It’s no secret that I’m proud of my Italian heritage, but what I’m not so proud of is the fact that despite this, I’ve only been to Italy twice in my life. To be fair, I get a taste of grand old Italia every time I eat at my Nonna’s house (there’s nothing quite like Italian hospitality), and I’m not technically counting day trips to Rome and Florence (ah, the joys of cruise!). That said, I would love to see more of my maternal ‘homeland.’
Having been back in the drizzling cold weather I so lovingly associate with home for almost a week now, I’m really feeling the distance between me and the Sardinian sun. Not even the slight tan I acquired (no mean feat, considering I inherited my Dad’s Liverpudlian skin) can comfort me. I’ve actually taken to scrolling through photos of sunsets and beaches from our holiday; whoever said post-holiday blues were easy to cope with obviously never lived in Manchester.
But, anyway, here are a few tips from my family and I, should you ever find your lucky self in Sardinia…
Visit Stintino Beach: If ever there were a beach that looked exactly as it did in the brochure for Paradise, it was this one. With clear (and warm) blue waters and the softest sand I’ve ever seen, even the market traders carrying knock-off Louis Vuittons and blankets by the bar couldn’t stop me from recommending it. Oh, and be sure to order an “Isla Piana” sandwich for lunch (mozzarella, tomato, olive oil and oregano – you can thank me later).
Take a trip to Castelsardo: Another beach in the Province of Sassari, Castelsardo offers a secluded bay experience, perfect for a quiet day catching rays. What’s more, the water is brilliant for snorkelling, and it’s only a short walk from the town, which boasts a colourful array of restaurants and bars.
Dine at Il Merlo Indiano: The villa we were staying in was just a 10 minute walk outside of Valledoria, so we stumbled upon this gem of a Pizzaria on our way into the town. The staff were friendly and attentive, and the owner Rafaelle was particularly welcoming. Whilst our stay was only a week long, we ended up eating here three times. The pizza (which is produced in one of Sardina’s oldest wood-burning ovens) was exceptional and the variety of over 100 pizzas meant you were never short of choice. My personal recommendation would be to always go for Buffalo mozzarella and keep it simple (Il Gentile is lovely).
Try a Latte Macchiato: I’ve never really been a big coffee fan, and would usually question the sanity of someone who suggested drinking it in the heat, let alone on a beach, however this frothy and revitalising drink became my firm favourite in Sardinia. The best one I tried was in the snack bar on San Pietro beach, Valledoria, but Café Pavone in Alghero also made a good one.
Scream for Ice Cream: If there’s one thing Italians are famous for (ok, maybe one of a multitude of things) it’s gelato. The most refreshing and delicious temptation Italy has to offer, there is no cafe worth its salt that doesn’t sell it. The best one I had was in Alghero, in a little ice-cream ‘cave’ called Gelateria i Bastioni. A little hint: you can’t go far wrong with Pistachio or Lemon.
Learn how to play Italian cards: One of my fondest childhood memories is of my Nonno teaching me and my siblings how to play with Italian cards. Growing up in a big family with a love of long mealtimes, card games have often formed the post-dinner entertainment that kept us children from climbing up the walls. The particular type we use are Napoletane, with the two main games being Scopa and Briscola. Easy to pick up and beautiful to look at, these cards will provide hours of fun and may even spark up a competitive streak! If you can read Italian and fancy learning, try here.