Travel to Sardinia, Italy – Episode 516

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Travel to Sardinia - What to do, see and eat on this island with beautiful beaches (podcast)

Hear about travel to Sardinia as the Amateur Traveler talks to Max Hartshorne from about this off the beaten path part of Italy.


Max says “Italy is full of people going to the ‘big three’. I talked to one of my travel writing friends and she said ‘I’m going to Italy. I’m going to Rome, Venice, And Florence’. Ugh. Not that those aren’t great places but a place like Sardinia is so much more spectacular and so much less crowded. Even on a crowded day, Sardinia will be the third as crowded as anything in Rome or Florence. It’s wide-open, huge. It’s got its own language. It’s got some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten. The beaches, there’s not a lot of really great beaches in Italy, the Atlantic coast of France is much better. But Sardinia, all the way around you get these spectacular beaches. ”

With Max as our guide, we explore places like the Sinis Peninsula on the west coast with its beautiful quartz beaches and its silent towers build to find of Saracen pirates. Phoenician ruins testify to the length of time that the island has been inhabited.

We also talk about the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) where the rich and famous park their yachts. They are attracted by the beautiful azure waters.

Max tells us that Sardinia has wide-open spaces, an unusually large number of centenarians thanks to the Mediterranean diet, and its own language (Sard).

Come for the seafood and the beaches but it’s the people that you may remember… and the seafood, yes always the seafood.

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Show Notes
Is Arutas – quartz sand beach
Costa Smeralda
Aga Khan IV
Nora (ruins)
Tharros (ruins)
Barbagia Insolita (jeep tours)
Roast Suckling Pig
Mediterranean diet
Fregula (pasta)
Festival of Saint Efisio
Fordongianus (Roman ruin)
Municipal Museum Giovanni Marongiu of Cabras
Barbary pirates
Student Breaks 19th Century Greco-Roman Statue While Taking a Selfie
Sardegna: A Prized Gem of an Italian Island


Bradford wrote about Travel to Buffalo, New York – Episode 507

How in the world could you do a whole episode on Buffalo and not utter or at least mention the phrase: “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo?”

Thanks for adding another interesting area to my list of places to someday visit. One reason I hold travel important is that it piques my interest in topics that didn’t hold any appeal before (say during school). It’s one thing to read about something in a text book, but to actually be there gives a completely different understanding. I must admit that except for learning the song in grade school, I didn’t quite appreciate how much the Erie Canal had an impact in our country’s development. I’ve already watched a few Erie Canal documentaries both historical and current, and it’s been fascinating.

One of the things I love about your podcast is that the end of each episode is just a jumping-off point to learn more. Thanks for all you do, and congrats on your 500th episode. (Yeah, I’m a little behind in my listening!) Here’s to 500 more! πŸ˜‰

Travel to Sardinia - What to do, see and eat on this island with beautiful beaches (podcast)


Chris: Amateur Traveler Episode 516. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about beautiful beaches, Phoenician and Roman ruins, Mellis and some of the oldest people in the world as we go to the island of Sardinia.

Chris: Today’s episode is brought to you by Select Italy. Select Italy can design custom itineraries and book a whole range of product services including state-of-the-art tours, wedding, honeymoon trips, ticketing services for museum and musical events in Italy. Visit to learn more.

Chris: Welcome to the Amateur Traveler, I’m your host Chris Christensen. We’ll be hearing more from our sponsors Select Italy but first let’s talk about Sardinia. I’d like to welcome on the show Max Hartshorne, who is the editor and owner of Max, welcome to the show.

Max: Good to be with you, Chris.

Chris: And Max is talking about something that we plugged two weeks ago on the show and that is the Island of Sardinia. Where is Sardinia, first of all, because I’m not sure that everybody even can find this on a map?

Max: Well, there’s a big island next to another big island to the left of Italy and one of them is Corsica on the top and below that is Sardinia, which is an independently run province of Italy. It’s a government on its own autonomous province Sardinia, second largest Italian island. The first is Sicily. So right below Corsica.

