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Our Week in Sardinia: The Good and the Bad

We started our vacation by spending a week in Sardinia before heading to France. As an American traveling in Europe, Sardinia is an extremely unlikely destination – people generally want to see the major cities of continental Europe – but I was hell-bent on getting in some beach time so Sardinia it was!

Planning our time in Sardinia was much more difficult than any other region we visited during the three weeks. Halfway through the planning process, we finally invested in the Lonely Planet guidebook for the island and that really helped us through. I highly recommend getting a guidebook if you’re headed to Sardinia, or at least checking out our 7-day itinerary I wrote up here on the blog.

The Good

Everything was smeralda

Turquoise water at Spiaggia della Pelosa
The color of the water was unreal. This was shot at Spiaggia della Pelosa in the northwest of Sardinia

A huge highlight for me was experiencing the Sardinian beaches. If anyone writes an article about “the best beach in Sardinia” they’re just lying; all of the beaches are amazing. You really can’t go wrong.

And they don’t call the water “smeralda” for nothing. In the shallower depths (probably up to 30 feet), the Mediterranean was a perfect sparkling clear emerald.

I especially loved the day we rented and drove our private little dinghy boat down the Gulfo di Orosei. The idea is that you can stop by the beaches along the gulf at your own pace, bring a picnic, and drive the boat back to Cala Gonone by 5:30pm. While our day didn’t go exactly as planned (see below), I was still completely wowed by the beaches we did see.

We stopped at one with limestone caves that opened toward the sea. We ventured into one of the caves to explore briefly and saw little bats fluttering about, squeaking from their hidden crevice nests. And behind us? The cave opened to a beach and that sparkling turquoise water.

The trees that saw the world turn

At the olive trees at olivastri millenari in Sardinia

Another major, and unexpected, highlight for me was the day we saw the thousands-year-old olive trees.

Olivastri Millenari features a grove of olive trees, the oldest of which is estimated to be over 3,000 years old!

Gatien had read about this on some tiny corner page of the guidebook and, knowing my obsession with olives, made it one of our missions for the day. By the time we were on the road headed for the trees, it was later in the day and had cooled off outside. We drove with the windows down and things just felt right.

We were two of four or five people at the grove at any given time – especially since the site was actually closed at that hour and anyone who wanted in would have to jump the gate like we did. It was just so peaceful on that hillside, with the thousand-year-old bearers of my absolute *favorite* fruit.

The trees had little baby olives growing on them and spread their roots wide in twisting knots from their bases. They really felt like they had seen the world turn from their little perch on the hillside. They were spiritual, bigger than us, any of us. (Lol watch the trees be like 20 years old.)

The Sards

So as it turns out Sards are some of the nicest people in the world. From our Airbnb hosts who welcomed us late at night with drinks and chit chat (despite the language barrier); to the guy in the souvenir shop in Olbia who taught us about Sardinian products and gave us samples and a free package of Sardinian wafer bread; to our hotel’s owners in Cala Gonone who did everything they could to make our stay a dream.

 

The Bad

A nausea trifecta

Sick on our rented boat in Sardinia
Me struggling through my nausea at the start of our boat trip

So remember that amazing day we spent driving the boat from beach to beach on the Gulfo di Orosei? Well it did not begin well.

I woke up nauseous from my birth control pills, which sometimes happens on the first pill of the pack unfortunately. I thought I was in the clear after throwing up the second time in our hotel room, which was why I even attempted the whole boat trip at all. But after about 20 minutes on the water my nausea was back in full force. Now not only was I sick from the birth control but I was motion sick too.

I was prepared with motion sickness meds but had been waiting to get some food in my stomach post-vomiting to take them. Too late.

Then hypoglycemia hit, also making me nauseous. It was a nausea trifecta now. My hands were tingling.

I demanded that we stop for land, but we had been instructed not to drive the boat all the way to the shore, so we had to anchor far out and swim there.

