Sardinia is a popular holiday destination in Italy. But what is the island actually famous for? Let’s find out.
Sardinia is famous for:
- White sandy beaches, crystal clear sea
- A variety of ecosystems
- Ancient history dates back thousands of years
- One of the most thriving economic regions in Italy
- Its a ‘Blue Zone’ a region where people live longer than average
- World’s highest rate of inhabitants that are 100+ years old
- Cultural traditions and unique Sardinian cuisine
There’s a lot to discover when you get to know Sardinia. Let’s dig in deeper and learn more about the island.
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The island’s periphery is 9300 square miles (24090 km2). Around 1.6 million people are living on the island. The island has a coastline of 1149 miles (1849 kilometers).
There is a wide variety of ecosystems on Sardinia, with different mountain ranges. The highest peak is Punta La Marmora, which is 6017ft (1834meters) high. Over 25% of Sardinia is designated as a national or regional park. To preserve the nature of the island.
According to the best selling book: “The Blue Zones (9 lessons for living longer from the people who’ve lived the longest)” by Dan Buettner. Sardinia is one of the five blue zones worldwide. A blue zone is a part of the world where people live much longer than average. In blue zones are living more centenarians (people who are 100years or older) than anywhere else in the world.
They suffer less of the common diseases that kill people in the developed world and enjoy more years of good health. The book describes the similarity in the lifestyle of people living in the blue zones. A few interesting things that are part of their lifestyle;
- Family is important
- No smoking
- Flexitarian diet (plant-based and meat on occasion)
- Legumes are a big part of the diet
- Moderate physically active
- Social engagement (everyone is socially active in the community)
In Sardinia, several villages have a higher rate of centenarians. The village Suelo (east Sardinia) – with a population of 970 – even holds the record of 20 centenarians between 1996 and 2016!
The Blue Zones – 9 lessons for living longer from the people who’ve lived the longest (check availability and latest price on Amazon – ) is an exciting book to read.
The region Sardinia has one of the best economies in Italy. The financial heart of Sardinia is found in the big cities Cagliari and Sassari. On average, the yearly income (income per capita) of a Sardinian is the highest compared to the other Italians living in the southern parts of Italy.
However, the Sardinian economy is limited in a certain way, because of the high costs for goods, transportation, and electricity. These costs are twice as high as in other parts in Italy’s mainland and triple comparing it to other European countries. Sardinia as a region produces their energy, and because they create an oversupply, they can export electricity to other parts in Italy and Corsica (the island next to Sardinia).
The most significant economic sectors in Sardinia are Industry, Real Estate and Financial Activity, and Tourism. The tourism sector, combined with other related industries are responsible for 55% of the region’s economy.
Renowned beaches of Sardinia
Sardinia’s coastline, also known as ‘Emerald Coast,’ gets its name of the crystal clear water. The coastline covers 1149 miles (1849 kilometers) in length. It is mostly a rocky coastline and varies significantly in height. However, some of the world’s best beaches are found on this island.
A few of the renowned beaches in Sardinia are;
CALA GOLORITZE’ – BAUNEI
How cool if you can take a boat taxi that brings you to the beach? Visiting Cala Goloritze it is the best way to get there. The beach is secluded, but it can be quite busy here. It is probably the most beautiful beach in Italy.
Porto Istana beach – Olbia
One of the best places to enjoy the crystal clear water and beautiful beaches. This place consists actually out of four small beaches, which are separated with big stones and nature parks. You’ll find this beach on the northeast side of Sardinia.
Porto Istana is a popular place, so during the peak season in July and August, it will full of tourists enjoying their summer holiday. Nonetheless, there’s enough space on the beaches to relax, so you don’t feel like it is too busy.
Porto Giunco beach – Villasimius
It’s like a part of the Carribean in Europe. This beach is located close to Villasimius. A long white sandy beach ideal for wandering around and jumping in the sea. In the middle of the beach, you’ll find a pond where flamingoes tend to relax, so a beautiful place to spot some wildlife as well!
It is easy to reach, on the southern part of the island. Thirty-six miles (59 kilometers) east of Cagliari, that’s like one hour drive.
Cala Luna Beach
When you’re looking for pictures of Sardinia, you must have seen this beach. It is probably the most photographed part of the island. Tucked away in a cove, and secluded. Almost only reachable by boat or a 2-hour hike from Cala Fuili. Which is an easy, but beautiful hike along a fantastic part of the Sardinian coastline.
