Italy’s western-most island is not often on tourists’ top-ten list when visiting the peninsula. In fact, some people confuse Sardinia with Corsica (a smaller island to the north belonging to France, home to two famous twin brothers). Yet like many islands in this part of the world, Sardinia boasts a culture and history that makes it unlike any mainland Italian region as well as any other European country. Australian-based Punto Tours runs a few unique bike trip itineraries on this beautiful island through many of the most historic and picturesque villages imaginable. Fall is a great time to travel to Italy and Punto Tours’ Sardinia departure is a storybook vacation. Today, Sardinia remains a true “emerald” of the Mediterranean Sea: full of luscious green mountains covered in thick forests, scored with plummeting rocky chasms, all of which make it a unique Mediterranean destination.
To give you an idea of Punto Tours’ magical week-long Sardinian escape, read on. The following villages are just a few highlights of this special departure:
Hard to believe that Italy could have as much Catalan and Spanish influence as Alghero has, but this city was under Iberian rule starting in 1354. The original towers (built by the Genoa kings) were knocked down and the Spaniards built new looming defense structures. In 1720, when Sardinia was annexed by the Savoy Kingdom, Alghero remained primarily Catalan. Today you can still visit the seven towers still standing: among which the Torre de Sant Joan, the Torre del Portal and the Torre di Sulis have the richest history and the most Spanish influence.
Set along the Temo river in western Sardinia, Bosa is picturesque with its XII century fortress overlooking the valley. Its 300 m perimeter walls enclose the sacrosanct N.S de sos Regnos Altos: a XIV century cathedral with some of the best preserved frescos from the 1300s. Bosa celebrates its Festa di Santa Maria del Mare on the first Sunday of August, with a boat procession, carrying a statue of the Madonna out to sea.
Sartiglia is a festival in Oristano that comes from medieval Spanish practices. During the Easter celebration, a rider on horseback adorns Castilian medieval dress, garnished with flowing silk scarves and a round black hat. An androgynous mask is placed over the rider’s eyes. The objective is to thread as many iron rings with his saber while he rides through the wild crowds in the center square. Even the name Sartiglia comes from the old castilian language meaning “ring” but also “fortune.” Thus the horseman with the most rings will win the contest and will also have the most prosperous year.
This mountainous forest region contains the highest mountains on the island. Many of these geological formations are said to be some of the oldest in mainland Europe. With peaks high enough to accommodate skiers in the winter, this part of Sardinia is home to many endemic species of flora and fauna, and is a stunning contrast to the pearly beaches and azure waters so commonly associated with this island.
Guspini and Villamar
Guspini has been a mining village ever since the Phonetician conquest of Sardinia. Lead, silver and zinc were just a few of the minerals extracted from these dark caves which were the last residences for many ancient Roman citizens banished fromt he eternal city. In contrast, Villamar is decorated with stunning murals on many of the village walls. These paintings depict the Sardinian lifestyle in captivating images of daily life and the history of the islanders’ struggle.
This picturesque and historical city was first founded by the Phoenicians in the VIII century B.C, and is home to their tophet necropolis (burial ground for children). It served as a major municipal city for the Roman Empire and eventually became the isle of exile for Sardinia’s patron saint, Saint Antiochus, martyred in 110 A.D. in the mines of the island. These days the treasure of this minor island lies above ground in its sandy beaches and turquoise waters.