We said good-bye to the silky pebbles of Is Arutas and headed inland for something a little cultural. Sardinia, like many other countries, feels quite different by the coast, and inland. The towns feel quieter, and more economically depressed. The roads became smaller, and the farms became larger, with giant wheat farms glowing golden in the late evening sunshine.
Nuraghi di Barumini – Su Nuraxi
We learned that it was OK to park overnight at the car park for this UNESCO listed site, so we thought we’d get there tonight, and visit fresh in the morning. It was indeed tolerated to park overnight in the car park, but rather than wait for the morning, we decided to have a little wander around and peek at it tonight. The timing couldn’t have been better, with the sun just beginning to set, setting the sky a vivid shade of pink and orange. We sat under an olive grove, and enjoyed the view all by ourselves – which is a rare treat outside of Sardinia.
Of course, the drone made another appearance, and I was blown away with the footage. From the sky, we could clearly see the extent of the sprawl of these ruins.
The warren-like maze of ancient houses and fortifications at Sardinia’s sole UNESCO site, Nuraghe di Barumini. It was good to walk into the main tower, but the best view of this metropolis was from above. These bronze age people and most of their culture have been erased, apart from these small fortifications spread around the island – this is the largest example. #drone #aerialphotography #djimavic #dji #sardinia #sardegna #unesco #barumini #NuraghediBarumini #Nuraghe #ancientculture #extinct #bronzeage #ruins #sunuraxi
The plan was to get an early start and beat the crowds. We seem to be getting slower to rise every day, so, as could be predicted, we did not get an early start, and we did not beat the crowds.
We also learnt that access to the ruins was only on a guided tour, and these tours left every thirty minutes. We missed one by a few minutes, and were forced to wait another thirty for the next. In the mean time, two large bus loads of tourists arrived, meaning we’d be joining the tour with them. Further frustrating us, the tour that we departed with was only in Italian, making the tour absolutely pointless – I had Google Translate translating what the guide was saying into English for us to try and gain some understanding of the history and significance of the things we were seeing.
We overhead another tour being given in English, so we asked to join. It was an elderly group from Israel, who were bombarding the young female guide with tough questions, and generally interrupting her flow. We were now able to understand what she was saying – which wasn’t far from our guesses at the Italian, assisted by Google – but we were a part of a tour group that was even slower than usual.
These ruins are special, as they are the largest collection in Sardinia, forming a small city. We’ve seen quite a few solitary towers, or the horse-shoe shaped stone circles that were the lower sections of houses, but there were hundreds (actually hundreds) of these lower walls of houses here – the wooden rooves haven’t survived the millennia of weathering. It wasn’t just houses, but the buildings served other various purposes, which we now understood.
And then we climbed up into the main defensive towers! The external stairs were new, and simple to climb. The internal stairs were steep, small and the definition of perilous – not the thing you’d usually take mobility challenged elderly people on. But, there were no injuries, just plenty of time to enjoy the ruins while the group descended.
The main, central tower was flanked by four external towers, which were surrounded by a defensive wall. There were layers and layers of defence here. Even inside the towers, there were further chambers only accessible from inside. It must have been violent times that forced the creation of such protection.
The tour was informative, and it was great to be able to access the internals of the main tower. We’d felt the need to do more cultural activities here, instead of just admiring the beauty of the coastline. With that said, we concluded the tour, and took of for Costa Verde (Green Coast), to admire the beauty of the coastline.
Ingurtosu Mining Park
On the way to Spiaggia di Piscinas in Costa Verde, we passed by what looked like a ghost town – and a proper ghost town, with dilapidated houses, strung along hairpin bends. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be noteworthy, except for the sprawling Brassey Lavery. Now, I don’t really know what a lavery is, but I do know that it washed and processed a blend of minerals containing Zinc, Cadmium, Gallium and Indium. Incredibly, it was in use until the 70s, when it underwent demolition.
There was a fence that surrounded the ruins, with a sign in Italian that I could only guess said ‘no entry’, but there was a large open gate, so we waltzed in for a closer look – keeping in mind we were walking on potentially unstable and unsafe ground. This was our second set of ruins today, some 3500 years separating the two. While there was little culture in these ruins, they captivated us, almost as much as the Nuraghe city in Barumini. Having the freedom to walk around was fantastic – even if it was likely trespassing…
We heard that this part of Sardinia is considered some of the wildest, and most pure sections of coastline, with long windswept beaches. Judging by the 7km unsealed road, complete with (albeit small) corrugations, it seems that Spiaggia di Piscinas is off the beaten track.
The road was quite sandy, and we were a little concerned about returning up some of the loose sandy hills. Soon, we were completely surrounded by sand, with large dunes either side of the narrow sandy road. The dunes subsided, and in its place was an enormous car park, with a surprising number of cars – almost none were 4WD, and many were sports bikes.
There were two competing bars set up on the beach, renting umbrellas and selling drinks. We strutted past with our (un-inflated) airbeds under our arms.
The beach was unquestionably sandy, and even with other tourists and all the umbrellas, it still had an air of wilderness about it. But, a luxury beach, with golden sand it was not. There were patches of nicer sand, but it was still quite coarse, and still quite dirty/dark. Then there were layers of larger rocks/shells/weeds, making a closer inspection seem even less attractive. The water was refreshing, but after having been utterly spoilt at our last two beaches on the east coast, the water here seemed positively murky. We still went for a swim, and had a fantastic time, alternating between cooling off in the waters, and warming up on the beach.
