One of Italy’s 20 regions and the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia offers something for everyone. Apart from an intriguing history and incredible nature that includes both mountains, beaches and forests, the island is often described as a micro-continent. Sardinia is both ‘la dolce vita’ and a tribute to many other cultures in one, and that’s essentially what makes it so alluring. In this article, we’ll take a look at the destination, what you can expect as a traveller – and why the food here is absolutely irresistible.
“Life in Sardinia is probably the best a man can wish: twenty-four-thousands kilometers of forests, countryside, shores immersed in a miraculous sea, this corresponds to what I would suggest God to give us as Paradise”Fabrizio de André
Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus. These are the 3 largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, but that’s basically all they have in common. If you’re a sun worshipper, but staying on the beach all day won’t cut it for you, I’d say Sardinia is your perfect holiday destination! Its ecosystem ensures a vast array of different nature experiences, which means you can enjoy a hike in the mountains, a dip in the ocean and a walk in the lush forest on the same day! Perhaps that’s why many writers have sought exile here through the ages. Nature here is simply inspiring.
On the other hand, if you’re a foodie and wouldn’t mind traveling far and wide to sink your teeth into amazing delicacies, Sardinia also has a lot to offer. Its food culture goes way back, and fish and seafood obviously plays an important role in the Sardinian kitchen. The local markets are full of stalls selling vegetables, local bread (Sardinian bread is made dry, which keeps longer than high-moisture breads), traditional cheeses, local wines and homemade liquors. Fun fact: Sardinia has the highest consumption per capita of beer in all of Italy! That means you won’t get far here without having a taste of the local beer.
One of the most famous delicacies here is called Pane Carasau – a Sardinian version of flat bread. It’s incredible crunchy and delicious, but it isn’t easy to make. The bread is always made by hand (the more you work the dough, the more flavorful it becomes), and the process originally needed three women to do the job! Another traditional eating is the coccoi pintau, which is a decorative bread made with flour and water only. Back in the days, the herders used to eat it, but ever since it has been adopted by other locals as well, who enjoy eating it with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil and strong cheese. A definite must-try when in Sardinia!
Sardinian food isn’t complicated to re-create at home, and I’d say it’s probably the fastest and easiest way to get a bit of holiday feeling at home. If you’d like to give it a go, I can recommend the book Gino’s Islands in the Sun – a cook book representing 100 recipes from Sardinia and Sicily to try at home. The book itself is a real visual pleasure that will transport you directly to the sunny Mediterranean within seconds – and the recipes are super easy to follow! You can buy Gino’s bestsellers through the The Works, which also sells lots of other interesting (cook) books”.
Below, I’m showing you three of my own personal recipes from the cook book.
Courgette Fritters with Pecorino
A delicious and easy everyday snack to be enjoyed alone or as a side dish. You need:
- 3 medium courgettes
- 1,5 teaspoons salt (plus extra for seasoning)
- 140g plain flour
- 1 medium egg
- 60ml chilled sparkling water
- 70g freshly grated pecorino sardo cheese
- Half a teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, shredded
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Ca. 1 liter vegetable oil for deep frying
SAFFRON & POTATO DOUGHNUTS WITH VODKA & ORANGE
A delicious recipe with potatoes – and vodka! Also known as frisciolas, these little doughnuts are always enjoyed at the Carnival celebrations in Sardinia. You need:
- 1 main crop potato, scrubbed
- 130 ml full fat milk
- Pinch saffron threads
- 18g dried yeast
- 250g sugar
- 450g plain white flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 unwaxed oranges, grated zest and juice
- 1 medium egg
- 50ml vodka
- 1 litre vegetable oil for frying, plus extra for greasing
Warm beef salad with artichokes, chili and walnuts
Sardinia is famous for its beef, which by many is considered to be the finest in Italy. Serve this dish with traditional Sardinian flatbread.
- 400g fillet of beef (room temperature)
- 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 280g chargrilled artichoke hearts in oil, drained and quartered
- 1 fresh medium-hot red chili, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons balsamic glaze
- 100g crispy mixed salad leaves
- 80g walnut halves, roughly chopped
- Salt (for tasting)
5 facts about Sardinia
- The Nuraghes
In Sardinia, you’ll find a large tower-shaped stone structure dating back to 1800 BC. It’s called The Nuraghes, and it can only be found in Sardinia and nowhere else on the planet. Studies of the ancient Nuragic population who once lived here, suggest that Atlantis (the famous mythical island) had its origin here. Some believe the two are connected. No matter what, the Nuraghes is worth taking a closer look at!
- Sardinian people live longer
Why do some countries in the world have longer living populations than other? Scientists who have studied the Sardinian people seem to agree that it’s a mix of the local diet and lifestyle. According to studies, there are more than 300 men and women over the age of 100 in Sardinia!
Sardinia is home to what was once the smallest kingdom in the world, Tavolara. The tiny island off the coast of Olbia had a self-proclaimed king who, apparently, lived in peace with the King of Sardinia. His name was Giuseppe Berteleoni, and alongside his family and goats, he was the only inhabitant of Tavolara. Today, the island can still be visited by boat.
- Sardinian canyons
Su Goruppo, one of the deepest canyons of Europe, can be found in Sardinia. It’s more than 500 meters high and, in some places, only 4 meters wide. Parts of the canyon never get any sunlight making it ideal for endemic species to develop. For example, it’s home to a very rare kind of a salamander.
- The Asinara Islands
Also known by the name of ‘the Sardinian Alcatraz’, the Asinara Island is another tiny island off the coast of Sicily. Where there was once a high-security prison, albino donkeys now graze. Some believe these donkeys were imported from Egypt while others think they stranded here after surviving a ship’s wreak.
Have you ever been to Sardinia? What was your experience? Share with me in the comments.