Chris: And we made one reference to why you should go there in that show that we did two weeks ago, but Max, why do you think that we should go to Sardinia?

Max: Italy is full of people that have gone to the big three. I talked to one of my travel writing friends, she said, “I’m going to Italy. I’m going to Rome, Venice, and Florence.” I said, “Ugh!” Not that those aren’t great places, Chris, but a place like Sardinia is so much more spectacular and so much less crowded. Even on a crowded day, Sardinia will be a third as crowded as anything in Rome or Florence. It’s just wide-open, huge.

It’s got its own language. It’s got some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten and the beaches…I mean, there’s not a lot of really great beaches in Italy. It’s, the Atlantic coast of France is much better. But Sardinia, all the way around, you get these spectacular beaches. My last trip to Sardinia was to Western Sardinia to the Sinis Peninsula. That’s S-I-N-I-S peninsula and they have a beach there with these quartz pebbles about the size of BBs, maybe bigger than BBs but they’re actually little tiny washed quartz pebbles. Just the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen and you’re not allowed to take them out of the country. They actually stop people at the airport with buckets of these tiny little crystal that people try to walk out with. It’s a big problem.

Chris: Now, you said it’s got some of the nicest beaches in Italy, really that makes it some of the nice beaches in the Mediterranean, too. There’s a lot of bad…well, when I say bad beaches, there’s lot of beaches that don’t measure up to places like the Caribbean or Hawaii.

Max: The richest people on Earth got to the Costa Smeralda, the Emerald Coast. You know, people like Vladimir Putin has about five houses there. Of course Abramovich has a couple mansions there. And of course our own favorite, the Italian former President Berlusconi has a lot of fun in the Costa Smeralda. It was actually developed in the 1970s by the Aga Khan and he sort of started the whole thing. And these are the people can go anywhere, the Larry Ellisons of the world. You’ll find them in August docking their mega-yachts off the side of Olbia, which is where Costa Smeralda is. That’s Emerald Water, the most gorgeous azure blue water, and yet you can go out of the Costa Smeralda. You can of course stay ridiculously expensive places in that part of Sardinia or you can travel inland a little bit down the coast away from the chichi parts and find very inexpensive places to stay.

Chris: Excellent. What kind of itinerary would you recommend. How would we tackle Sardinia? Where would we start?

Max: Yeah. Well you’d start in the Cagliari, the capital, you have to start there because there’s no planes that can get you from the United States to Sardinia without going through Rome or another gateway. So you’re gonna fly to Rome, in most likely, and then a short flight or a ferry…you could take a ferry over. Cagliari is the main city and it’s a beautiful city. It’s not a very large city. I think it’s several million but not very big and pretty manageable.

And I’d say a few days to get your bearings in Cagliari and then I’d rent a car. I really would. I think that being on your own, independent, there’s nothing to be afraid of for Americans renting cars in Europe. I think there’s a little bit of fear about that. You don’t have to worry about driving on the other side or anything. But I would take a road trip from Cagliari and head up to the West Coast. I would really go again to where I went this summer. Cabras is a small little town, Cabras in Oristano. And then you can get to the Sinis Peninsula, just a wonderful place. It’s just spectacular.

And one of the big sort of selling points I think for Sardinia is the history. If you love ancient ruins, how about going before the Romans. We’re talking about the Phoenicians. That’s who settled much of Sardinia so you can go to a site called Nora near Cagliari which is a beachside, beautiful ruins. And then near Cabras is Tharros, T-H-A-R-O-O-S [sic]. which is a spectacular Phoenician/Roman site. They’re still discovering things there. They’re both right on the beach so it’s just the tremendous contrast between ancient civilizations built right on a beach and everything’s just so wide-open and spread out. Unlike anywhere else in Europe, I think, you get this magnificent sweep of land.

