When most people think of Sardinia they bring to mind stunning Caribbean-like beaches, the azure blue sea and some of the world’s best and most glitzy resorts. These things are indeed to be found there, in all of their splendour. However, when venturing to the lesser-discovered northern part of this diverse island, travellers will also find a more understated kind of beauty. There are hidden coves, rich landscapes and a fiercely proud and celebratory attitude from the welcoming natives towards their hyper-local cuisine, and superb gourmet produce.
To help make holiday planning that little bit easier, we have picked out the top gourmet highlights of north Sardinia that are a must for any foodie getaway.
Learn to make pane carasau
Pane carasau is a traditional Sardinian flatbread, served paper-thin and crispy, and often drizzled with a little olive oil and salt. It is a common accompaniment to any meal, replacing the usual bread basket, and is incredibly moreish. Derived from an ancient recipe, it was a staple originally invented for shepherds to take with them into the hills, since it can keep for a long time. It takes a great amount of skill to make, thanks to its extremely delicate nature. At the hotel retreat, Su Gologne, in the Barbagia Mountains, they have an ancient bread oven that they use to bake this delicacy. Guests of the hotel can learn how to make it from the local women, who come from the neighbouring villages in their traditional dress to demonstrate the process. It involves baking the flatbread in the hot oven until it puffs up like a cushion, before removing it, brushing out the air and carefully dissecting it into two sheets, which are then baked again until crisp.
Enjoy local ‘farm to fork’ produce
Many of the hotels and restaurants in northern Sardinia practice a hyper-local version of the ever-popular ‘farm to fork’ concept, with some ingredients travelling mere metres to their customers’ plates. A lot of establishments will keep their own animals, and grow their own vegetables and herbs to supply their kitchen. The location of the restaurant will also very much dictate the type of food being served. For example, expect an abundance of fish dishes when eating by the coast, while meat (particularly pig) is the star of the show in-land. One of the top places to sample this is the Hotel Relais Villa Del Golfo’s La Colti Farmhouse restaurant, near Cannigione, where they serve excellent Galluran cuisine overlooking the fields where they grow the ingredients.
Sip northern Sardinian wine
Cannonau is the wine speciality of Sardinia and is little known outside of the island, since it is not heavily exported. It is akin to a Grenache and some of the highest quality versions are produced in the northern region. Adding a wine tasting experience into a north Sardinia holiday itinerary is a real treat, allowing visitors to explore some great wines that they may not otherwise ever come across. Try a tasting menu with wine pairings at Hotel Relais Villa Del Golfo’s MiraLuna restaurant, where each course is perfectly matched with a glass of something local.
Sample the local specialties
The undisputed king ingredient of north Sardinian cuisine is undoubtedly pork and, more often than not, it comes in the form of spit-roasted suckling pig. Certainly not one for non-meat eaters, the pig is a much celebrated ingredient and is often cooked on the spit over large open-faced fires for all to see, before being served, crispy crackling and all, heaped on big sharing platters.
The typical dessert to follow is a delicious mixture of savoury and sweet – Seadas. These are little, unsweetened puff pastry fritters filled with pecorino cheese and drizzled in honey that melt in the mouth. If the Seadas don’t satisfy those with a ferocious sweet tooth, however, then other must-try, sugary delicacies are the typical after-dinner marzipan sweets elegantly decorated and moulded into pretty shapes. At the end of a meal, such a veritable feast of Sardinian specialties is best washed down with a digestivo of Mirto – a heady liqueur derived from the myrtle plant.
Stay at Su Gologone
A unique foodie retreat like no other we have experienced, Su Gologone is at the top of our list of places to stay for a couple of nights during a gastronomic getaway. More of a restaurant with rooms, rather than a hotel, as such, people come from far and wide, across the island and beyond, to dine here. It is a family-run property dating back to the 1960’s with art, local heritage and, of course, top-class cuisine at its very heart. Most ingredients used in the pretty, terraced restaurant are either grown on-site, or come from within a few miles. Mrs Palimodde, who set up the restaurant with her husband fifty years ago, can still be found in the kitchen most days.
Far from being stuffy, Su Gologone’s restaurant is always buzzing with a happy and festive atmosphere. During the peak summer months, candlelit feasts also take place twice a week, where guests can learn more about Barbagian culinary traditions. Once they have had their fill, there are many quiet, brightly coloured terraces to escape to around the property and relax between meals.
Start planning your next foodie holiday to Sardinia.