Whether it's a dose of culture or some serious tanning time, there's more than enough to keep you going when you've got a day to spend in Sardinia.
Spanning some 24,090 square kilometres, you’re going to struggle to see all of Sardinia in a day. But hire a car and you can whip through a bunch of its highlights in no time at all. Here’s our pick of Sardinia when you have just 24 hours to spare.
8 am: Eat a light breakfast
Breakfast in Italy is not a major affair – so don’t expect an Australian-style extravaganza. On the mainland, breakfast means a pastry and a cappuccino. In Sardinia, things are pretty much the same, but bread here plays a bigger role in the daily diet. Explore the bakeries to find ‘pane carasau’ – also known as ‘carta da musica’: literally ‘music paper bread’ – a crisp, super thin flatbread which is a Sardinian speciality. If you can’t find it at breakfast-time, then seek it out during the day. It’s a must-try when you’re on the island.
9 am: Go back in time
Sardinia is jampacked with ancient historical sites, and the best time to see them all is early morning, before the sun gets too hot and the rest of the tourists beat you to it. Walk on ruined streets once populated by Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans in Tharros, or closer to the capital of Cagliari in Nora. The complex of Su Nuraxi di Barumini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – its fascinating structures date from the Bronze Age.
1 pm: Feast on fish
You’re on an island, so head to Alghero for a lunch bursting with seafood. There are tonnes of restaurants to choose from in this gorgeous old city, which still holds onto its Catalan heritage in both signage and local slang. Wander around and check out the menus, but if nothing takes your fancy, then Osteria Macchiavello or Angedras are both safe bets for delectably fresh seafood. Both are situated right on the city walls, making it easy to take a walk along them after lunch; they’re a slice of history in themselves. And speaking of walking – take a walk along Alghero’s magnificent city walls after lunch; they’re a slice of history in themselves.
3 pm: Swim in turquoise waters
The sun is hot, your belly is full, your thirst is sated – it’s time to head to the beach. Known as the ‘Costa Smeralda’ (the Emerald Coast), the northeast coast of Sardinia features crystalline, turquoise waters in which to bathe. Closer to Alghero though, check out glorious Le Bombarde beach. The waters are clear and the sand is white – and you won’t believe you’re only a short drive from the city.
8 pm: Eat traditional food in stunning surrounds
Sardinians describe themselves as shepherds, not fishermen, so drive to the other side of the island after your swim, soaking up the countryside as you go, and end your day with a sumptuous feast of locally sourced meat in the mountains at Su Gologone. You’ll smell the restaurant before you see it – a giant open fire is responsible for cooking much of what you’ll be eating. If it’s on the menu, make sure to try the meltingly tender, delicious Sardinian speciality known as su porcheddu (suckling pig) alongside vegetables grown onsite. In summer, they run romantic Corte De Su Re (King’s Court) dinners, where you’ll experience traditional food on a floor bedecked with aromatic herbs, candles lighting the meal.
10.30pm: Stay in secluded surrounds
The best thing about Su Gologne, aside from that incredible pork? You can stay over, so you need not fret about driving back to your hotel on dark roads late at night. The views over the mountains are heaven to wake up to in the morning, and the hotel is filled with beautiful local art. Rooms range from pared-back, white-washed Shepherd’s Rooms, replete with fireplaces and loaded with interesting one-of-a-kind objects, to the Wild Suite, which features an outdoor terrace, and an oversized outdoor bath so you can gaze at the stars while you wash away your (pretty much perfect) day.