Tag Archives: Castelsardo

Entrance Tickets, The Fortress at Castelsardo in Sardinia


“(Sardinia) reminds me of Malta: lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere. Belonging to nowhere, never having belonged to anywhere.  To Spain and the Arabs and the Phoenicians most.  But as if it had never really had a fate.  Left outside of time and history.” D H Lawrence – ‘Sea and Sardinia’

After lunch we made our way towards the old town and the fortress set at the very top of the rocky outcrop.  At the lower levels there were souvenir shops selling usual tourist trash and after ignoring these we tackled slippery steep stone steps worn down by the passage of time and feet.

At the top we paid our 3€ entrance fee and passed through the gates into the recently restored castle and centro storico where waiting for us at the top there was a breath-taking 360° panorama of the land and the sea.

Read the full Story…

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Thursday Doors – Sardinia

Sardinia Door Church

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…


Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Travel Review of the Year – 2015

Warsaw Old Town and Royal castle

We went to Warsaw in February, it was cold, very cold.  I liked it a lot but not as much I have to say as the other Polish cities that we have visited of Krakow and Wroclaw.  Warsaw was good but it doesn’t have the historical swagger or confidence of Krakow or the quirky charm of the more manageable Wroclaw because Warsaw is a modern European capital with the raw edge and the buzz of a major city.  Whilst I might consider returning to Krakow and Wroclaw, once in Warsaw I think is probably enough.

Valletta Postcard

I have been to Malta before.  I first went there in 1996 and liked it so much that I returned the following year.  Both times I stayed at the Mellieha Bay hotel in the north of the island.  These were family holidays with two teenage children, beaches, swimming pools, banana boat death rides and Popeye Village.

I liked it so much that I have always wanted to go back.  I have repeatedly told Kim that Malta is special and that I am certain she would like it as much as I did.  Late last year the opportunity arose and I was able to find a combination of cheap flights and a hotel deal at Mellieha Bay for just £200 for four nights and five full days! I have heard it said that you either love Malta or you hate it, there are no half measures, there is no sitting on the fence and luckily at the end of the visit Kim was inclined to agree with me.

Ireland Dingle

In 2014 we visited Southern Ireland, Eire, The Republic and had such a wonderful time that we planned an immediate return to the Island for the following year.  Not to the South though on this occasion however but to that part of Ireland that still remains part of the United Kingdom – Northern Ireland or Ulster.

Not so long ago most people would no more of thought about visiting Northern Ireland than North Korea, it wouldn’t have crossed their minds to go to Ulster any more than go to Uganda and Belfast would be in a travellers wish list that included Beirut and Baghdad.  Now things are changing and Northern Ireland is reinventing itself as a tourist destination.

We enjoyed it there, the City of Belfast, the Titanic Exhibition, a drive along the scenic Antrim Coast, the Giant’s Causeway and a final night in Londonderry – a place to return to if ever there was one.

Edinburgh Scotland

After a Summer spent in England we travelled in August to neighbouring Scotland.    I am sure that I have been to the castle before, I visited Edinburgh in 1972 and 1984 but I couldn’t remember it at all.  This is another benefit of getting older, you forget things so even if you do them again they are like a whole new experience. This is another benefit of getting older, you forget things so even if you do them again they are like a whole new experience.

I liked Edinburgh, it was a wee bit expensive but when I have forgotten the details of this visit I am certain to go back again one day.

Lake Bala Wales

Earlier in the year I had made plans to go on holiday with my daughter and grandchildren and my son and we had chosen a holiday cottage near Boulogne in Northern France.  I like it there.  As the Summer approached there were more and more delays crossing the channel as a consequence of striking French ferry workers and large numbers of migrants attempting to cross from France to the UK.  I love my grandchildren very much but the prospect of being stuck in a traffic jam for up to twenty-four hours with them was just to awful to contemplate so when the critical moment came to make the final payment I cancelled and transferred the holiday to a cottage in mid Wales.

I enjoyed Lake Bala and Wales, it was a simple holiday, the sort that I remember from my own childhood and from taking my own children away when they were young.  I am convinced that youngsters don’t need water parks and amusement arcades when there is a wide open beach and the sea, the countryside, a stream to fish in a thrilling steam engine ride.

Kim enjoyed it so much that she has decided that we are going to live there!

Dinan Brittany France

But we were not to be denied a visit to Northern France because in August I spotted some reasonably priced return air fares at only £49 each to the Brittany resort of Dinard.  We snapped them up almost without thinking and then invited our friends Sue and Christine to join us and they immediately agreed.