And I’d just continue along the coast or inland, people might have heard about this. It’s one of the places on Earth where people lived the longest. And when I was there, I met some people who were very old. I met a guy who ran a winery and he was 102, and he said most of his friends are in their hundreds. They all lived in this little village in the center of Sardinia, there’s just a magnificent sort of a little place in the middle, and it’s in the Barbagia which is the wilderness. And that’s another thing I would say is that slot in some time for a Jeep tour and you could reach these folks called Barbagia insolita and they will take you in a Jeep on top of a mountain and meet an old guy who’ll make you some amazing food including the specialty, which you might cringe on a bit but it’s suckling pig. Tiny little pigs on skewers that they roast and they’re just absolutely as good as they get.

Chris: Excellent. Now, there’s no truth to the rumor that the guy who’s 102 was just there helping his dad out at the winery.

Max: It’s tremendous how many people are old in Sardinia and you would think about, why do they live so long? First of all, they’re eating that wonderful Mediterranean diet, of course. They are drinking their ration of red wine which they say has the wonderful resveratrol which y’all hear about. But mostly, they’re are around other people who need them to be alive. There’s a vitalness. They’re not shipped off into the homes, you know.

They’re in their village, their daughter comes in or their son comes in. Their friends check up on them. They have vital lives and they need each other and they’re needed. In that village, I never forget, we had a meal, a 50 foot meal. Did this again and we went back. Fifty-foot meal. Everything was from 50 feet or…and more, 75 feet at the most. It blows away anything we talked about when we talk about local food. You go to Sardinia, you really eat local food.

Chris: Let’s take a break here and hear from our sponsor who is Select Italy. Select Italy is the ultimate source for travel to Italy and offers a wide-range of superior Italian travel products and services including customized itineraries, state-of-the-art tours and packages, wedding, honeymoon trips, unique culinary classes, a complete pre-departure ticketing service for museums and musical events, private guided tours, yacht charters, transportation, hotel reservations, villa booking, and more.

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You mentioned the sweeping landscape, so you say that and I’ve got a mental picture here that it’s not a lot of trees but a lot of open land and rough landscape.

Max: It is. I remember driving across the island, we went from one side to the other and you just get this incredible sweep. It’s got vegetation but it’s not a lot of trees. There are parts of the island which have forests but I think you’ll also find this amazing. You don’t really see that in Europe as much. I mean, sometimes, I remember in Wales I saw that too, that long sweeping air, just dramatic, but you really get that. There’s nothing breaking the scene. There’s so few people there. There’s something like a million people or maybe two million people and it’s like Sicily is six million people. So the contrast is pretty striking. There’s not so many people there.

Chris: Yeah. I think you mistakenly said the capital was about a million people and you were doubling its population. I think the whole metropolitan area, I was reading, is less than a half million. So, not a lot of people go to Sardinia or live in Sardinia compared to so many other places in Italy.

Max: Exactly. And also people are leaving. It’s a sad fact, it’s like any island, people are leaving Sardinia so you really have a lot of older people and not as many younger people, but some of the folks I met there were really into living there, it was prosperous. Like this town of Cabras. There were a lot of people involved in fishing, they’re harvesting the fish very sustainably but they’re managing this fish, they’re called mullet. That’s the most popular fish there, the gray mullets.

So there is a fishery and mullets and of course they have, the roe of the mullet is just prized. It’s the thing that everybody wants is their mullet roe, and they dry it out and they put it on pasta. It’s just one of those just unique things. Fregola is another pasta they have. Sort of looks like giant couscous and these are unique food they just have in Sardinia.

Chris: You mentioned unique foods. Are there other foods that we should try when there? The seafood for instance you’ve raved about, the mullet, and what else?

Max: I’m having a little mind blank about what that stuff is called. I bought it. It’s orange and it’s the roe of the mullet. You can get it in a powder. Anyways, that’ll come back to me in a minute. You go into a restaurant, you can get these little skewered suckling pigs which they cook on on little spits, and the Fregola which is the pasta, and then they have a nice set of wines. I mean, really impressive wines that aren’t even exported in to the United States.

