Very popular for summer holidays, if you are longing for a quiet break to soak in traditions and history, start considering where to go in Sardinia, as this Italian island never disappoints its visitors, whatever holiday they have in mind.
Sardinia is always packed with tourists for many reasons: a diverse landscape, good weather, delicious foods, history and beautiful clean beaches, always harder to find due to the lack of care about the environment. Thankfully this Italian island can still be considered an exception. Locals are proud of it and foreign travellers never fail to appreciate a holiday in this tranquil slice of heaven.
Where to go in Sardinia – Sant’Antioco
When you hear the word “island”, the first thing you wish for is a small green land on the hills with beautiful beaches and cliffs. This is exactly what Sant’Antioco is. Both an island and a municipality, Sant’Antioco is where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of busy cities. Quite crowded in the summertime, in low season you will find a spot to park your car quite easily. There is a wealthy choice of traditional restaurants where you can grab a table to sit with your family and have a delicious meal without little background noise.
Sant’Antioco is the second largest island in Sardinia region, after Sardinia itself, with a size of 109 square kilometres. The Island of Sant’Antioco is also the fourth largest island in Italy after Sicily, Sardinia itself and Elba. It is located 80 kilometres from Cagliari. It is connected to Sardinia Island with a bridge, originally built by the Romans. It is one of those little Islands where humans haven’t been able to spoil the nature, yet.
Sant’Antioco has a beautiful nature with a bright blue sky of a tropical island. Sunrises and sunsets are unbelievably beautiful in this small Sardinian island.
The tiny island is rich in history and boasts interesting sites to visit and gorgeous unspoiled beaches to relax, enough to make it inevitably attractive for anyone organising Sardinia holidays any time of the year. Keep in mind that not many people speak English, so either learn some practical Italian sentences or carry a small Italian dictionary.
How to get to Sant’Antioco
Sant’Antioco is a little island located in the southwestern corner of Sardinia, near the other small southern island of San Pietro and connected to the mother island by a bridge. After deciding where to go in Sardinia, you need to understand how to get to Sant’Antioco.
If you fly to Cagliari, Sant’Antioco is only 70 km east of the city. From Cagliari airport, you will need to rent a car to go to Sant’Antioco as public transport is very badly organized.
How do you get to Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital?
Cagliari’s international airport “Mario Mameli” is located in the nearby town of Elmas, some 7 km from the city centre, Via Roma, from where trains and buses leave towards many other cities in Sardinia. There is a regular bus connecting Cagliari’s airport to the city and trains connecting Elmas airport to Cagliari’s main train station and other cities in Sardinia.
You can also reach Cagliari by ferry. Cruises are operated by Tirrenia and depart from Rome Civitavecchia, Napoli in the Campania region, and Palermo in Sicily.
The route Civitavecchia-Cagliari runs twice a week, on Monday and Friday, and it takes around 13 hours. Click here for more information on timetables and prices on the Tirrenia route Civitavecchia-Cagliari.
The route Napoli-Cagliari runs also twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, and it takes 13 hours and a half. Click here for more information on timetables and latest prices of the Tirrenia route Naples-Cagliari.
The route Palermo-Cagliari runs once a week, on Saturdays, and it takes 12 hours. Click here for more information on timetables and current prices for the route from Palermo to Cagliari.
Where to stay, hotels in Sant’Antioco
Sardinia holidays inspire luxury and leisure. If this is the goal for your trip to Sant’Antioco, you might want to spoil yourself and pick some of the best hotels on the island.
Il Melangolo is just 10 minutes drive from Maladroxia beach. But this is not the only perk as this beautiful hotel offers a stylish decor, air conditioning, free WIFI and free private parking
La Jacaranda is another lovely resort on the island, located some 300 meters from Sant’Antioco city. Guests will have a wide garden, free WIFI, spacious rooms with private bathroom and free toiletries. Available here also bike hire.
Where to go in Sardinia – What to visit in Sant’Antioco
Ethnographic Museum (Museo etnografico)
The Ethnographic Museum gives you a good idea about the local way of life mainly based on a farming economy. You can also have a tour of the nearby cave dwellings and fort in Via Necropoli in the city centre.
For a delicious Sardinian meal after a day around the city and its beaches if you are looking for somewhere to eat, treat yourself a bit and head to the wonderful Calasetta. The island’s second most important town, here you will find delicious restaurants and pizzerias, and obviously its own stunning beach.
Cala Grotta (or Cala Tuffi)
Don’t miss the wonderful rocky cove of Cala Grotta, also known as Cala Tuffi. From Cala Grotta, enjoy the view of a clean and azure sea that will make you fall in love with the island all over again. The crystal waters around this area are also great for scuba diving.
Sardinia beaches are always among the favourite in Italy, and Maladroxia beach is a good choice for families. Sandy shorelines to burn some calories and make sand castles will keep adults and kids busy, while quite a number of cafes and restaurants will help you relax and enjoy your day away.
Pretty self-explaining, Spiaggia Grande (Big Beach) is the longest beach on the island. If you want to enjoy some beach time and do windsurfing, Spiaggia Grande is your choice. The beach is well equipped with host facilities such as wheelchair access, wide car park, possibility to rent beach umbrellas and loungers and pedal boats, and a good choice of traditional cafes and restaurants.
Everyone knows the silk produced by the worms and white soft cocoons, but not many know about the silk that is created out of the pinna nobilis, a large shell living on the Mediterranean seabed. Of velvety texture and shimmering golden hues, this sea silk called byssus has been a favourite by no less than King Solomon, described in the Bible as appearance glowing in gold. Well, to make the story short, Sant’Antioco is home to the only person in the world who still weaves the byssus, Chiara Vigo, and travellers are welcome in her museum-lab to see how this art is preserved.
They’ve been doing it for centuries and still today, every year 15 days after Easter the townspeople carry the statue of Sant’Antioco from the church around the city’s streets. Even though believed to be much older, the first time Sant’Antioco Basilica was mentioned for the first time in 1089, when Cagliari ruler donated it to the Vittorini friars. During your stay in Sant’Antioco, don’t miss a visit to its Basilica to see a mix of architectural styles testifying the different historical layers and a fascinating interplay of symbols of the eternal struggle between Light and Darkness.
Still wondering where to go in Sardinia?
Many visitors always wonder what places to visit in Sardinia also once they are already there. Is Sardinia only a summer holiday destination? Is there anything to visit in Sardinia except for its famous beaches? As a local, I can say, plenty. The same Sant’Antioco, even though surrounded by popular shores, is much more than that. You can go about and discover the ancient art of sea silk weaving or explore the local cuisine.
However, if you are lucky enough to afford a longer Sardinia holiday and want to visit more cities, take your car and drive to nearby destinations such as Cagliari, San Sperate or Carbonia.
If you are still planning where to go in Sardinia, you might want to check out our offbeat guide to Sardinia or the places that will make you discover the real Sardinia for more inspiration on lesser-known, traditional and fascinating spots to visit in Sardinia.