The curse of lost sandals, a polizia scare and a lunch destroying wasp battle couldn’t even get near leaving a black mark against Oristano and it’s beaches – as Sardinia turned up the ante to convince us that it was worthy in the top 5 destinations to visit (coming soon on BrendonFry.com/traveltop5). After leaving the chilled atmosphere behind in Bosa, we took to a road that was going to cut us through the heart of Sardinia’s western ranges and eject us on the shores near the Sinis Peninsula.
Passing through a number of rural towns that looked pretty untouched, with the narrowest streets and the slowest of Italian lifestyles – places like Cuglieri, Seneghe, Narbolia. One of the places we stopped at was Santu Lussurgiu, an old town that was set into the side of a hill in a semi-cirle looking down onto the rural countryside below. It had some damn tight alleyways that all appeared to look the same, so finding your way around wasn’t the easiest – eventually we did make our way out though! The landscape went from mountain ranges, down through high country towns into rural lands:
Eventually we snaked our way out of the high country and landed out on coastal roads, although it took a bit of work as we managed to get ourselves stuck in the only traffic jam in Sardinia – a wedding party – all part of the experience I suppose. We made tracks for Capo Mannu, a beach on one of the western most tips of central Sardinia, laid out with white sands and blue water. The beach was pretty much deserted, so we found our spot laid out the Italian meats, cheeses, bread, olives and wine, and got stuck in. We needed to get to Oristano by 4pm, so passed up the opportunity to head up the cape at the southern end of the beach, well we thought we were passing it up. Turns out that Celina in her excitement to get sand of her feet, managed to leave her much loved leather sandals outside the car. Would have been manageable, but it wasn’t until unpacking in Oristano did she recall this and the post-sandal blues kicked in. It looked like the next day would be started with a trip back to Capo Mannu for a sandal hunt, but a good chance to hit the cape that we’d passed up earlier!
So we started off the next day on the road back to Capo Mannu, with high hopes of sandal glory, unfortunately someone else had decided those leather sandals looked quite nice and had taken them (could have been the nude German sunbathers)?! Cel was not so much in tears, but a close bond between sandal (bought in Florence on our last trip) and foot had been formed so the forced break-up was tough! Nonetheless, Capo Mannu beckoned and Cel threw on a pair of shoes and we ascended the cape for views of the bay and the gin clear water below
The rest of the day was spent hopping down the coast toward the tip of the Sinis Peninsula. The peninsula has a road running right the way down it with a heap of roads running of toward the coast where deserted beach await. Our top beach was what we named ‘Rice Beach’, the reason for the name was that the sand wasn’t actually sand, but rather tiny white pebbles that looked like Rice – well kind of. I took time there to put in a few lengths and try to work of the cheese, wine and pizza we’d been taking onboard for a few days straight! Lunch was another interesting experience, we’d decided on another remote beach to sit down and eat our lunch at, the only problem was that it wasn’t that remote for wasps…. So for about 30 mins we battled, waving towels, arms and jandals at the critters who just didn’t want to leave us or our food alone. There was a point when I ran for the ocean hoping they wouldn’t follow and they didn’t, but when we got back to the gear there were wasps everywhere and we needed to pack it all up. A flurry of jandal smashing set-in, with the death of about 10 wasps, a girlfriend up the beach already, I was left acting like a man with no control of his limbs arms flailing everywhere. Eventually I made it back to the car and the wasps did not follow, we threw the Alfa into first and ripped out of there laughing at the state we had put ourselves in!
Things calmed down and we arrived near the tip of the peninsula to check out Tharros – an ancient city that was founded in 8 BC by the Phoenicians and later by the Romans before being completely abandoned in the 10th Century. It was at this point that locals started to use the site for, building materials, unbelievable but I guess back in those days it was seen as a resource to be used. Now it is an outdoor museum, an is constantly being excavated to uncover more artifacts. We, rather culturally, walked through the ruins and decided they’d had a pretty sweet view looking out over both Oristano’s harbour and the Mediterranean
It was getting toward the end of the day, we’d been going strong for most of it, but there was one last spot I wanted to check out, San Salvatore – a tiny (and I mean tiny) village sitting between Tharros and Oristano. The village had been the set for Spaghetti Western films (western films that were mainly filmed by Italian directors). The place was basically set on a square grid, with houses all around the outside and in the middle were a block of houses and a chapel. The thing that made it such a strange place was that there was no one around in the houses of visiting. It had an eery feeling, with dust blowing in circles in the open courtyard and not much else moving. We did do our best to play the tourist card and get a couple of snaps
On the way back from San Salvatore we nearly had a run-in with the local Police! We came across them on one of the main highways back into town, they were randomly stopping cars (not quite sure what for) and I was a little nervous about driving on my NZ license – as I think you need an international license to drive in Italy. It came down to me and the car in front of me, my game plan was to look straight ahead and pretend I had not seen the officer…luckily he put his barrier out to pull in the car in front of me and I just kept my eyes forward, avoiding his gaze and playing the ‘I’m local’ card. Seemed to work and we didn’t get into trouble, I’d recommend getting an international drivers license though – just to save the anxiety at times like that!
Oristano itself was an awesome small city, the hub of central Sardinia and full with great restaurants, judging by the two that we went to. We stayed at B&B Eleonora which is bang in the centre of the city, facing out onto two piazza’s. One of the owners, Andrea, was a young guy who had been mentioned in the lonely planet and had contributed toward the content on Oristano – so we thought he’d be the man for a restaurant recommendation. He did not disappoint! We spent both nights in restaurants just outside the heart of the centre (10 mins walk away), Gino’s Trattoria and Cocco. We were lucky to get into Gino’s, it’s obviously a popular spot with locals, so we were stoked to pick up the last table and let Gino entertain us. An older Italian guy with real character as the front of house serviceman. We drank Terra Bianchi (an Alghero white) that was a top drop, in fact we went on to have it a few more times during the trip. My starter was the Mere Platter, Gino rolled over a trolley of starters and proceeded to dish out one of everything on my plate; it was obviously clear I had no idea what any of it was! It turned out to be fish 2 ways, squid, octopus, anchovies and fish pate (which was amazing). We both had a bowl of marinara, yep Cel still on the gluten binge and decided it was our best meal on the trip so far. The next night Cocco delivered on all fronts too, more seafood straight out of the Sardinian seas served up with cured meats, breads and of course Terra Bianche. Oristano had turned on the weather, the food and the sights. A perfect spot to stay to access the beaches and the peninsula but still be able to enjoy access to fresh Italian food in the city.