I liked Brittany, I liked it a lot mostly because I have always resisted having a bucket list because I couldn’t get one big enough but I am thankful to fellow bloggers Victor (Victor Travel Blog) and Wilbur(Wilbur’s Travels) for reminding me that if I did have one then Mont St Michel would be somewhere near the top.

Kim enjoyed it so much that she immediately abandoned her Wales plans and has decided that we are going to live there!


Cheap flight tickets are top of a long list of good reasons to travel and when we spotted some reasonably priced return flights to Sardinia with Easyjet it didn’t take long to make a decision to visit the second biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea (just slightly smaller than Sicily) with our occasional travelling companions Mike and Margaret.

Our flight was to the city of Olbia in the North-East of the island so we planned an itinerary that would take us along the length of the north coast and then to the city of Alghero on the west coast and finally a return journey to Olbia across the northern countryside.

This was our final journey of 2015 and now we begin to make our plans for 2016.

Happy Travels Everyone!

Did you have a good year or have any big plans for 2016?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye-Spy

Doors of Sigüenza 3Iceland Norsemen ÞingvellirPB290367Venice Carnival MaskCastelsardo Sardinia Art Exhibition

Anyone care to take a guess in which countries these pictures were taken?


Sardinia – More Doors and Windows

Sardinia Door ChurchCastelsardo Sardinia DoorSardinia Worn DoorSardinia Window

More doors…

Doors of Catalonia 1

Doors of Catalonia 2

Doors of Catalonia 3

Doors of Catalonia 4

Doors of Dublin

Doors of Northern France

Doors of Portugal

Doors of Siguenza, Spain

Sardinia, Postcards

Sardinia Postcard MapSardinia Flag Postcardbastioni_algheroValle de Luna Sardinia


Sardinia, Doors and Windows

Sardinia DoorSardinia windowOlbia SardiniaAlghero Sardinia

More Doors…

Doors and Windows of 2015

Sardinia – Doors and Windows

Brittany – Doors and Windows

Blue Doors of Essaouira

Doors of Catalonia 1

Doors of Catalonia 2

Doors of Catalonia 3

Doors of Catalonia 4

Doors of Dublin

Doors of Northern France

Doors of Portugal

Doors of Siguenza, Spain

Sardinia, Castelsardo to Stintino

Castersardo Sardinia

Although we had enjoyed two fine days in Sardinia we were keeping a careful watch of the weather forecast because all of the indications were that things were going to change for the worse quite soon.

This didn’t especially concern us that much this morning however when we checked out of the Riviera Hotel in Castelsardo because although there was a scattering of high cloud the sky was mostly blue and it looked even clearer away to the west where we were happily now heading.

After driving out of the town the landscape started to change very quickly, there were no more mountains, no more sculptured rocks, no mountain goats and no more hillside villages.  Instead we drove in almost a straight line along a road at the back of the coast and the beach and we made good progress.  Rather than green hills there were dusty plains, fields that had done their job for the year and had now taken on the mantle of autumn – beige, khaki, olive, the colours of modern army uniforms.

There were no longer wild roadside shrubs as these were replaced now with an avenue of pink oleander with branches that strayed into the road that could make a nasty scratch in the car paintwork if you drifted too close so I stayed as near to the middle as I dared being forever mindful of car hire insurance scams.

Eventually we reached Porto Torres and any ideas that we might have had of stopping off there for a few minutes were quickly extinguished for this is a busy industrialised port, home to the chemical industries and oil refineries and although I am prepared to concede that the city centre might have its attractions the unattractive ring road around the south did nothing to persuade us that we should give it a chance.

Past Porto Torres we drove through acres and acres of solar energy panels and then wind farms and I was beginning to wonder if we were doing the right thing going to Stintino.  One good thing however that we were always driving towards clear skies even though we were being relentlessly pursued by grey cloud behind.

Sardinia Isola Rosso

By the time that we had found the hotel and checked in the cloud had caught us up and steadily it spread like a contagion across the sky and was blotting out the sun like an impending Biblical calamity so we walked for a while to the modern port full of swanky yachts, had a drink by the side of the water and kept a close eye on the weather.  Blue and grey battled it above us like American civil war armies but it was becoming increasingly windy and it was obvious who would be the eventual winner of this particular skirmish.

The wind was teasing the water now and sending waves crashing over the side of the port walls and it was getting close enough to reach us with sea spray so we left and walked around the second, older and more protected port until we found a pizzeria where we stopped for lunch but where famous Sardinian hospitality was sadly lacking and the mood of the staff matched the weather outside and afterwards we  walked back to the hotel and sulked in our rooms for an hour or so.