Many of the local wine, for me, was really good and again, not expensive. I think that it’s limited because it’s an island so I don’t think they’re shipping a lot of wine off but it’s the simple foods that you might expect in any other part of Italy but, maybe, multiply that by more because of the freshness of that seafood, because you’re right near the ocean.

Chris: Okay. And I was looking up that roe, and how does the word “Bottarga” sound?

Max: Bottarga. Yes sir.

Chris: Bottarga.

Max: Bottarga is the name I could not think of. It’s a prize thing. I mean, just to set the scene, we were in Cabras, which is in Western Sardinia and we’ve met a couple who own a yacht, an old, like, 42-foot yacht. We can provide some information about this later on your website about how to get in touch with these folks. You could take a charter yacht, you go out with these folks. They used to race yachts, so they know a lot about the yachts. And you go along the channel and you’re in the Gulf of Oristano. And you’re looking at the Tharros, the ruins which are on shore and you’re just gliding by and there’s a tower. There’s a Spanish tower that was built to repel the pirates, and it was just a magical day.

And then at the end you’ve got this Bottarga which she put on top of her own simply tossed olive oil and Bottarga. And in that boat, it just tasted like the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Of course, I brought it home, Chris, and I made it at home for my friends and they weren’t impressed at all. They said, “What’s this? Thanks a lot. This is salty fishy stuff.” So it doesn’t always work as well in the United States as it does in places like Sardinia.

Chris: So, it works better when you put a yacht under it, you’re saying?

Max: You really need a yacht and you need some stories about seamen and stuff. Some things tastes better. I brought back some olive oil from a trip to Croatia. I’m hoping it’s nearly as good as it was in Croatia but you know, you never know.

Chris: Sure. So, you started us in the capital and then we headed down to the peninsula. Where would you go next?

Max: I would definitely make that circle. I would go from Cagliari then I would go to West over to Cabras and then I would go up to Alghero which is a peninsula and there’s more beautiful beaches up that way. And then I’d head over to the East and see the Costa Smeralda. It’s something to be seen for sure. It’s like the Riviera but even more spectacular with more spectacular houses.

This Aga Khan was very well-known in the ’70s as a leader and somebody who was opening up a kind of a movement, and some of the houses that they built, we drove by one place that they pointed out that was owned by Vladimir Putin. Quite the mansion and quite the spectacular part of the world, that Emerald Coast. You could just swing down and make kind of a road trip circle all way back down.

Chris: Okay. I don’t know if the scale here, is that large enough that we’re gonna stay in different places or are we home-basing? If we don’t have our yacht with us. I think mine might be in the shop now.

Max: I think that you would be looking at…let’s say a seven day trip, I think you’re probably staying in, like, three or four different places. I like to try to stay a couple of nights in each place and that’s sort of the tyranny sometimes when you’re a journalist and you’re shuffled off to here and there. So I would personally set up an itinerary for a say, seven-day itinerary, trying to hit four places and you get two nights in each but they’re all pretty unique.

Chris: Well, I think, good rule of thumb too is if a travel writer, travel journalist is doing it two days, you should think of it about four because we tend to travel a little crazy pace sometimes just to cover places. And you mentioned beaches, and we talked about how the beaches there are some of the best in the Mediterranean. Favorite beach?

Max: As usual, when I traveled there, I didn’t really get to stay on the beach or go in the beach or lie on the beach.

Chris: No hours lying on a beach, yeah.

Max: I really had little to no time to do that so I just would say anywhere in the west.

Chris: Hence the double the amount of time we talk about rule that I talked about previously. Yes.

Max: Yeah. I would have to agree with you Chris. Don’t do what I did. Take your time and have a little more control of your itinerary. The one thing about Sardinia that you do find, there’s four different kind of winds when you’re there. That wind really plays a big part. And so you have the Mistral, which is from Southern France that comes up and that’s good for sailors, they say.

Then the Scirroco blows off of the Sahara and sometimes that can bring duststorms and even dirt and stuff can be blowing. Then there’s the Grecale which blows in from the northeast in the winter time. You do get a lot of wind in some of these places and that affects obviously sailing, although this gentleman I was with who would turn out to be the former captain of the Jacques Cousteau vessel, the…what’s the name of the boat. Well anyway, he said that this is one of his favorite places to sail because they had all these different kind of wind. You will go to the Costa Smerald and see so many sail boats and it’s a great sailing destination.

