There were three alternative routes from Sassari to Olbia but we held off making a decision about which one to choose until we could properly assess the morning weather.
It wasn’t good! It was bad so that immediately ruled out the preferred coast road and a stop at a beach and no one was very keen on the country route either because sightseeing is never very thrilling in the rain and using a mountain road Kim and Margaret would be certain to continually criticise my driving again so that left the direct main road route which was estimated to take just a couple of hours.
So, after an excellent breakfast we left Sassari in a fine drizzle and headed east. It was a long straight road but it was besieged by road works and this meant a tedious journey across the interior of the island towards our destination. Our itinerary was in tatters now, we were at least twenty-four hours ahead of the original plans and arriving in Olbia at lunch time meant even more rearranging of our carefully made plans.
We were so used to the rain now that we had barely noticed that it had cleared away and the sun was shining all of a sudden and this was a nice if unexpected welcome back. We checked in and made for the centre where local people were also glad of the sun because they were using it to dry out their shops and restaurants and the boxes of stock that had been flooded and drenched in the previous days storms.
I suppose that you would have to say that Olbia is an unremarkable place, a transit city with an airport and a seaport for transporting people quickly in and out and it doesn’t get many pages allocated to it in the guidebooks but we now had an afternoon spare to explore it.
We started at the marina where expensive yachts were moored overlooking the ferry port on the other side and then turning our back on the coast turned inland and roamed through the small city centre with its long main street of shops and restaurants and crooked back streets leading off.
You wouldn’t accuse Olbia of being attractive or even particularly interesting but on a lazy Friday afternoon we discovered that it has a certain indifferent charm and the longer we walked around and the more bars we stopped in along the way the more we liked it.
In the evening we dined at a simple pizzeria and before going to bed we rearranged our bags ready for the flight home tomorrow. If the weather didn’t improve there was the prospect of a very long and tedious day ahead because our flight wasn’t until the evening.
Hip Hip Hooray!
The weather did improve and in the morning there was a big blue sky and if we hadn’t been there we would never have guessed that there had been a cyclone and devastating floods all across the island.
It was a chance at last to visit one of Sardinia’s famous beaches so we asked the hotel clerk for a recommendation and shortly after breakfast headed off towards the coast. The beach that he suggested required leaving the main highway and driving down an unmade road for about a mile to a dusty car park. This wasn’t easy because the floods had washed the top surface away and it was deeply pitted with flood gulleys and littered with stones and rocks that had been washed down from the surrounding hills but we persevered and eventually made it thankfully without damaging the car.
The recommendation was a good one and nearby was a caramel sand beach caressing the sea in a sweeping crescent shape like a Saracen’s sword. The sea sparkled in the sunlight and this was the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful hour or so at one with nature. Except for one thing. The hotel clerk had said that he thought this to be the best beach in the region and it was clear that most of Olbia agreed with him because, this being Saturday, the beach was crowded and we were lucky to find a vacant plot of sand on which to lay our towels. But we weren’t complaining and we enjoyed an hour or so swimming, walking, politely declining the attentions of the lookie-lookie men and just simply being thankful for last day sunshine.
Eventually we had to think about getting our timings right for a final meal. Most restaurants close at three o’clock so if we were to eat before flying home then we had to make sure that we beat the unavoidable siesta shut down. Time was ticking by as we searched for somewhere until we came across a place that we considered suitable and we made it with just a few minutes to spare.
Lunch over and the staff eager to close up and go home for the afternoon we now had a couple of hours spare before going to the airport so we drove slowly and took regular diversions down to the sea but this was an afternoon of filling in time and eventually there was no other diversion to keep us away from the airport. We returned the car and I was relieved when the clerk inspected the car, declared everything to be satisfactory and invited me to ‘close the contract’. Phew!
There was a bit of a wait now so we sat in the bar and reflected on our week. It had been good, the rain was a bit of a nuisance but we had finished with a gloriously sunny day, a fine meal and in excellent company. Simple, unspoilt Sardinia gets a big thumbs up from me that’s for sure!
Have you ever come across anywhere unexpectedly good?