sardinia diary: cagliari and chia
if you want to experience a little bit of the famed mediterranean lifestyle, come to sardinia. here you'll understand the true meaning of a panoramic view, a clear blue sky, a langurous walk on the beach and a sumptous dinner spread of assorted antipasti, freshly made pastas, grilled vegetable platters, freshly picked fruits and intensely flavourful gelatos. you can eat rather well and feel like you've spent all day doing nothing remarkable but you've never felt so at peace with yourself and completely relaxed.
we took an easyjet flight on saturday afternoon from london luton to cagliari, the region's capital, which is located at the south east tip of the island. the plane was packed with british holidaymakers with only a few sardinians coming home fron london- perhaps for the bank holiday weekend. luckily for us, the holidaymakers seem to have disappeared to the big luxury resorts along the southern coast as they are nowhere to be found in either cagliari or quartu sant elena, a suburb of cagliari where we are staying for the night.
we woke up bright and early on sunday morning with an ambitious mission to run to the beach, about a few kilometres from the hotel. after a breakfast of coco pops and some toast, however, we were only up for a brisk walk with a final 200m sprint when we saw the boardwalk approaching. spiaggio del poetto (poetto beach) is where the cagliari locals hang out to deepen their tans. it is a very clean beach that stretches for five kilometres. the water was surprisngly much colder than i has expected it to be for the southern mediterranean. it would take all my willpower to get wet but once in, it wouldn't be that bad, i hope. the water is just unbelievably gorgeous. shades of deep blue, aquamarine, sapphire and emerald. there are lots of broken shells on the beach and even as you tread in a bit. you have to be a bit careful to not get cut.
we drove into cagliari for lunch. being a sunday in august, almost every cafe was closed but we found a charming restaurant near the centre of town called antico cafe where we had our first sardinian meal. oh, it was so simple and yet, so divine.
extra virgin olive oil is produced in sardinia and even your average brand here is of very high quality. fresh bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar could be a meal in itself!
i ordered a starter of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. the mozzarella is made from buffalo's milk and is also a specialty of the region. it was so delicious, especially when loaded up on thickly cut tomatoes and garnished with big basil leaves.
for my main course, i ordered ravioli filled with ricotta and dressed lightly with a pea and mint sauce made with olive oil. i so loved the melt-in-your-mouth sensation of the ravioli.
dessert was lemon sorbet. need i say any more?!
after lunch, we longed for a nap on the beach so got in the car and drove off towards the south western coast. poetta is your best bet for sun and sand close to cagliari, but if you're willing to rent a car and drive further, a real secluded inlet beach is to be discovered about 60 km south west of the cagliari, near a town called chia. the public access beach at chia is wonderfully quiet and very picturesque.
there's a small shack on the beach that sells snacks and drinks to keep you hydrated and nourished as you soak up the sun all afternoon. it can get really windy on the beach and you need to be prepared to have sand creep into all the crevices in your body. my scalp was a real sand magnet and i had to shampoo really well when i got back to the hotel at night.
if you get bored of too much water and sun, you can drive another 30 km away from the coast, past a town called teulada to grotte is zuddas. here you can take a tour of caves where stalagmites and stalactites have been forming for over eight hundred million years!!! you feel really small and insignificant compared to the history of sardinia.