Sardinia’s Graceful Wilderness
Sardinia’s Graceful Wilderness
You see its coastline rise like the spine of a prehistoric giant, each cliff and cove the curved recesses of a sandstone vertebrae. Ivory rock formations careen into aquamarine waters like limbs in motion, as the intricate pattern of evergreen shrubs and spindly trees cling to their earthly appendages like tattoos. Ancient, untamed and graceful in its wilderness, Sardinia is a surreal tableau of sea and sky, emblazoned by history and burnished by the undying spirit of its rugged people.
Located off of the southwestern shore of Italy, Sardinia’s prehistoric landmass has been inhabited for more than 100,000 years, resulting in an ancient heritage that continues to reveal its hidden secrets stone by carefully discovered stone. Archeological surveys of the island’s famous Grotto Corbeddu yielded human fossils in 1967 that were dated back 14,000 years, making Sardinia home to some of the world’s oldest known records of humankind. While today the cyan clear waters, pristine beaches and untouched landscapes of Sardinia are the thing of vacation dreams, the island is almost extraterrestrial in its feral perfection. But where a bounty of otherworldly scenery bewitches visitors into flights of whimsy, one glimpse of a Nuraghi fortification and you are immediately reminded of Sardinia’s anthropological patrimony, having birthed populations that have remained fiercely self-reliant from centuries of island survival and ongoing invasions. The Nuragic civilization is said to have existed on the island beginning in 1800 BC and lasted for more than a 1,000 years. Known as a formidable warrior and seafaring tribe, the Nuragic people are believed to have built more than 20,000 Nuraghi, or trunk-shaped Megalithic stone forts, throughout the island at the height of their civilization. Today, nearly 8,000 Nuraghi remain standing, most notably the “Tombs of the Giants”, making Sardinia one of the best preserved examples of Megalithic architecture in all of Europe.
Sardinia’s wealth of history is only matched by the richness of its natural beauty. The lucid and warm Mediterranean waters that gently caress the island’s jagged shoreline are only further accentuated by the naturally formed phenomena of its “cala”, or naturally formed beach coves, which line the central and north-eastern parts of the island. Mystical, hidden and rugged, the coves are some of the most awe-inspiring and exquisite opportunities to appreciate Sardinia’s coastline. Although today comfortably reached by public or private boats, you cannot help but be humbled by the thought that these same coves were enjoyed and admired by the ancient Nuragic people almost 4,000 years ago. In no particular order, here are some of Sardinia’s most breathtaking “cala”:
Located on the eastern part of the island near the town of Baunei, Cala Goloritzè is one of the most stunning coves to inhabit the landscape. With brilliant white limestone formations that dot the shoreline and shallow turquoise waters, the cala’s beach is comprised of smooth, tiny white pebbles leading out to its iconic, nature-made arch that opens onto the sea.
Nestled in the Orosei Gulf and secluded amidst imposing rock formations and large boulders, the crystalline waters of this jewel of a bay can only be seen to be believed. Cala Mariolu’s halcyon waters transition between shades of cyan and turquoise to azure and cobalt with the changing light of day, as its large beaches speckled with sun-baked pebbles of white and pink radiate in the sun. Unique from many of Sardinia’s other coves, the Cala Mariolu is graced with a series of natural caves scattered across the beach and feature impressive stalactite formations.
This awe-inspiring cove is located on the eastern side of the island of Caprera in the Archipelago of the Maddalena, which lie off the north-eastern coast of Sardinia. Characterized by an immaculate white sandy beach and rosy hued and red crystal rock formations, perhaps the crowning glory of this small bay is its vibrant, electric blue waters that are ideal for swimming. Tranquil, desolate and unblemished, Cala Caticcio is one of Sardinia’s lesser visited but most incredible natural coves.
As with a number of Sardinia’s treasures, its coveted coves are inspiring natural assets that continue to bridge the ancient with the now, an ever present reminder of the indominable spirit of this fabled land and its people and their generosity to share such wealth and plenty with the rest of the world.