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Costa Paradiso, Sassari Province, Island of Sardinia, Italy, Mediterranean
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Exploring the hidden gems of Sardinia
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Exploring the hidden gems of Sardinia    by Steve Veale

 Sardinia Featured Hotels

CAGLIARI, Sardinia --- No vacation to Italy would be complete without seeing the amazing sights of ancient Rome, artistic Florence, romantic Tuscany or the watery Venice.

But what about the picturesque harbour of Cagliari? The sandy dunes of Piscinas beach? The 12th Century city of Alghero?

These are not yet 'household' names for an Italian vacation but that should soon change when Sardinia to those with a quest for fun, fascination and, of course, the flavours of truly unique Italian cuisine.
"Sardinia remains the great undiscovered gem of an Italian vacation, " according to Flavia Jaber, VP of Production Development and Operations. "So many of our clients have asked us for 'more, more, more' of Italy and we have responded by introducing the wonders of Sardinia to our friends who love to travel."

Sardinia is a mere 200 KM from the coastal city of Roma, 300 KM from Napoli - so close, yet seemingly so far away from the tourist sites of the mainland. (Note: You can take a one-hour flight but many opt for the leisurely, overnight 16-hour car ferry across the Tyrrhenian Sea from Naples).

This historic island is approximately 250 KM long and about 125 Km wide (at its maximum point from Porto Torres to Capo Comino). 

Cala Mariolu, Cala Gonone, Golfe Di Orosei (Orosei Gulf), Island of Sardinia, Italy
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So of course you could drive around the island in one long day - but why would you want to?

This is a slow-paced island with scenic coastal roads, deserted coves of white sand beaches and crystal clear water, magnificent and ancient sun-bleaches rock formations created through years of wind and rain. In other words (in any words!) Sardinia is an island that entices the visitor to explore its roots in a relaxed and leisurely fashion. It is mainly Europeans who have discovered this island - English, French and German tourists use the north coast (Costa Smeralda) as their personal playground of beaches, boats, swimming, scuba diving and the occasional au natural sunny coves for all-over sun tanning.
Bay of the Angels, Island of Sardinia, Italy, Mediterranean
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This is an area of rugged rocky beauty, private sandy coves, azure blue waters as well as man-made amenities such as fishing harbours and yachts marinas, residential villas and luxury hotels, seaside tavernas and five-star dining.

It is the spectacular scenery - especially at Capo d'Orso and Capo Testa - that has enticed the tourists to the Costa Smeralda with its luxury resorts and tourist amenities. Most of the island, however, remains almost oblivious to the tourists of the north. Mario Delitala, tour guide extraordinaire and Road to Italy's dedicated representative in Sardinia, is readily available to supply advice on where to eat and suggestions about what to see. (Road to Italy, though based in Toronto, has a dozen employees connected with its Rome office. In other words, when you leave Toronto, they are sending you to the care of their staff in Italy.)

Mario will also offer suggestions on where to buy your "must have" souvenirs from any visit to his island. "The islanders are known for fine handcrafted items, such as lace-making (especially in the tiny towns of Oliena or Bosa) and you can find special woven rugs and tapestries of colourful, floral patterns. (The Sardinian pibbiones rugs are created by embroidering raised patterns on classic beige fabric.)

As for food, well, this is Italy so eat anything. Eat everything. You will discovery both sweet and savoury dishes that are unique to this island paradise, not found on the mainland.
Of course, fish must be the most popular dish, right?  Nope. The traditional feast for special dinners and celebrations is Porceddu - suckling pig roasted over an open fire -served on traditional cork plates with myrtle leaves with plenty of thin, crisp Carasau bread. Of course everyday culinary fare includes mounds of pasta dishes such as Pane Frattau, a mixture of breads, percorino cheese, tomato sauce and eggs; Malloreddus - gnocchi with minced sausage, tomato sauce with a hint of saffron and the hearty Zuppa gallurese - a mixture of wheat bread, grated perconino cheese and slowly baked in wood-burning oven. Seafood lovers need not worry - visitors can also order the zesty Catalan lobster, an antipasti combination of buccinis and arselle (mollusks and clam) and Burrida, the island specialty of cooked fish marinated for a day in garlic, parsley, bazelnuts and vinegar.
Castelsardo, Sassari Province, Island of Sardinia, Italy, Mediterranean
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The history of Sardinia coexists with the present in the form of some 7,000 round stone dwellings (nuraghi) scattered throughout the island - a constant reminder of the Bronze Age (4000 to 2000 BC) warriors and shepherds who populated this land. These megalithic ruins, especially the ones in the Su Nuraxi settlement at Barumini, are often in a perfectly preserved state.

Sardinia is the perfect addition for those who have been to Italy once, twice, or many times - it is Italy, but different. The island Italians, separated from their cousins by the sea, have maintained their traditional styles of culture and cuisine, fishing and sheep-herding, hospitality and charm.

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About the Author - Steve Veal is a professional travel writer currently living in Toronto, Canada.


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