Discover the magic of inland Sardinia

“Tourists don’t realize that the real Sardinia has very little to do with the sea,” he said, explaining that the island was still mostly fed by agriculture. For a glimpse into the true heart of the destination, from folklore and rustic cuisine to religious festivals and ancient ruins, you have to turn your back on the sea. Francesco hopes True Sardinia and other new travel companies enjoy it , as well as an influx of new, design-driven country hotels, such as Cascioni Eco Retreat— will attract people from the coast to the small towns in the interior which need tourism.

When we got to the top of the mountain, we dismounted to marvel at the views. The island of Sardinia is incredibly vast, so much so that the turquoise sea was just a distant ring that faded into the sky. I tried to locate our Airbnb on Cala Liberotto, but gave up after a few moments of searching; there was simply too much to take in.

When we returned to the farm an hour later, Francesco invited us to visit his family’s small vineyard, which was pregnant with black Cannonau grapes. I had never seen or tasted Sardinia’s characteristic variety, and my excitement must have been evident: moments later, Francesco appeared carrying a bottle of wine and three wine glasses. We sat on its sunny terrace and drank the fruity, full-bodied wine, losing track of time.

The next day, my boyfriend and I decided to explore the small town of Irgoli, admiring its colorful murals and beautiful San Nicola Church, which houses a reliquary containing what is believed to be a crown thorn of Jesus. At dinner, we decided to text Francesco to see if he wanted to join us for dinner. Half an hour later, he and six of his closest friends showed up.

Our group was quickly seated at a wooden table in a narrow lane and shared a procession of traditional plates – grilled lamb and fresh artichokes and Sardinian gnocchi served with fennel sausages. Cigarettes were smoked, Italians were laughed at (the Sardinians are proud of their distinctive language, culture and history) and the moon shone brightly, casting pools of light on the clay roofs of the village. We considered going out after dinner with Francesco and his friends, going to a local bar and maybe even going to a nightclub, but ultimately my boyfriend and I decided to call it a night – we hadn’t been to a bar, let alone a nightclub, in almost two years.

“We’ll text you the next time we’re here,” I said to Francesco, hugging him goodbye.

“That’s what everyone says,” he said with a hint of sadness.

During the last days of our trip, my boyfriend and I were back sitting on the beach like everyone else, getting lost in the psychedelic blue of the water and drinking water aperol Spritz. The next time I come—and I thought I has been going to come back – I would do things differently. I had friends to see, places to go.

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