Famous Landmarks in Sardinia
Thanks to the long history of Sardinia there’s a lot more to find then a beautiful coastline. It is great to spend a day or two doing some sightseeing and discover ancient ruins and prehistoric sites.
It is not as spectacular as sightseeing in Sicily, but you can’t have it all right? And Sicily is one of the places in the world with the best-preserved historic sites. So it’s hard to compete with that. Are you planning an island hopping tour between Sicily and Sardinia? I wrote this article about Sicily, with all the interesting and practical information about the island.
These are landmarks in Sardinia you don’t want to miss:
Basilica di Saccargia
You’ll find this church around 18 kilometers southeast of Sassari, which is the 2nd largest city in Sardinia. The church of Saccargia, built in the 12th century, is one of the most important Roman landmarks on the island. It is quite an impression to see this church, there are no other buildings around, and the large dark bell tower is visible from miles away.
Remains of Su Nuraxi
In Sardinia, you’ll find many remains of ancient villages and buildings. Su Nuraxi, are the remains of ancients forts – which are called Nuraghe – often with a cone-shaped tower and just one circular room. It gives a great look at how people used to live around1500 years BC.
Nuraghes – named after the civilization lived that time -are found all over the island of Sardinia, over the years more than 7000 sites are discovered. However, Su Nuraxi is the best preserved and probably the most interesting one to visit.
Castle of Serravalle – Malaspina Family Castle (Bosa Village)
The Malaspina family was famous and wealthy in Tuscany around 1000 – 1200AD. The family came to Sardinia in the middle of the 11th century and built a castle at the top of the Serravalle hill, overlooking Bosa village. It is beautiful to see how well preserved this castle is, where you’ll have a fantastic lookout over the town and the most important river of Sardinia.
Inside the castle, there’s a secret tunnel that leads to the church in the village. It was built because of the jealousy of the marquis of the Malaspina family. He didn’t want other men looking at his wife.
Arzachena Archaeological Park
The town Arzachena is the biggest town alongside the Emerald Coast. The part of the coastline in Sardinia what people say is the most beautiful. But Arzachena also has significant archaeological sites, dating back to 2500BC. When you’re interested in the history of the island and humankind, this is a place you want to visit. You can learn more about how people used to live, and what struck me the most, how they honored the death at the time. Large graves are still visible, and their sophisticated way of building is remarkable.
Sardinia’s Ancient History
Arzachena archeological sites teach us that 2500 years BC there were already people living in Sardinia. These people were called the Nuragic civilization.
The Phoenicians, who also were one the first on the island of Sicily, traveled to Sardinia from around the 9th century BC. Phoenicians were a civilization from Isreal and Lebanon. They are known for their exploring and trade routes along the Mediterranean Sea.
Sardinia was annexed by the Romans in 238BC, for the next 700 years the Romans ruled Sardinia. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, many civilizations try to conquer Sardinia.
Fast forward to the 11th Century, when the Normans conquered the island. Sardinia was separated in what’s known as ‘the Kingdoms of Sardinia.’ Four sovereign states with each their judge or leader. This only lasted for a few hundred years. From the 13th century until around early 1700, Sardinia was subject to many wars and rules by the French, Spanish, and Italian.
In mid-1700 The House of Savoy became the absolute rulers of Sardinia. Later during the unification of Italy, Sardinia became part of the kingdom of Italy. And it continued to develop on into the island from what is has become now.
Sardinia’s Cultural heritage
With such a long and eventful history, you would expect that Sardinia has a great cultural heritage. And in a way they have. It is not as extensive as Sicily, or the Italian mainland with all their different cultural events. But Sardinia is known for some of the most important cultural developments in the world.
The best example is the musical heritage of Sardinia, in particular, Cantu a Tenore, one of the oldest forms of singing, what we call know opera. Cantu a Tenore is probably a precursor of modern opera, which is originated in the 17th century. Cantu a Tenore exists much longer though and is typically known for its four different vocal parts.
Since 2005 it belongs to the intangible cultural heritage of Unesco.
The Sardinian language, as it is spoken now, developed significantly over time. Influenced by the Phoenicians, Spanish, French, Romanian, Portuguese and Italians. Sardinian is one of the most conservative languages derived from Vulgar Latin, the more commonly spoken version of classical Latin. More like a local dialect.