This is when I started crying and losing my shit. I sat at the back of the boat with my feet in the water clutching a life vest and willing myself to get in and swim to land. I literally had no choice if I wanted to escape my prison the bobbing and lolling dinghy boat had become.

I made it to shore and collapsed directly into the sand. Then I managed to crawl into a shaded spot and wait for Gatien to follow with provisions.

Things started looking up once I was able to eat an apple which Gatien brought from the boat and get my blood sugar levels back up. Next was bread and olives and lots of water, and I was on my way to recovery. Gatien didn’t escape the incident unscathed: the stress put him in a terrible headspace (understandably. I was in such bad shape we were ready to ask the other beachgoers for help/a doctor) and he had his own hypoglycemia problem (neither of us had eaten breakfast) so really it was just a terrifically awful time at the beginning.

Mystery rash

Mystery rash in Sardinia

 

Gatien and I woke up one morning completely covered in tiny pink, painless bumps. They wrapped around our torsos and extended onto the insides of our arms. We suspected they might be heat rash, but we hadn’t been in the sun the day before and it seemed like too much of a coincidence to both get them at the same time. My personal theory is that the bumps were some sort of allergic reaction to the detergent our Airbnb host used, but not sure about that either. They stuck around for nearly TWO WEEKS. Mystery of mysteries.

Stalling a hundred times

While driving to McDonald’s in Nuoro, (it wouldn’t be a road trip without a McDonald’s stop), we stalled out in the middle of a busy, unmarked intersection. I covered my face with my hands and slipped down below window-view while other cars honked us and Gatien, our driver, calmly got us moving again. G always kept it together, especially given my apparent anxiety and comments on his driving stick now and then.

Not that G didn’t know how to drive manual – he did – but it’s freaking hard on narrow, steep roads and switchbacks. I estimate we stalled about 100 times over the course of the week. Of course Gatien disputes this number. He would estimate it was more like 5 times. Somewhere between 5 and 100 then.

YOU’RE HAVING PIZZA

Eating pizza in Alghero, Sardinia
Mozzarella di bufala pizza in Alghero

Starting out, I’ll say this: I probably eat pizza like once a year. It’s on my list of things I can tolerate but am not crazy about (along with pets and cold weather). So I wasn’t the most thrilled when all we could find to eat was PIZZA. You would think this must be Sardinia’s favorite food given how ubiquitous pizzerias were.

Gatien and I even went so far as to hunt down grocery store sushi (not an easy task it turns out!) just to get a taste of something different. Sardinia, I must recommend you diversify your budget restaurant offerings. That being said, the pizza with mozzarella di bufala cheese on top was really delicious– just not for every meal please!!


Because I don’t like ending on “the bad” note, I would like to conclude with this happy photo from one of our roadside picnic lunches. On the menu? Apricots and nectarines, and pecorino cheese on crusty bread.

Thank you, Sardinia, for the incredible holiday!!

Having a roadside picnic lunch while road tripping in Sardinia

Travel Notes & Beyond

43 comments

    • mishvo says:

      Yes for this reason I try to always bring snacks in my bag! I was super grateful for the food too – definitely wouldn’t have made it without it. Glad to have contributed to your bucket list. You’ll love it.

  1. Joanna says:

    I remember when I had to turn the boat around on a snorkeling trip because of I got sea sick. I also collapsed on the beach as soon as I swam to the shore, but luckily it wasn’t only me but one other also. And when the other people returned, a few hours later, a few others were sick. I guess you can never know when it hits you. That’s odd you only found pizza in Sardinia. Italian food is amazing, especially in the South and they have a lot of pastas and fish dishes.

    • mishvo says:

      I think Sardinian food is quite different from mainland Italian food – it’s very rich and hearty, lots of meat like roast pig. I think the reason why we encountered so much pizza was because we were looking for more budget friendly meal options :/

  2. Christina says:

    It’s nice to read about lesser known places in Europe. Kudos for driving around in a manual as well! Sardinia looks wonderful. I hope to see those beautiful blue waters for myself some day.

  3. Anisa says:

    Sardinia is on my list. I wanted to go last time I was in Italy but didn’t have time.