Chris: “The Calypso”

Max: “The Calypso.” He was in charge of the “Calypso.” And so here was, and you can actually meet up with these folks. They’re really sweet. They rent their own yacht and you can hook up with them and they can take you out and there’s lots of other people that will do that same thing. It’s called the “Santa Maria,” and that was based in Cabras over on the Western side in the Sinis Peninsula.

Chris: Okay. Are there other outings or excursions like that that you would recommend? Things to do, not just things to see?

Max: In May 1st, there’s a really great festival, it’s too bad we just missed it. But it’s called the Festival of Saint Efisio, and it was a spectacular thing. Italians do festivals better than anybody. they really do. Maybe as well as Mexicans do. But that is festival where, there’s about 350 different small villages all across Sardinia and about 150 of them each year are chosen to be able to put on their own local costumes and march in a parade with horses in the capital of Cagliari.

And we saw this, it’s really pretty tremendous, they have a street and all the horses and all the processions, but before they all march they put rose petals on the street. So the whole street is covered with rose petals and these horses gently tiptoe on these petals. It’s just the most amazing thing, I really have to say that was a great event. They actually go out of the center of Cagliari and go all the way down to Nora, several miles a way, in a big procession. And I remember being told that on the way back they gallop these horses along the beach and on the way from Nora. It’s quite a spectacular thing.

Another place that has been written up in is Fordongianus, it’s a Roman ruin in the center of Sardinia which is very well-known to archaeologists. Big site for ruins so if you like to, not only just see them but walk around them, walk in them. Have a guide explain to you how people lived, and all over Sardinia are these little huts, they’re little stone huts called Nuraghi. These are back from the Phoenicians too. Some of them are used for farmers and stuff but you see these little Nuraghi. They’re cool looking things, they’re maybe 20-feet wide and they’re just round stone huts. And this all just harkens back to this Phoenician era, which is just way before the Romans. It’s fascinating that you really get to go that far back.

Chris: When you say way before the Romans, just a little clarification there, they were actually rising at the same time. In fact that was the Punic Wars that they fought, was in the western Mediterranean, who is gonna be the big man on the block because Rome was rising at the same time as Carthage and, you know, who were coming out of the Phoenicians. So yeah, I guess that the Phoenicians started out little later, but the height of their civilization, when they’d be over here in Sardinia, would be right around that Roman Republic area.

Max: Yeah, and there’s a lot of places where you can sort of see that the Romans had built over what the Phoenicians had built so it sort like you get the combination…

Chris: Yeah, well they were there longer. So yeah.

Max: Yeah. And then there’s also in Tharros, there’s a Spanish towers that was a quite dramatic tower. Sort of really stands out, and it’s a big rock tower you can climb up on, and that was built because these Saracen pirates kept invading Sardinia. So in order to fight them they had to had a look out. So they created this big tower to look out…and you know, pretty violent history, of course, like so many things in Europe. There’s a lot of fighting going on and a lot of ego.

One of the things that they just discovered, well, fairly recently, they call them “The Giants,” and these are again from that same era. And they used to line the roads. There were this big, huge statues that were about 12 to 15-feet tall. And in the museum in Cabras, they’re very excited that they have reconstructed, some of these giants are now in display in Cabras which is a small which is a small little town on the West but these are again very significant to history because these were sort of the markers of where people went into this town.

Chris: Interesting. Well, and you mentioned the Saracen pirates, all along the Mediterranean coast you can often see these cities where the old town is up away from the water. It’s up on the hill or whatever and you think, well that looks really inconvenient. Why didn’t they build right down here by the water if they were fishermen? And the reason was pirates.

Max: That was a big problem back then, I think. Now they’re having it in Somalia and Sudan. Of course back then we had them right in Europe.

