UnDISCOVERED SARDEGNA (The Blue Island) 2024
Starts in Olbia/Berchidda
The Italian region of Sardegna” (Sar-den-ya), “Sardinia” in English, sits in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and ranks among the most culturally diverse regions of Italy, It is also one of the least-known destinations for Americans. It contains one of the worlds nine Blue Zones, known for the highest number of centenarians (100 year old+ people).
The irregular coastline is dotted with natural bays and coves, providing many protected ports. Sardegna, features prominently in the history of western civilization. Phoenicians, Cartheginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors and even the Nazis all used Sardegna for its rich natural resources and strategic location. Whomsoever wanted to rule the Mediterranean wanted Sardegna as a base. Every culture left its mark on the island, through art, architecture, language and culture.
Today the Blue Island offers visitors beautiful beaches, famously clear water, and seaside resorts. Just inland from the coast lie rich, fertile valleys and soaring granite-peaked mountains, where vineyards, olive groves and a vast diversity of crops grow, including entire forests of cork oak.
Since the 1960’s, thanks to Prince Aga Khan, the Emerald Coast of Sardegna has been the summer playground for wealthy Europeans. Seaside towns such as Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo are filled with yachts, as people gather for the vibrant nightlife, upscale shopping and to see and be seen. But come fall, most of the yachts depart, the couture shops close for the year, and the parties quiet down. Yet the weather is fine, and we continue to visit beaches, tour the archipelago, dine and recreate outdoors well into November/December. The perfect time to visit!
The island is dotted with small towns and villages which preserve and celebrate their traditions and culture. “Sardi,” as they are called, are famous throughout Italy for being among the most generous and welcoming people.
Most recently, Sardegna has come to our attention as one of the world’s Blue Zones, where many people live healthy, productive lives well past 100 years of age, specifically in the region of Gallura where our tour resides. Why the longevity? We don’t really know, but you will be struck by the social, hospitable nature of the Sardi, their unique culinary offerings, and a sense of place, of belonging. Once you visit the island of Sardegna, you become one of its global citizens, always welcome to return, for a few days, months or forever.
EXPLORE THE BLUE ISLAND:
8 Days and 8 Nights on Sardegna:
You will explore a different and surprising aspect of the island, f
rom its prehistoric monuments to fashionable beaches, and every day you will be immersed in the local culture. You will visit the Emerald Coast towns and beaches, enjoy wine and olive oil tastings, outdoor recreation in the mountains, cultural and historic sites, ancient and medieval history, and, of course, plenty of food and
lots of unique shopping.
DAY ONE: LAY OF THE LAND
Arrive in Olbia,(OLB) the Emerald Coast Airport with direct flights to over 50 European destinations. Or take an overnight ferry from the mainland, Livorno or Civitavecchia (Rome).
You will be escorted to Berchidda, traveling inland past vineyards and cork oak forests. Accommodation options include hotels, private lodgings in town, bed & breakfasts or country homes right outside of town. Check-in unwind and relax.
EVENING RECEPTION IN BERCHIDDA: Join us at the Belvedere for an aperitif and light dinner on the terrace at Maman Ludi, a family owned restaurant, where Lucca, Mariella, and their daughter Chef Anastasia will treat you to traditional dishes made with a modern flair. The stunning view is the perfect backdrop to start your adventure. You will meet your fellow travelers, your hosts and some local dignitaries.
[NB: We’ll invite the mayor of Berchidda to offer a welcome and introduction to the town.]
ABOUT BERCHIDDA: Located in north-central Sardegna,Berchidda, population 2,772, lies in the foothills of the Limbara Mountains, 950 feet above sea level. Berchidda is in the heart of Gallura, backed onto Monte Acuto and overlooking a sweeping valley of farmland. Like most small Italian towns, it embraces modernity in its own way, even as it works to preserve millennia of local customs and culture.
The locals, “Berchiddesi,” are used to visitors. It is the epicenter and founding city of Time in Jazz, an international festival attracting 35,000 visitors to the region each year. Besides that, there are local festivals and celebrations throughout the year, especially in the fall. It is a community and region that loves gatherings and loves visitors
Berchidda is an official “Cittá del Vino (Wine City), with 250+ local producers. It is internationally recognized for producing fine Vermentino (DOCG- “di origine controllata garantita” the highest official Italian grape ranking), as well as many other red and white wines.
DAY TWO: SEA & SAND - A DAY AT THE COAST
Visit one of the iconic beaches of the Emerald Coast for a day of relaxation, seaside dining for lunch on your own. Explore the coastal towns and do some shopping. Mediterranean living at its best! www.sardinianbeaches.com
POTENTIAL BEACH SITES:
Capo Ceraso, Murta Maria, Pittulungu, all close to Olbia
NB: We will select a beach location that is served by a restaurant or beach bar with chaise lounges rental available.. People will have time to enjoy the beach and the sun, but also walk to the town for some shopping. NB: Depending on time of year and weather, beach amenities might be closed- We will look for a destination with seaside dining/food options, chairs/umbrellas, but these might be unavailable and we will have to provide amenities.
NB: Prepare rain/inclement weather itinerary.
DINNER: It isn’t Italy without pizza! We’ll dine at a local pizzeria and enjoy some local wine & beer.
La Perla - Berchidda or Da Ivan, space permitting.
(Alternatively - “La Pineta” in nearby town of Monti)
DAY 3: LIVE LIKE A LOCAL - WINE, OLIVE OIL, CHEESE AND CULTURE IN BERCHIDDA
Breakfast on your own
We’ll spend the day getting to know your host city and the region. Explore the winemaking process and the different grape varieties grown in Sardegna, see an olive oil production plant in action.