Close to Stintino is Le Pelosa beach which it is claimed is the finest on the island and so good that it regularly gets included in top ten lists of Europe’s finest so after we had come to terms with the weather and the disappointing news that it was likely to stay like this for the next couple of days or so we made our way there to take a look.  It was hopeless for swimming today of course but it was perfect for wind surfers and beach kite bikes so we found a suitable spectator position, a bar, and watched the activity.

No matter how hard we tried to convince ourselves there was no hiding from the fact that the weather was getting worse, the sky had a few solitary patches of blue further to the north but overhead it was turning through lavender to grey to purple to black and all the while the wind was getting stronger and sending waves crashing into the walls of the port with ever-increasing power rather like Thor on a drinking night out with his hammer.

Sardinia Stintino Storm

From the shelter of the bar it was all quite good fun watching these high waves and churning sea as the wind clawed at the rigging of the boats and rearranged the furniture on the bar terrace but what we didn’t know was that right now the Sardinian government in an emergency meeting in Cagliari had issued a yellow weather warning (serious)  in anticipation of it getting a whole lot worse.

We had chosen to stay in Stintino to break up the travel and for a couple of leisurely days on the beach and some time around the swimming pools but it was becoming increasingly obvious that we may have to change our plans for the day ahead.

Later we walked into the village and had a pleasant meal in a traditional restaurant and we were lucky to get back without getting drenched because not long after arrival heavy rains arrived and they continued all night long.  Some time while we were sleeping the government escalated the weather warning to orange alert (very serious) and had ordered schools and government offices to stay closed the following day!

The rain crashed down all night!

Le Pelosa Stintino sardinia

Have you ever had travel plans disrupted by the weather?

Sardinia, In Search of a Beach and on Safari looking for an Elephant

Sardinia Flag Postcard

“There is not in Italy what there is in Sardinia, nor in Sardinia what there is in Italy.” – Francesco Cetti, ‘Storia naturale di Sardegna

I suppose I was expecting Sardinia be all things Italian but except for a shared language and National Government, Sardinia it seems  is a very autonomous and could almost be mistaken for a completely different country.

One thing that I noticed most of all was the absence of the Italian flag because instead of the green, white and red tricolour almost everywhere there is I quattro mori, the Four Moors which is an especially striking and memorable national symbol.

According to tradition, it was a creation of King Peter I of Aragon, celebrating his victory at the Battle of Alcoraz in 1096. It was said that St. George miraculously appeared on the field of battle that day and that and the end of the saintly intervention there were four severed heads of Saracen kings.  (This is rather similar to the story of St James at the battle of Clavijo in 844 where a similar miracle occurred).

St George

So, the red cross and white background of St George and the black heads represent the Spanish Reconquista and further the four severed heads celebrate four major victories in Spain by the Aragonese, respectively, the reconquest of Zaragoza, Valencia, Murcia and the Balearic Islands. There are some alternative explanations for the origin of the flag but this is the one that I like best.

I found driving different from other parts of Italy.  You may remember me telling you that I was apprehensive about driving there again but I have to say that I found the Sardinian drivers courteous, patient and polite and not at all like the lunatics who drive on the mainland.  On the open roads driving was a real pleasure here.

Garibaldi Caprera

Finally, Garibaldi, the great Italian hero of Italian unification and who lived for many years on the nearby island of Caprera, because as far as my research tells me, except for Caprera itself, there is not a single statue of him in any town or city on the island.  I asked about this and was told that a lot of Sardinians are not that keen on being a part of united Italy at all, are rather defensive about their autonomous status* and rather like Scots in the UK and Catalans in Spain a great many of them look forward to the day of independence.

Perhaps Francesco Cetti was right.

After a disappointing breakfast we left Castelsardo and took a drive east in search of a beach that Kim, Mike and Margaret had found on a previous visit to the island and were so overwhelmed with it they were determined to find it again if only just to show me.

Sardinia Beach

What made this difficult was that not one of them could remotely remember where it was so we drove for twenty miles occasionally driving down unmade roads down to the sea only to draw one blank after another.  Eventually we reached the pretty little fishing port of Isola Rossa surrounded by crimson hills and all three of them had to admit defeat and face up to the inevitability of never finding it again.  This was a shame because they way that they described the location, it did sound quite magnificent.

Isola Rosso Sardinia

Instead we parked the car and walked around the harbour where yachts and pleasure craft competed for mooring places with traditional working boats where fishermen on deck  carried out all of the on-board jobs that need to be attended to upon return to land with a catch to sort and prepare for sale and nets to repair and stack.