Chris: This was a bigger deal than that too because they weren’t just taking ships. They were raiding the coastline all over the place. So I’ve been to Italy before, and so Sardinia is sort of Italy, right, it’s part of Italy, but what’s gonna surprise me when I go there?

Max: First of all, they’re not speaking Italian.

Chris: You mentioned that.

Max: Yeah. They’re speaking Sard. Which sounds a little funny. It definitely doesn’t sound like it in Italy. Now you can probably get a Sardinian to talk back to you in Italian, or maybe English, but that language sounds much different. Just the fact that you can drive out of the town and be sure that this wind-swept, open, huge area, you don’t see that that much. I mean you see it a little bit in some other places, but I think what I was most impressed with was how few people there are, Chris. There’s just not many people there. And that really bodes well.

I mean, it bodes well for travelers. I feel like some day it might not be good for the people there, because there might be not very many people left to do things that need to be done. But for right now, my original story about the friend who said she was going to Italy, she was going to these three places, oh, I thought “oh my God, you’re gonna be so crowded,” it’s like this place is so much the opposite of that.

Any time you go to Florence it’s super-crowded. Rome is pretty hard to navigate. Venice can be a nightmare. We landed in Cagliari, we got a on a train right at the airport and went right, all the way up to Oristano by train. It was an hour long, and that train ride, there’s a lot of winter wheat that’s growing and flowing wheat, and so open. You just realize, man, this place is gonna be a breeze. I would have loved to have my own car.

I would emphasize to get a rent-a-car. That would be a good idea.

Chris: Okay. And you mentioned their own language. I am assuming you don’t speak Sard?

Max: My Sard is limited, yes.

Chris: Your Sard is limited. How is your Italian?

Max: It’s pretty much like my Spanish, which is like I know a few words. I didn’t find I needed either when I was in Sardinia. I mean, I think that there’s enough understanding…you probably have found this too, Chris. I remember 10 years ago it was a real big problem about language. Now it just seems like it’s not a problem. It seems like most people are really geared towards that sort of lingua franca. English seems to have turned into the trump card, and so you don’t have that many problems.

I certainly didn’t have any problems with that in Sardinia, and I don’t think any of your guests would have that problem if they were traveling there.

Chris: Excellent, but when we talk about problems, what is one warning you would give? You should know before you go to Sardinia that…

Max: That if you take some of those stones from the beach, they’ll confiscate them. You’ll get into big trouble. And don’t do anything dumb at the ruins, like that guy did last week who toppled over some priceless ruin and it ruined it. Don’t be one of those people.

Chris: Are you talking about the person who backed up to take a selfie and broke a statue? Or is this a different story?

Max: Well, I’ve heard several stories, but that was the one that was last week. I heard about another kid in Peru who knocked over a temple column or something. So don’t be one of those people.

Chris: Well I don’t have any of those people listening to Amateur Traveler.

Max: I trust that we don’t have those kinda hoity-poity… Here’s one thing to bear in mind. If you go to the west coast of Sardinia, don’t expect anything except seafood until it’s coming out of your head and you’re so dying for chicken. But you won’t get chicken, you’ll get more…

I remember I said, after the seventh day, breakfast and lunch, dinner, all seafood, seafood, I said, “can we just get something that’s not seafood?” They said, “how about clams? How about shrimp?” I said no, no, it’s just seafood. Seafood is it. And so if you don’t like seafood, you would not like Sardinia, at least where I was.

Chris: Okay, excellent. As we go to wrap this up, what else should we know before we go to Sardinia? Before I get to my last, say, four questions?

Max: Okay, well know that the distances are very large, that it’s a very large island. Driving might take you longer than you think. Although when there’s a GPS we can figure all that out.

Chris: And you say “very large,” I’m seeing 70 to 100 miles, end to end, something like that. Probably with some winding roads, too.

Max: Yeah. Not a lot of big highways either. You should definitely try to go to the Barbagia, which is the middle. That’s where you’ll find these centenarians. But the Barbagia is very well-known in Sardinia as being just this wild place. Definitely go there, definitely check out I think Cabras and Tharros, and definitely check out the Costa Smeralda. But distances are far, so don’t try to do too much, because I think that you might find yourself in a car a little more than you want to be.

