Perched on the edge of a hillside with no other visual interruption, our screensaver for the next week becomes the fourth personality on our Sardinian holiday.
It’s the place where an impossibly aqua infinity pool meets the sky with Tavolara Island centre stage, looking like a prehistoric sea monster spouting from the blue seas. It changes moods and colours. Shyly hidden by morning mists like a royal waiting for her veil to be pulled back; other days a halo of clouds sits on top of the peak like a mountain angel or its craggy silver peaks shine better than George Clooney.
This is Villa Bianca. It’s the perfect place for our family to be reunited. My parents in the UK, myself in Sydney its more than a place to stay, it’s a place to create memories.
The villa is a stunner situated high on the mountain side of Porto San Paolo, just 15 minutes from Olbia airport. It’s a renovated Sardinian beauty with stone and wood floors and so many places to sit, sleep, chill, sunbake and find your own corner of peace. Finding where you put your sunglasses turns into an hour-long scavenger hunt. Mum gets lost constantly – well with 5 bedrooms (3 downstairs) it’s simply perfect for unruly parents who have their own downstairs living room with patio doors on to the lower level garden. Attention to detail is everywhere from the fabulously kitted out kitchen, blackout blinds, stunning gardens, heaters in the bathroom and cosy snug throws.
It’s the perfect base to explore and over the next 7 days we return home to our beautiful hillside roost. It’s got it all luxury, privacy and is a deliciously quiet sanctum from a world where we live on opposite sides, but for just a few days we enjoy together.
Tempting as it is to lounge around all day we use the villa as a base to go explore, taste and discover.
Day One – Often overlooked the town of Olbia is quite pretty. The port is bustling with big ferries from across Italy and other destinations. The main street is Corso Umberto and its small lane ways hidden behind are bustling with cafes, wine bars and it’s a good spot for lunch as we people and dog watch as amble to Piazza (not Pizza!) Magharita where musicians are busking.
Day 2 – Ok if we are honest, we are lounge lizards for the day. Our host Giorgio is on hand with anything we need, including recommendations and with Wifi this good everyone is entertained! In the evening we head out to Agritourismo Agrisole. Run by the lovely Monica these farms are famous all over Sardinia for their hospitality and belt loosening 10 or so courses. We weave down the drive way, parking is not really an option with their dog basking in the evening sunshine who is clearly not going to move. Score: Dog 1, Fiat 0. The restaurant is at the bottom of their farm, it’s got more chintz and memorabilia than an Etsy tragic with paintings, iron farming artefacts, dried flowers adorning walls and the bright aqua blue. It’s a feast of staying power with the salami’s all made in house, it’s a hearty meal and no tummy is groaning.
Day 3 – San Teodoro. Whilst most of the pretty people migrate to Costa Smeralda in July and August the beaches of Siaggia Cala Brandinchi are worthy of a Kodak moment white sands, aqua waters which stretch around a curved bay, the next stretch of beach south, ‘Lu Impostu’ is a long ribbon of sand covered with bodies being bronzed. The main town comes alive a night as we walk the narrow lanes dotted with bars, restaurants and a busy night market in the small piazza. By day it’s the beach, at night the town!
Day 4 –Tavolara Island. Like a shy teenager for the last few days we have ogled from afar, now it’s time to get more up-close and personal. We get our $15 return tickets on the 12.30 Ferry. It’s a girl’s trip as dad got seasick the last time his feet touched a boat. The crystal-clear waters are intoxicating and with hardly a ripple on the sea we are disembarking 25 minutes later. Restaurant Da Tonino commands the best spot with views back onto Sardinia as big plates of spaghetti vongole are spun out of the kitchen with spectacular prices to boot! We opt for next door and enjoy a beer watching the hikers, sunbathers and dogs. Did I mention dogs? Italians love them.
Day 5 – San Pantaleo and Arzachena. The weather gods are not in our favour so we head north into the pretty mountain town of San Pantaleo. Blink and you miss it or blink and hit a house, the roads are so narrow that an F1 drivers would be challenged, but hey! Its Italy. The narrow lanes are lined with bars, and pizzerias. It’s raining, not a soul on the streets but Pizzeria Ichnos is buzzing. Mum wins the ordering stakes with a Calzone which looks like a Cornish pasty on steroids. Its topped with salsa, charred from the oven and puffier that Trump on inauguration day.
Day 6 – Vineyard Castine Surrau – We are on a mission to drink Cannonau wine and live to be a hundred! This red wine has the highest levels of polyphenols, antioxidants linked to heart health. The tasting area is a combo of sexy seating and ‘reserva’ signs. Twenty-five Euro will get you a tasting and cheese platters. We wave at a handsome sommelier and pay $5 for a tasting of 3 wines. The wines are ridiculously good. Vermentino is the white grape of the region. The 2017 rose was an experiment which won the Gold Medal at the Grenaches ou Monde and now you cant buy drop as 7000 has been sold. We leave with 3 bottles, which I must poin out are all for medicinal purposes.
Day 7 – Agritourismo Corda Padru. What a find! Giorgiona’s mother in law meets us with frenetic waving of hands, we are not sure if it means ‘bugger off’ or ‘welcome’! We work out lunch is not ready and go explore the farm. The quarry aka swimming pool has water fed from the rocks. We follow the smells and meet our first humongous pig! Their dog greats us with his bell, we find out he loves chickens, so for his (and their safety) he is chained while they roam, most are hiding amongst the cactus. A corridor of wildflowers guides us to orchards and the sheep, whilst three hissing geese the size of horses have us running for our lives! Giorgiona explains everything we are about to eat is from their organic farm, with the wine from a neighbour. The wheat is grown and ground by them, milk, cheese, meat, vegetables and liqueurs. Beginning with their salamis, prosciutto, olives, pickles and artichokes. A platter of just cooked warm music and pitta accompanies ricotta with a drizzle of myrtle marmalade (the Sardinian equivalent of balsamic) Next a platter of delicious stuffed vegetables and mini pasties. Then pasta! Ravioli with ricotta and spinach with salsa and Zuppa Gallurese which can best describe if bread and butter pudding had sex with a vegetarian lasagne this is what it would taste like, boy its good. Bellies heaving, spit roasted suckling pig and boar “my husband loves to hunt and they are so destructive”. It’s our civil duty to eat and protect the land. Deserts of sheeps yoghurt, quince jelly, ricotta tart and seadas, finished with myrtle liqueur grappa and coffee that will blow your head off.
Sardinia features seductive beaches, but heading south and inland has taken us on a different and more authentic connection with the people. From our stunning villa to the undulating landscape which has not only recharged the batteries but created lasting memories till will all meet again.
The Carousel would like to thank Karen Lawson for this article.