Sardinian is also a dialect when you look at it from the Italian point of view. The inhabitants greatly know the language of Sardinia. However, it is not widely spoken anymore. Unesco qualifies the language as endangered, mainly because the knowledge of the language is within the older population. It is estimated that only a small percentage of the children still learning the Sardinian language.
The typical cuisine of Sardinia
Sardinia is known as a blue zone. A place in the world where people live much longer than average. One of the essential factors that characterize people living in blue zones is their diet. That’s the same for the Sardinians. A typical diet for people living in blue zones is plant-based. They are considered ‘flexitarians.’ They eat meat, but not regularly. Let’s find out what some typical Sardinian dishes you’ll find in the Sardinian kitchen.
I’m always saying that when you’re taking a look at a countries or region’s cuisine, you learn much about their history. For Sardinia, it’s the same. Many typical dishes are greatly influenced by Mediterranean civilizations who all played a role in the development of the island.
Carasu is a typical Sardinian bread. Kind of a flatbread, which was easy to carry for the many shepherds on the islands. A classic dish made with these slices of bread is Pani Frattau, several Carasu’s sandwiched with tomato sauce and a poached egg on top. Quite simply, but delicious!
Over time, the cuisine got more sophisticated, and recipes were more based on seafood, meat, and cheese.
Fregola is another typical Sardinian dish. Small pasta balls, mixed with vegetables, mostly beans tomatoes and some onions garnished with saffron. There are many variations for Fregola. A popular one which you’ll find almost every on the island is Fregola with Seafood.
Zuppa Cuata a typical dish you’ll find mostly in the northern part of Sardinia. And it is not a soup. This is more like a lasagne, but with layers of carasu (the flatbread), cheese and lamb chops.
One of the renowned Sardinian dishes is Porcheddu, yes it is meat. An entire pig, slowly grilled with myrtle leaves and typically eaten during festivities. It looks like traditional porchetta, but it’s different because with Porcheddu they use other ingredients.
A typical blue zone recipe is the Sardinian Minestrone — a combination of seasonal vegetables. But always with fava beans, cranberry beans, chickpeas, and fregula (which is a form of pasta). Sardinian Minestrone is always vegetarian.
Sardinian Pasta Fagioli a simple pasta which contains northern beans, onions, tomato, and zucchini. Garlic and fresh celery are also added. You can use every kind of pasta with it, but traditionally they use the local fregula.
Local wine, a moderate amount of wine, is an important part of the Sardinians. Sardinia produces a significant amount of different white and red wines. But almost all the wines are made with the Vermentino grapes. Which gives the typical Sardinian taste to the white wines. The red wines are almost always with Cannonau, which are good for around 30% of the islands wine production.
National Parks of Sardinia
Around 25% of the island is covered with national or regional parks. It makes Sardinia a unique environmental place in the world. There’s a wide variety of ecosystems thanks to the different mountain ranges, forests, rivers, and coastline.
The three national parks are Asinara National Park, Arcipelago di la Maddalena National Park, and Gennargentu National Park.
Asinara National Park is a small island on the coast of Sardinia, which was secluded for around 115 years. After that, it functioned as a prisoner camp, but since 1997 it became an official national park. The park that is both the island of Asinara and a big part of the surrounding sea is a great place for wildlife — known for its albino donkeys, which is the symbol of the park. But with over 678 species of flora and fauna, it’s a real paradise. To visit the national park, you’ll need to have a special permit. Which you can get via the park’s website (the site is in Italian).
Arcipelago di la Maddalena National Park is a protected marine group of islands between Sardinia and Corsica. The park consists out of 62 small islands, from which Maddalena is the only inhabited island. The national park is an excellent protected area with lots of wildlife, unique nature, and endangered species. It is possible to visit the national park, and the best experience is on a boat tour.
Gennargentu National Park is located on the east side of Sardinia. A renowned destination among hikers. There are many beautiful, multiple-day, hiking trails to find in this park. During the hikes, you’ll have the best views over the beautiful coastline. And a chance to spot some of the unique wildlife in Sardinia.
This park is also the place where you’ll find the highest peak of the island.
Sardinia is one of the most beautiful places you can visit in the Mediterranean Sea. When you’re planning a trip to Italy, and you have enough time to travel around the country, make sure to include a few days of Sardinia in your itinerary. Make sure to read our recommendations on how you easily can book your next trip.