Evoke the best of Italy with a sophisticated trip to Sardinia
The Italian island of Sardinia promises a wealth of authentic vacation experiences, from exploring medieval villages and stunning beaches to enjoying world-class food and wine. | By Paul Oswell | June 2, 2022 (Updated March 6, 2023)
Sardinia is one of the most alluring Italian islands to explore. The Mediterranean Sea has shaped its beautiful natural coastlines, creating glimmering turquoise inlets, and evocative medieval villages pepper its interior. You can enjoy some of the finest Italian food and wine, as well as idyllic beaches. Activities range from browsing centuries-old handicrafts to lounging on a private catamaran as the sun sets. Add a few days in nearby Sicily and you have an irresistible Italian adventure in the making. Here are our suggestions to help you make your vacation memories in Sardinia:
Pasta paradise: Explore the area’s delectable culinary traditions, from its local pasta to the freshest seafood
Island adventure: The spectacular beaches are the perfect backdrop for horseback riding, sailing or simply laying out on the golden sands
High-end handicrafts: Sardinia has a long history of skilled tradespeople, from making stunning filigree jewelry to superb ceramics and all manner of woven goods
A feast for the senses
Classic Sardinian dishes are rooted in the island’s pastoral history, and they add a satisfying touch of rustic authenticity to great Italian food. Local specialties include spit-roasted pig (porceddu), tangy pecorino cheese, almond brittle (croccante alle mandorle) and of course, incredibly fresh seafood. As you might expect for an island with such a proud culinary tradition, there are a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants in Sardinia. The classic, traditional-looking dining room of Dal Corsaro, located portside in the capital Cagliari, has two tasting menus to suit your appetite and sense of adventure. Chef Stefano Deidda is famed for dishes such as roasted pork with Jerusalem artichoke. Meanwhile, ConFusion Boutique Restaurant in Porto Cervo has an enchanting, whimsical design and inventive seafood dishes such as king crab with pink grapefruit.
Every region of Italy has its own style of pasta, and in Sardinia it’s called fregula, prepared in a similar way to couscous. Try it in the plush, dark-wood dining room at Sa Cardiga e Su Schironi in Capoterra. Conrad Chia Laguna Sardinia has a wealth of options for top-notch gastronomic experiences within some eight dining options, all with memorable views across the stunning Chia coastline. Authentic Sardinian cuisine and wines await at the signature, trattoria-style restaurant Sa Mesa, with its delightful tree-lined setting. You can also savor the sensational seafood at Osteria La Torre, the modern Mediterranean menu of Il Ginepro, or a wood-fired pizza at Le Dune.
See the Sardinian sights
An evocative landscape that includes unforgettable coastline, dramatic canyons and lush forests makes Sardinia a delight to explore. One of the best ways to experience the island is to rent a private catamaran complete with captain and crew. Some parts of Sardinia are only accessible by boat or ferry, such as Asinara and the Maddalena Archipelago. You can sit back and bask in the sea air and coastal panoramas, stopping off at scenic highlights such as the white sands and azure waters of Cala Zafferano, the medieval city of Alghero or the ancient city of Nora — established in fourth century B.C. For an adventure in the hills and woodlands of the glorious interior, take a guided horseback trek and savor the tranquility as you ride along tree-lined trails or golden sand dunes. You can rest and take photos at sleepy fishing villages, the Romanesque churches of the Logudoro region or among the rock-cut tombs of the Montessu Necropolis.
And don’t forget to toast your journey along the way. Sardinia has a wealth of delicious wines, with eclectic local varietals such as Cannonau di Sardegna, Vermentino and Nuragus. Plan a private tour of one of the island’s prestigious wine estates such as the almost 100-year old winery of Argiolas or the vineyards of Pala, which is divided into eight different terroirs, in the rolling hills of Sardinia. One of the oldest on the island is the Sella & Mosca, founded over a century ago, and still producing exceptional wines to this day. Sardinia is probably most famous for its beaches, though, and at Conrad Chia Laguna Sardinia, you are enviably close to the wonderful golden sands of Monte Cogoni Beach — the hotel offers private shuttle services, beach cabanas and exclusive beach activities to its guests. Simply speak with your concierge to organize.
Discover local treasures
Sardinia’s rich culture includes a strong history of high-quality handicrafts. The island has a long tradition of producing sophisticated filigree jewelry, an elaborate process that involves intertwining fine threads of precious metals to create striking designs. Pieces sculpted from silver and gold adorn the displays of high-end jewelers, such as Loredana Mandas or Lady Gioielli, both in Cagliari.
Sardinian pottery is an equally beautiful ancient practice, with fluid shapes and natural tones that make for eye-catching gifts. Head to C.M.A. Ceramica Maestri d'Arte in Oristano, where some of the most exceptional and creative work, from vases to plates, is displayed and sold. With Conrad Chia Laguna Sardinia as your base for exploring, you’re well-placed for local shopping excursions. The neighboring village of Setti Ballas has cute gift stores with the region’s famed woven goods. Add to this list a couple of bottles of wine made from some of the world’s oldest varietals, and you can rest assured that you’ll return home with original souvenirs to evoke happy memories of your trip.
No matter what you decide to bring home, one thing is certain. Many Italian regions have a proud history and a wealth of cultural experiences, but Sardinia’s diverse bounty of attractions promise authentic, meaningful experiences to enrich your next summer adventure.
Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”