While most people have heard of the star-studded Costa Smeralda, famously constructed by Prince Aga Khan in the 60s and still attracting a glamorous and glitzy crowd, not many know of the untouched natural beauties that lie just a few kilometres away.
The northern region of Gallura offers the perfect weekend getaway if you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy nature at its best (and in case you do want to party, the glitzy ‘Emerald Coast’ is only a car ride away)
Here are a few insider tips in case you’re lacking inspiration on how to best enjoy your beach holiday;
Where to stay…
Santa Teresa di Gallura – This small town is the island’s northernmost port. The town attracts tourists in the summer, and comes alive with both daytime and night-time markets that sell anything from jewellery and handicrafts to liquors. The local ‘Rena Bianca’ is the typical (gorgeous) postcard beach, but tends to get quite overcrowded between July and August. Boats to Corsica and the islands depart from Santa Teresa several times a day, offering the chance for an alternative daytrip. It’s a good, central base if you want to go around and explore all that the region has to offer.
Tip: If you are looking for perfect white sandy beaches, rent a boat or book an excursion and go explore the various dreamy islands of the Natural Park of the Arcipelago di La Maddalena… You definitely won’t be disappointed!
Club Hotel Ragno d’Oro – There’s nothing quite as relaxing as waking up within walking distance from the sea. If you prefer staying in a more peaceful environment, Club Hotel Ragno D’Oro offers just that. The Hotel, set in the Vignola area, has several rooms, with independent entrances and patios, just 100m from the sea. The rooms are arranged around a blossoming garden, where a full and varied breakfast is served every morning.
Tip: The owners are incredibly friendly, and more than happy to give visitors advice on how to best enjoy the area.
Where to beach…
Lu Litarroni – It’s easy to miss the tiny sign that leads to this hidden beach, and once you manage to find it, park your car, be prepared for a five minute walk towards the sea under a thick natural gazebo of pine trees. Nicknamed ‘Tahiti’ by the locals, this beach really does live up to its name, with kilometres of soft sand and crystal clear waters. No loud music, no artificial constructions or drunken party people ruining your vibe. Ideal for a peaceful and chilled-out day at the beach. If you forget to bring your own lunch or prefer to buy it on the spot, there is one tiny bar that serves paninos, salads and ice creams.
Tip: Towards 7pm beachgoers start heading home, so it’s the best time to kick back, enjoy a drink and wait for the sunset.
Isola Rossa – Whether you’re a pro at surfing or just want to give it a try, Isola Rossa is the perfect spot to head to. An international surfing contest is held every year at the popular La Marinedda beach, and surfing equipment can be both purchased and rented locally. Nesos Surf School offers both private and group lessons for beginners and more experienced surfers. The bay area is also great for diving and windsurfing.
Tip: If sea sports aren’t your thing, you can still chill on the beach and enjoy the view – the constant breeze makes it pleasant even in the hottest hours of the day.
Where to Eat…
Ristorante La Cala – This tiny gem is absolutely impossible to find unless you’re looking for it (and even then, it’s still not easy!). Just off the main coastal road, between Vignola and Costa Paradiso, a small sign directs you to a tiny but incredibly steep and curvaceous unpaved road that takes you all the way down to the sea. When you finally get through the last curve and emerge from the bushy vegetation, the scenario of of red skies and endless sea that opens before you at sunset is absolutely breathtaking. The Restaurant is perched right above the homonymous ‘Cala Sarraina’ bay. Don’t expect anything fancier than a chequered tablecloth and paper napkins; what the restaurant is actually famous for, apart from the incredible view, is the fresh fish, caught daily by the local fishermen, and the homely atmosphere set by the (incredibly) friendly owners.
Tip: Try the sea-urchin spaghetti and the fritto misto, together with a bottle of local Funtanaliras wine.
Agriturismo Saltara – If seafood isn’t your thing, then you’re in for a treat. Sardinians have traditionally preferred living in the inland rather than on the seaside, and thus their long-established cuisine is based on meat, cheese and products of the earth. If you want to get a taste of real Sardinian food then all you have to do is head over to one of the many agriturismi: farmhouses turned to small hotels or B&Bs that mainly serve and sell their own produce. Saltara is considered to be one of the best in the Santa Teresa di Gallura area. There are several set menus comprising a selection of appetisers, main courses, plenty of local wine and of course, the traditional digestives (mirto and filu ‘e ferru).
Tip: Go easy on the Pane Carasau and the Malloreddus, you definitely do not want to miss out on the famous ‘Porceddu’ (roasted piglet with potatoes) and on the Seadas (traditional fried dessert with ricotta cheese and honey).
By Parissa Venturini @Pari_VV