    Sorry you felt nauseous, glad you didn’t let it ruin your time there.

    • mishvo says:

      I hadn’t really heard much about it either! Definitely under the radar as far as European holiday destinations go.

  4. Lolo says:

    What beautiful crystal blue water!! Too bad you weren’t feeling so well! Hope you still got to enjoy the ride! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  5. Tae says:

    I love ups and downs posts – they’re some of my favorite to read. Nausea is not fun! I feel you there, same with rashes! Overall it looks like an incredible place 🙂 … despite the plethora of pizzerias!

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Tae! Thank you! I always wonder if anyone is into the good/the bad posts because I’ve done three now so good to have your feedback.

  6. Vyjay says:

    Nice and interesting posts and a candid one at that. Loved the emerald sea beaches of Sardinia, was with you as you battled nausea on the boat and cheered up after you fortified yourself with some food.

  7. What a blue tone! Is it azure? The seas in the Mediterranean sure have a blue colour that is unlike the other seas’ colors. This is the defining character of Sardinia.
    On another note, the 3000 year old tree must be witness to so many events of the past- Napolean, Julius Caesar, the Popes etc. wow

  8. kim says:

    My husband and I visited Sardinia 2 yrs ago to meet his family. Going back again in 2017, after visiting family we are wanting to travel around and experience all..Was the most amazing experience, the people, churches and beaches were amazing in the short time we were there. Thankyou, your blog is very helpful for 2017..

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Kim, glad you found it helpful! How luck you are to get not just one but two trips to Sardinia – I’m very jealous. Have a great trip!

  9. The good is very good, and I am sorry that you were so ill when it was bad, and like you, only being able to choose pizza when you go out is a bit limiting and a shame, as Sardinia has so much lovely food and local produced to showcase.

  10. I’ve been to Sardinia a while back, and off season, but loved every minute of it. We did however spend our writing retreat at this cool remote inn with donkeys 😀 And to be honest, I’ve only had pizza once while on vacation there. Cappuccino and hot chocolate though? I couldn’t get enough of those! Either way, the sun was harsh even in early May, so the rash might be because of it?

  11. Ami says:

    3000 year old trees!!! Wow. Now that is nature heritage. And the water is just amazing. So sorry that you felt unwell but glad that you have some lovely memories.

  12. Epepa says:

    We still haven’t decided where we want to spend our honeymoon and after watching your photos from Sardinia I think it could be a place for us… It’s a little bit off the beaten path and it’s an advantage itself but the thing that amazed me most was the water at Spiaggia della Pelosa. I want to go there!

    • mishvo says:

      Absolutely – being a bit off the beaten path was appealing for us too. I think it would be an excellent place for a honeymoon. Pelosa is stunning – check it out when you go!

  13. Blair Villanueva says:

    I guess I need to bathe with sunscreen lotion with this kind of heat! and kudos for your photos, it was indeed an adventures with real emotions.

  14. Suanlee says:

    Glad that the rash disappeared – although two weeks is ages! I probably would have freaked out majorly. Either way, Sardinia looks so beautiful. The nature lover in me is super happy about the ancient olive trees, they’re so strong and gorgeous. Would not mind one in my backyard I could sit under to read books. Glad you had fun!

    • mishvo says:

      I was a bit freaked out about the rash but thankfully it wasn’t itchy or painful so I was able to ignore it more or less by the end. I agree about those trees!

  15. This unfortunately sounds like something that would happen on one of my vacations. There is always that hiccup in the middle; its a funny-ish story afterwards but nearly kills the mood during the vacation. Hopefully all you came home with was happy memories

  16. Komang Ayu says:

    very nice trip. I saw a beautiful scenery there. but maybe you feel tired because of nausea and vomiting when on a boat.

  17. Now this post is what I’m looking for! So many posts about places usually focuses on the good and seldom do one read anything bad the place. This one I find refreshing so kudos to you for including some of the bad things you’ve encountered while in Sardinia.

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