Chris: Okay. You were talking about the size of Sardinia, and I was obviously looking up the length of it. But one of the things that’s interesting is, I’m sticking to my roughly 70 to 100 miles long, but the coastline is 1,000 miles long.

Max: Oh yeah, because it zig-zags, exactly.

Chris: Yeah, which isn’t too surprising when you look at that map. But if you’re driving along the coast, it’s gonna take you quite a lot longer than you would think, so.

Max: Yeah. Another thing, just about the food, one of the things about Sardinia which is kind of cool is they have this special kind of bread. You always get this bread whenever you go to a meal. It’s this pane carasau, and it’s this very thin, thin bread. It’s almost like matzo but it’s like if you took a matzo, and it was half as thick or maybe even a quarter as thick as a matzo, that thin.

It stays fresh, it doesn’t go bad, so you can serve it. They probably serve it over and over again. But that with the olive oil is just a great treat that you’ll find everywhere. This special kind of bread, no matter where you eat, you’ll always get this special local bread.

Chris: Excellent. Last four questions. You’re standing in the prettiest spot in all of Sardinia. Where are you standing and what are you looking at?

Max: I’d say if you were standing on the hill in western Sardinia at the Sinis Peninsula, you can take a little upward sweep and looking out, on the one side you’ll see a beautiful surfer beach with big waves and big white caps on one side. And on the other side of the peninsula you’ll see the ruins of Tharros, which is the ancient site, Roman/Phoenician site with some of the old columns.

So you get the contrast between the two. I remember a bike ride… That’s another thing I’d really recommend, Chris. Biking in Sardinia, we rented some bikes and took a ride along the shore. The whole time we were riding was right along the ocean. Didn’t see any people. And being able to do that right along the ocean is really not, again, that common. If you imagine, you can’t do that in Cinque Terre or whatever, you can’t do that in very many places. It’s usually so built up along the ocean. But here you can have a beautiful bike ride, miles and miles, right along the ocean.

Chris: Excellent. And by the way, I was wrong with my estimate. It’s 130 miles roughly by 70 miles, is the size of the island.

Max: Right, taller. Yeah, it’s taller than wider. Right.

Chris: Next question. One thing that makes you laugh and say “only in Sardinia.”

Max: Only in Sardinia would you hear somebody speaking Sard, because nobody speaks it anywhere else on earth.

Chris: Yes, but it would be rude to laugh at them for that, so…

Max: Well I’ve never seen anybody cooking tiny pigs, like literally piglets.

Chris: That’s also the specialty of Toledo, Spain. The roast suckling pig.

Max: Okay, well then you’re familiar with that. Roast, tiny little pigs. If you go to Sardinia, you’ll have a lot of great stories to tell, and everybody won’t say “oh, been there, been there.” So that’s kind of fun. Like even you…

Chris: Sure, sure. No, I’ve never been there.

Max: …Mr. Been Everywhere, never been there. So that’s a nice thing to be in a place where everybody hasn’t already been there.

Chris: Although I’m not a big fan of seafood, so you know.

Max: Oh, forget going there, Chris. Take it off your list.

Chris: And finish this sentence. “You really know you’re in Sardinia when…” What?

Max: When the menu is really long, and everything on the menu is fish. And there’s nothing else you can possibly have. And then they bring out the bowl of Bottarga, and everybody is in awe of the Bottarga. And hopefully it’ll be as good for you as it is for them.

Chris: And if you had to summarize Sardinia in three words, what three words would you use?

Max: Big wild island.

Chris: Excellent, excellent. Our guest again has been Max Hartshorne. Max, where can people read more about your travels?

Max: On, we have a slew of articles about Sardinia. It’s one of our favorite places, so you can read feature stories of mine and other authors on Just type in “Sardinia” in the Google search.

