Head inland to the Barbagia and discover the art and culture of the interior of Sardinia. About a two hour drive north from Cagliari will put you in the fascinating central Province of Nuoro. Two particular points of interest to see are the masks of Mamoiada and the murals of Orgosolo. The Museo delle Maschere is the place to start. Here you will see examples of the mysterious masked creatures, the mamuthones and issohadores who perform for the annual festival celebrating Sant’Antonio. Go from mysterious and ancient culture to modern and reactionary with a walk around the mountain town of Orgosolo. There are over 100 murals and most have political and social justice themes with styles that mix impressionism to hyper-realism.
The island of Sardinia has a distinctive cuisine and a rich wine culture. What better way to spend a vacation day than in a vineyard tasting Vermentino and Cannanou? Until the late 1950s, most wine produced in Sardinia was only for family or village consumption. Now, there are co-operatives and independent winemakers that are cultivating larger tracts of the rocky terrain to make some seriously good wines. There are about a dozen farms you can visit to learn the difference between your Nuragus and your Nasco grapes, all while snacking on squares of sharp pecorino cheese and cured sausages.
If you are looking to lounge, plan on a beach day near the village of Villasimius. It is approximately an hour long and very scenic drive between Cagliari and Villasimius. You have more than 10 beaches to choose from here, in addition to the large Carbonara National Marine Park. In this part of Sardinia, the water is crystal clear and the sand soft and white. The Spiaggia di Porto Giunco is popular and has plenty of bars, restaurants and beach facilities, or if you are looking for something more rustic and low key, head with your town and umbrella to Cape Crabonara within the national park.
Get your ancient history on with a visit to Nora where you can see the remains of three different cities. Phoenician, Pre-Roman and Roman era artifacts are all a part of what legend says was the first city on the island. The Roman ruins are the most intact and you can see intricate mosaics, villas, temples and an incredible amphitheater. The site is bordered by the sea and there are significant parts of it that are sunk deep below. Diving and snorkeling excursions are the way to discover this submerged part of the city. The ancient town is at the edge of Pula, which is a 20 minute drive from Cagliari.
Sant’Antioco is not technically an island as it is connected to mainland Sardinia by a long thin causeway, but it does feels like one. Located on the far southwest corner with a wild rocky coastline, there is a isolated vibe here. There is a lot of history with pre-Roman catacombs below the Sant’Antioco Basilica and Phoenician artifacts at the archaeological museum and there are Nuragic sites too. Don’t miss the enchanting domus de janas (fairy houses) and the giants’ tombs of Su Niu and Su Crobu. Coaquaddus beach has a boardwalk to stroll and waves to frolic in. Explore rock pools on the western side of the island and have an sunset drink in the port in Calasetta.
The green oasis that is Monte Arcosu is managed by the World Wildlife Fund. (WWF) There are two paths through the varied vegetation which is called Mediterranean Macche. The Perdu Melis is the easiest of the two main trails and takes about two hours to complete. Slightly more challenging is the Sa Canna trail. For experienced hikers there are five more rugged (that means no cell service or cool spring to stop for a drink) trails. Along your way look out for the rare Corsican red deer, unique fauna and birds of prey.