The following is a guest post from Silvia Pe, a native of the Italian island of Sardinia. Since my love for Italy is no secret, and because I haven’t been to Sardinia (yet), I invited Silvia to tell us about her magical, beautiful homeland.
Let me introduce to you my Bella Sardegna…
Sardinia is an island in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, the shape of which seems to look like a huge human foot. It also is one of the most ancient lands in Europe. Miles and miles away, someone is still asking where Sardinia is exactly and if it’s part of Italy… It is hilarious for the Sardinians who consider Sardinia (and themselves) the “least Italian” among all the Italian regions.
The geographical position of Sardinia has, in fact, allowed for the development of indigenous and secular plants and unique animal species (as in the Giara Plateau horse or the small, white Asinara donkey); as well as the longevity of its linguistic peculiarities, wild landscapes and ancient traditions, which have remained intact over the centuries. Sardinia is an ancient island full of mystery and legends where people are proud of their traditions and beaches, and they sometimes speak in a strange and almost unknown language (Sardinian Language).
Aside from the history, there is plenty to keep your children happy while on holiday in Sardinia! Here is a list of 10 things to do in Sardinia that will delight your little ones.
1. Run and roll through the highest sand dunes in Europe. Oh yes! Europe’s highest sand dunes are in Sardinia, in the Piscinas-Arbus area (central-western part of Sardinia). The dunes are up to 50 meters high and are constantly moving and being reshaped by the mistral wind. Children (as well as adults) love climbing up, running and rolling down, enjoying the sight and the smell of the blue sea from one side and the wild vegetation from the other.
2. Looking for the elixir of life in the wilds of Ogliastra. There are a particularly high number of centenarians in Sardinia; there are 22 people over 100 years old for each 100,000 of the populace. Ogliastra (east coast) is the area with the highest concentration of centenarians (about 40 in the whole province). The locals say that somewhere in Ogliastra there is a special enchanted place and anyone who walks over it at a precise time of year will have a long life. Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly where it is. Maybe it is just an old folk tale, but it is fun to encourage your children to find this magic spot while enjoying a walking excursion in Ogliastra.
3. Climb up to the roof of Elephant Tower. Erected in the early 14th century, the Elephant Tower was part of the defensive walls enclosing Cagliari, the capital city of Sardinia. On the southern wall of the tower, the statue of an elephant is still visible, hence the name. From the outside, the tower might not be all that exciting, but the view of the city and sea from the roof is spectacular – you can see for miles!
4. Decide if you prefer an ice cream or a seadas. Just like in the rest of Italy, there are many delicious artisanal ice cream shops in Sardinia. Nevertheless, one of the most striking examples of Sardinian cuisine is the Sebadas or Seadas dessert: honey brushed fried pastry available all year round. If your child (and you) are brave enough, try a fried seada and discover the soft pecorino cheese in the center when pierced with a fork. It will make for a delicious and different experience!
5. Take the little green train. The little green train (Trenino Verde in Italian) consists of two old style diesel locomotives which run on the Arbatax-Mandas line. The line was built in the late 1800s; it is 159 km long (the longest tourist railway in Italy). It starts at Mandas in central Sardinia and arrives at Arbatax in the Ogliastra area of eastern Sardinia. Whilst being a little slow and not particularly comfortable, children find the little green train fascinating and love that it snakes into the woods and hidden valleys of Sardinia.
6. Take a selfie with the huge Bear’s rock. Just a few minutes from Palau, located in the north-east of Sardinia, you can “meet” with the famous Sardinian bear, the most impressive ancient granite rock outcrop of the Island, 122 meters high! It is the result of a unique stretch of coastline, artistically shaped by the elements for more than 300 million years. The rock has finally assumed the outline of a bear intent on keeping guard over the strait of sea between the shore of Palau and the Island of La Maddalena. The “Bear” has been identified as one of the essential points of ancient navigation in the Mediterranean and offers quite an impressive view at the top.
7. Visit all the Island in an hour: Sardinia miniature. Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and it is not possible to see it all in one day, let alone in one hour! However, a very interesting and fun way to get an overview of the whole Island in a short time is to visit the open air museum, “Sardegna in miniatura”, located in the little village of Tuili (Medio Campidano Province). The miniature reproduction features the main sightseeing attractions on the island of Sardinia in just 360 meters: walking through the countryside, you can see copies of the most important monuments and destinations, built on a small scale and in extraordinary detail.
8. Dance the Ballu Tundu. The folk dance, as well as the typical music, has been an integral part of Sardinian culture for centuries. The “Ballu Tundu”, or the Round Dance, is surely the most ancient collective dance: six or more couples stand side by side in open circle formation, but also in an open circle or spiral. It is very difficult to describe in words the single steps, but a few notes of the right folk music is all a child needs to get up and dance, reproducing the Ballu Tundu.
9. Have fun with slides and spins at the Aquadream. Even though the Aquadream is a huge water playground, it is not the biggest one in Sardinia. It is placed in the small town of Baja Sardinia, a renewed family holiday destination at the gate of the Emerald Coast. This water park is the ideal place where you can relax in the large whirlpool and play mini-golf, while your children can play safely in the “baby lagoon”, a castle with fountains, slides and other water games.
10. Ride a Giara plateau horse. In the Italian language, these unique horses are called “cavallini della Giara”. There are only 700 exemplars of them and almost all live in this wild and beautiful plateau in Gesturi. The Giara has been dubbed “Island within the Island” for its unique morphological characteristics, flora and fauna, making it a magical place. The “stars” of this place certainly are the dark brown horses; they are small, about 120 cm. Along the perimeter of the plateau you can also visit the remains of 23 Nuraghi (the main type of ancient megalithic edifice found in Sardinia), while nearby there is Sa Corona Arrubia Museum where kids can have fun and learn by visiting the fauna, botanic, geology and anthropology rooms.
Silvia Pe BIO
Born in 1982, the boundaries of her island Sardinia sometimes feel a little too tight, making her travel all across Europe; nonetheless, she graduated with Honors and she came home. Silvia speaks English and Spanish, yet no language as good as her mother tongue Italian. Compulsive reader, sea-dependent and a geek inside; lover of caps and hats, as if they were a way to keep your thoughts, ideas and dreams warm. In 2010 she found the job of her life, working on the web and within the Italian world of travel for CharmingItaly.com.