, fresh bread and sea air. There were also juicy melon slices for the adults and ice-cream for the children. Throughout the day we were provided with fresh fruit, cold water and the odd cheeky beer!

On the way back we lifted the sails and cruised with the breeze, a truly magical moment that we'll never forget. Children took turns to ride in the hammock up front, while Tim and Juliano took us out in the dinghy to get a few shots!


Beautiful, isn't she!

If you enjoyed this read, the next part of our holiday can be found here;