I have been on several hikes lately. I am not new to this – I have always enjoyed walking in the open air, puffing along steep trails. But since I have been back from my latest trip I have felt compelled to hike, in an attempt to still get the feeling of being a world apart and to still find the adrenaline I get while traveling and discovering new places. Since Sardinia is a land of infinite marvels, I have concluded that I may as well put together my passion for hiking, nature, archeology and the ocean in order to unveil its many secrets, and to continue my battle for the promotion of tourism all year long and not just in the summer months.
There is a common misconception that Sardinia is best visited during summer months. The island is considered the perfect summer escape due to its amazing beaches and its clear waters. Tourism boars and local businesses alike do very little to promote tourism in the region outside of the summer months. Indeed, lots of businesses aim to get fully booked during those months in order to cash in for the rest of the year.
I wonder why. Sardinia is gorgeous throughout the year and I – and the rest of the people who live here – know that it has much more to offer besides its amazing beaches which, granted, are the most beautiful in the world.
I was born and raised in Sardinia and I have spent here most of my life. I am proud of my origins and I feel a special connection to this land which few outside of Sardinia are able to fully grasp. To me, Sardinia is the island of wonders. Since I love my land, I never tire of repeating that Sardinia deserves to be visited all year long – even in February.
I have started campaigning in favor of low and shoulder season tourism in Sardinia last September, after attending “Autunno in Barbagia” in the lovely village of Oliena. This is a festival that involves 29 villages during the course of three months, between September and December. It is a celebration of the culture, tradition and food of Sardinia. Already in September I said that the beauty of Sardinia goes well beyond its amazing beaches and that the island has all that it takes to keep its visitors busy and entertained all year long.
Sardinia never ceases to amaze me with its hidden treasures. Every so often I find out that there is a festival I had not heard about before; a jazz concert that happens at sunrise at a hidden beach; a winery producing a delicious wine; an archeological site hidden in the forest, within the mountains or behind a beach. What about Sant’Efisio parade in May, with the gorgeous traditional costumes from all over Sardinia? What about Sartiglia in February, with the adrenaline filled horse race?
And of course, there are the incredible hiking trails. Picking a good trail isn’t an easy task here. There are so many – along the coast, through the mountains, in the canyons, some of them including a visit to an archeological site and all of them equally amazing. After all, it is quite obvious that nature rules in an island where population is sparse. It mustn’t surprise that large portions of Sardinia are uninhabited, to the point that during a hike one would only meet a few persons and at most numerous sheep and goats left free to roam, just like the ones I met during my hike from Masua Pan di Zucchero to Cala Domestica, in the wild Sulcis Iglesiente coast.
I had never gone on this trail before. I didn’t know what to expect, aside from the fact that it would be a difficult hike as the guides had suggested. For the duration of the hike – 11 kilometres along the coast, up and down very steep hills – we walked along the coast. The guides were right in saying it was a strenuous hike and not a leisurely walk at the beach. After all, this isn’t the season to swim yet. The trail was challenging, and we often had to walk on a very narrow space – mountain on our right side and cliffs on our left side. We also walked right inside bushes of the most scented Mediterranean vegetation.
The views compensated the hardship of the walk: at each turn, the blue waters of the Mediterranean laid in front of us, the stacks dotting and Pan di Zucchero towering above all.
Once we arrived at the gorgeous Cala Domestica, exhausted and looking forward to relax on the beach before heading back to town, the guide suggested we did one last effort to hike up the hill, visit the Spanish tower and enjoy the view from up there. He said it was spectacular.
I was incredibly tired by then, but decided to follow the guide. I love archeological sites, especially the ones located in unique places such as this one. All I can say is that the guide was not exaggerating. The Spanish tower is a real treasure. It stands alone, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rocks and the short bushes in an area that is regularly swept by strong winds. Built during the Spanish rule, the tower was used to control and protect the small Cala Domestica below, as this was used as a harbor for the shipment of the minerals extracted inland. During World War II, the tower was used as an observation point – the metal ladder that is still visible was used to climb inside back then.
The view from top of the hill is marvelous to say the least. The blue waters enter the tiny cove of Cala Domestica and fade to become a transparent blue-green color. Below, the fine white sand shapes the dunes. There still are the ruins of a warehouse and of the rails used by trains transporting the minerals to Cala Domestica.
On the way back to town, I couldn’t help but think that Masua Pan di Zucchero, Cala Domestica, the Spanish Tower and the Mining Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) are only but a few of the many places that can be enjoyed in Sardinia throughout the year. The incredible hiking trail is once again the proof that Sardinia has a lot to offer to anybody who loves nature, archeology, the sea and more – whichever the season.
Are you still convinced that Sardinia should only be visited in the summer?