There was certainly plenty of sand, stretching far into the hills behind the beach, however, it just didn’t make for a memorable beach for us. We’ve tasted premium, and don’t want to go back to generic.
Keeping the beach theme rolling, our last stop in Sardinia before the ferry was to some of the beaches on Costa del Sud (South Coast). Getting there from Costa Verde was a little time consuming, but intensely panoramic. The drive had us surrounded by lush green mountains, deep valleys, and the frequent ruins of other mining establishments. It eventually popped out on the southern coast, where there were yet more plunging cliffs, long stretches of beach, and beautiful calm waters. And the shells of old mining infrastructure.
We had a rough plan of where we wanted to stay for the evening, but we kept getting distracted by the views, stopping to take photos at every new aspect. We chanced upon a nice looking car park, which was flat and devoid of any ‘no motorhome/camping’ etc signs, so we parked up for the night. We had luxury views from the comfort of our small lounge room, enjoying yet another Spectacular Sardinian Sunset®.
We even caught the first slither of the new moon, itself not far from the burning amber horizon. It’s one of the things I love about travelling, having the time to notice the moon ebb and flow.
Costa del Sud
The rough plan for the day was to follow the panoramic SP71 along the southern shores of Sardinia. There were a few false starts, with it appearing to build up to a dramatic view, only to be hidden around a bend, but eventually we were right on the water’s edge, and following some stunning secluded coves.
It was a Sunday, and it was sunny. We weren’t alone in thinking that today was a great day to visit the beach. We were especially noticing it today, as it’s only a short drive from the capital city of Cagliari. But, there was plenty of space on the beach for us all to share – the parking was a little more limited, and I could only imagine the headaches and heated arguments in July and August.
Spiaggia Di Piscinnì
We chose to stop for a swim roughly half-way around the coastline. From the road, it looked a stunning cove, backed with bright sands, and clear blue waters. Getting closer, we realised that the coast was quite deep in seaweed, and the waters were clogged with seaweed, too. We stepped our way along the beach, sinking deep into the organic matter, which in some places was like thick rotten mud – that’s what that dark line is around the water’s edge. We came so close to just turning around and heading back to the car, but we kept walking curious to see what was around the corner.
As you can see, what we found around that corner was a beautiful rocky cove. There was barely a ripple on the water, and with the lack of sand and weed, the water was indeed like a piscina (swimming pool). The waters were still cold, but the day was even hotter, making the laze/bake and dip/chill cycle all the more enjoyable – even with my pale Paracetamol-white skin.
We lapped it up for as long as we could, but we knew that we still had to drive to Cagliari, and board the ferry back to mainland Italy.
We passed by more and more beaches, and the developments were getting larger and busier – though, the beaches weren’t getting any prettier.
We risked a traffic incident to pull over to take photos of the wild flamingos feeding in the shallow pools. I’m always slightly disappointed when I see wild flamingos, and they aren’t bright pink. That is, until they fly, and the vivid patches of pink under their wings stand out with an incredible intensity. I really miss my 200mm lens, too – which I left behind in Australia.
The capital and largest city in Sardinia. We parked at the port, couldn’t understand how to pay for parking, and noticed that no other cars seemed to have worked it out either – well, at least they didn’t have a coupon/ticket/thing.
We were hungry, and hadn’t yet eaten any seafood pasta (from a restaurant) in Sardinia. It was late in the afternoon, well after the usual time to eat lunch, but the streets in the lower part of town were busy with restaurants serving tourists. We sat down at Mare e Terre and ordered a seafood feast, including squid ink and sea bass pasta, clams and fish eggs, and a fruiti misto (fried seafood) that makes the one we had in Cinque Terre look like terrible festival food. I’m not a fan of seafood, but this was incredible.
Again, we suffered for our gluttony as we walked up hills in 30-degree heat. Yes, it’s not that hot, but we’re tourists, and I’m not acclimatised to sweating. The views from high up on the citadel were fantastic, and we saw the large Elephant Tower that matched the on in Bosa. We just didn’t have any direction to our wandering, which is relaxing, but it probably means we missed some of the key sights. It was nice seeing jacaranda in bloom in the city, reminding me of home (Brisbane).
We joined the (small) queue for the boat, had our vehicle inspected for stowaways, and parked on a nearly empty upper deck. It’s an over night ferry, so we spent the extra €50 for a room with a bed (rather than attempting to sleep in the public areas on the floors and couches) – it was money well spent, as we had our own private shower/bathroom.
The ferry took off, and we got our best views of the city, seeing just how solid the citadel looked, and how colourful and clean the town below was.
We also passed by several flocks (is it a flock?) of flamingos flying past, looking like long skinny arrows, with large pink wings (they’re the little specs at the top of the photo – which I only noticed afterwards).
The city faded out of view, and it was now just a matter of killing time until the sun set. We’d hoped to go for a bit of a swim, but the pool was closed… It was another stunning sunset, with hills receding in various hues of purple, and the low lying cloud erupting in a blaze of orange intensity.
Farewell, Sardinia. You’ve treated us exceptionally well.