Olive Oil Consortium- a production facility– for olive oil tasting/tour.
Wine Museum (Museo dei Vini)/ Visitor Center for Regional History. You’ll do a wine tasting and attend a lecture about the region, its history, people and customs.
Visit and wine tasting at a local family-run winery set in their beautiful vineyard.
You’ll be sampling local culinary fare throughout the day, so no official lunch needed.
Free time after lunch for a siesta.
DINNER: Dine in with a local family in Berchidda
You will dine in small groups at the homes of local residents. Enjoy the particular cuisine of Berchidda and the region, and really live like a local.
About the cuisine of Gallura: Sardegna depends in equal parts on fresh Mediterranean seafood and the wealth of the products from forests and farms. ‘Sardi’ cook with fresh ingredients, and in a small town like Berchidda, everyone relies heavily on local products. If a family doesn’t produce/grow/hunt it themselves, their neighbor does. From the sea- mussels, clams, calamari, scampi, as well as bream, swordfish, tuna and mullet. From the larder– wild boar, lamb, beef, are abundant, and usually cooked whole or in large cuts in a fireplace, (which you will find in every Sardegna kitchen). Fruits and vegetables from local producers, olive oil and wine locally produced. It’s all local! TAKE NOTE: When dining in a restaurant, you will generally find “cavallo” (horse) and asinello (donkey) on the menu.Just so you know.
Dolci Sardi (desserts) rely on citrus, almonds, figs, pistachios, and are never too sweet. Saffron is a preferred local spice, as well as the aromatic leaves of the ‘mirto’ (huckleberry) bush.
Day 5 - WALK ON THE WILD SIDE - AT ONE WITH NATURE. (or YUM! CHE BUONO!)--Near BERCHIDDA
Option 1: Go on a guided hike on Monte Acuto, learn about the history of the area, and visit the ruins of the medieval castle and Lago (lake) Coghinas. This is a moderate level hike - no rock climbing but a good bit of uphill terrain. The hike takes about 4 hours and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Option 2: The lighter side of nature. Visit the Butterfly sanctuary in the town of Monti. Enjoy the beautiful view from the ranger station and hear a lecture about the local geology, flora and fauna. Explore Monti on your own, with perhaps a visit to one of the local wineries.
Dinner at La Vecchia Costa restaurant in Arzachena– no matter what you chose to do for the day, in the evening we will gather at an old and treasured establishment, La Vecchia Costa, for a family style dinner.
Day 6: GET YOUR SPAIN ON!
A Day In Alghero - City of Coral and Aragonese/Catalan Culture.
Up to now, our trip has focused on the east coast of Sardinia. Today we head to the west coast, facing Spain, to the seaside city of Alghero. Skipping (for the moment) past the rich ancient history and prehistory of the area, the city was largely built by Aragonese (Spanish) mariners who occupied the city for 300 years from the 14th to the 17th century. Catalan is still spoken by the Algherese.
Alghero is known as the coral Riviera, where rich, deep red corals were harvested for centuries. It is a typical seaside town, like many others you would find… in Spain.
The guided tour may include:
Visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Explore the Sea Caves (weather permitting)
Tour the medieval historic center
Visit the Coral Museum or the Archeological Museum
Visit the most well-known winery on the island, Sella e Mosca.
Dinner at a restaurant in Alghero or Maman Ludi back in Berchidda.
Day 7: A DAY OF DOMESTICITY - COOKING OR SHOPPING
Lectures on La Maddalen…….Military……Blue Zone
Option 1: Take a boat trip to the Maddalena Archipelago, a group of islands off the coast of Sardinia. Enjoy a dip in the water, or stay on land and explore the beautiful port town. [OMIT La Maddalena - weather and excursion availability is iffy by mid-September]
Option 1: In Berchidda for a Cooking class with Sabrina– Put your aprons on and get ready to roll up your sleeves, metaphorically, that is. Local gifted culinary genius, Maestra Sabrina, will demonstrate some of the most treasured local dishes. She is also a master of pastries– dessert is included!
Option 2: Spend the day shopping and enjoying the seaside towns of San Pantaleo, Azarchena and the Golfo Aranci boutique and artisan shops, café.
Dinner on your own.
Day 7: Free Day
Relax for one more day on the beach or go for a swim in the ocean, forage for wild mushrooms in the foothills, or go for a hike. Shuttles will run from town to the shopping mall in Olbia and the beach.
Farewell Dinner: Join your hosts Ron and Raff at their home where we will enjoy one last special dish - Zuppa Berchiddese - prepared by our friends and neighbors (and now your friends!).
Day 8: ARRIVADERCI = “Until we meet again!”
We’ll take you to the airport, or help you get to wherever you’re headed next. Maybe you’ll stay a few more days on your own, or rent a car to explore the rest of the island. Maybe another week on the beach or maybe you’ve made some great friends in Berchidda and will just want to stay indefinitely.
There will be shuttles throughout the day for departures from Olbia (OLB) by sea or air.. Note that there are two additional airports on the island, in Alghero, AHO, and the capital city of Cagliari, CAG. These are both port cities and offer ferries as well. Transportation to Cagliari by train, transportation to AHO by train or coach. The French island of Corsica lies just to the north of Sardegna, easily reached by boat or air, from Corsica there is a high-speed passenger ferry to Nice on the Côte d'Azur.
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