Chris: Excellent, and is there on article that, if they’re gonna check out Sardinia on Go Nomad, your favorite article there is?

Max: I’ve just been reading one by a gentleman named Richard Frisbie. It’s called “Sardinia, A Prized Gem of an Italian Island.”

Chris: Excellent. Excellent. Well Max, thanks so much for coming on The Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your love for Sardinia.

Max: Okay, good to be with you Chris. I hope to hear from you again.

Chris: I heard from Bradford on the show that we did recently on Buffalo, who said “how in the world could you do a whole episode on Buffalo and not utter at least or at least mention the phrase ‘buffalo, buffalo, buffalo, buffalo, buffalo, buffalo, buffalo?'”

For those of you who don’t know what he’s talking about, the story is that that is an actual sentence, because “buffalo” can be used as a verb, as an adjective, as a noun, and I don’t even remember what it all means but it makes you sound like you’re crazy and that’s why we didn’t say it.

He says, “thanks for adding another interesting area to my list of places to someday visit. One reason I hold travel important is that it piques my interest in topics that didn’t hold any appeal before, save during school. It’s one thing to read about something in a textbook, but to actually be there gives a completely different understanding. I must admit that, except for learning the song in grade school, I didn’t quite appreciate how much the Erie Canal had an impact on our country’s development. I’ve watched a few Erie Canal documentaries, both historical and current, and it’s been fascinating.

“One of the things I love about your podcast is at the end of each episode is just a jumping off point to learn more. Thanks for all you do and congrats on your 500th episode. Yeah, I’m a little behind on my listening. Here’s to 500 more.”

And thanks so much, Bradford. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I am one of those people who doesn’t take ignorance well. I have to learn more, and that’s one of the reasons that I do this show. With that, we’re gonna end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an email to host at Or better yet, do what Bradford did and leave a comment on this episode at

If you like Amateur Traveler, tell others by putting a review in iTunes or wherever fine podcasts are found. And as always, thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

9 Responses to “Travel to Sardinia, Italy – Episode 516”



Italy never seems to not amaze me πŸ™‚ so many hidden treasures and here is another to add to my list πŸ™‚ thanks for this

Max Hartshorne


Chris does a good job with his podcast, he even knows his Punic War history, it was refreshing to have a host who knew about this history and corrected me. Smarter than the average podcast host ! Had fun hope to come on again as soon as I can think of a place Chris hasn’t already done a segment about.



Thanks Max, although… looks like Sardinia may have been settled more in the Phoenician time so I might have gotten that wrong πŸ™‚

Edward Smith


Sardinia is Wonderful



Great, complete guide. Basic to know before visiting Sardinia. Very useful, thank you.



Jim, glad it helped



What about the East coast? From Olbia South



Born and raised in Sardinia. While I appreciate the enthusiasm the hosts have for my island, I was greatly disappointed by this podcast. Some prep and research might have helped. While the hosts are still debating about who was right or wrong about the Phoenicians, a simple Google search could have told you you were both wrong. Sardinian civilization dates from the paleolithic, it was not settled by the Phoenicians. The Nuragic people flourished some 10 centuries before Rome was even on the map. The little stone huts mentioned in the podcast, the nuraghi,were a complex network of villages and provinces with a governing system of elder councils and religious rites based on sun and moon worship. Their architecture is so precise that they’re still standing 3000 years later. They were built in alignment with the constellations. One of these villages, Barumini, is a Unesco World Heritage Site. In addition to not knowing the history of Sardinia, the pronunciations on this podcast are atrocious. I had a hard time recognizing some of the place names. The travel guy couldn’t even remember the name of one of our best known foods. He’s raving about our wines but didn’t name any of them. He talked about the Blue Zone without actually knowing what it is. Hint: it’s not one tiny village where all the centenarians live. By the way, what was the name of that village he visited? This is one of the sloppiest travel podcasts I’ve ever listened to. Two Americans googling stuff and wrongly correcting each other. Save yourself some time and just, you know, Google it.

Chris Christensen


Since that episode, I have been trying to have people with more experience in the country. Sorry.

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