Isola Rossa is only a small place so it didn’t take long to complete our circumnavigation of the village so after a short stop for a drink in the sunshine we returned to the car and drove all the way back that we had come earlier.

Iola Rosso Fishermen

Now we were looking for something else.  The Elephant rock, which is a curious natural sculpture, chiselled by erosion into the shape of an elephant which stands rooted forever to the spot by the side of the road and attracts a constant stream of visitors.

This should have been much easier to find than the elusive beach but we still managed to make hard work of it despite the fact that it was very clearly signposted and was only a couple of miles outside of Castelsardo.

Eventually we found it and ok, it looks curiously like an elephant but that is just about all I can say about it and my advice would be unless you have a fascination for rock shapes then don’t make a special journey to see it.

It was now mid afternoon and the sun was shining so we made our way down to the coast and found a wide sandy beach where we laid out or towels, changed into our bathing costumes and went for a swim in the sea.  It was lovely.  Except for a paddle in Wales this was the first time in the sea this year.  It has been a different year travel wise, we have been away a lot but this was the first time to a coast where the temperature made it safe to get fully submerged.

I generally find that an hour on the beach is long enough so as we were all in agreement we packed up, found a bar where we could sit and dry off and then returned to the hotel.

As we arrived back the siesta was coming to a close and after a couple of hours of shut down and inactivity life started to slowly return to normal and the little town began to stir into life once more.  Shutters rattled open, washing lines were cranked inside, car ignitions began to chatter, Lambretta scooters croaked into action and sleepy people began to reappear from their front doors.  The hotel reception opened for business, shops began to look for customers and within a short time normality was fully restored.

Later we climbed back to the top of the town in search of a restaurant but the choice was limited so we were forced back down again and found one at the bottom of the steps that we had passed by earlier and a predatory waiter persuaded us to go inside and after an excellent meal we were glad that he did.

Elephant Rock Sardinia

Have you ever gone out of your way to visit something in the guide books and then been disappointed?

*The Italian Constitution grants home rule/autonomy to five regions -Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Aosta Valley and Friuli-Venezia Giulia acknowledging their powers in relation to legislation, administration and finance.

Sardinia, Castelsardo


“(Sardinia) reminds me of Malta: lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere. Belonging to nowhere, never having belonged to anywhere.  To Spain and the Arabs and the Phoenicians most.  But as if it had never really had a fate.  Left outside of time and history.” D H Lawrence – ‘Sea and Sardinia’

If Sardinia reminded Lawrence generally of Malta, Castelsardo reminded me specifically of Croatia, of Dalmatia and Istria. Not unlike Rovinj or Trogir with tight packed neat square houses like stacked shoe boxes and all painted in gay pastel hues.

Perhaps this is not surprising when taking account of the fact that between 1943 and 1960 many thousands of Istrian and Dalmatian Italians were resettled in Sardinia following the post war exodus from Yugoslavia.  After the war Yugoslavia adopted a policy of ethnic cleansing, expelling the Italian population who were associated with the previous fascist regime of Mussolini and war-time racist atrocities in the area of occupation.

During this time the pressure put on the previously colonising Italians at first through murders and executions and latterly by less violent forms of intimidation such as nationalisation, expropriation and unfair taxation eventually left them with little option but to pack their bags and leave.  The Balkans are notorious for ethnic cleansing. Those that arrived on Sardinia brought with them their Venetian heritage and culture.

Basilica of St Nicholas Bari Puglia Italy

The Hotel Riviera was expensive and rather disappointing, very overpriced for the basic standard of accommodation on offer but on the positive side there was a magnificent view from the balcony of our room of the multi-tiered town rising dramatically out of the sea like a volcanic eruption, the houses like a flow of lava and on reflection a view such as this was probably worth a few extra Euros.

We declared it lunch time and set off to find somewhere to eat but as usual we had completely failed to take into account that the time was approaching the afternoon siesta, or il riposo as Italians call it and we strolled through curiously deserted streets as though someone had declared a national emergency and everyone had left town.

The concept of an afternoon siesta is not something that I am unfamiliar with but I think that I can say that I have never before seen it so rigidly observed; not in Spain, France or even Greece but here in Castelsardo and across the whole of Sardinia the whole place closed down for the afternoon as the residents retreated behind shuttered windows and locked doors.


Across the streets abandoned washing remained hanging, starched and bleached by the sun, occasionally a loose shutter kissed the window frame and a whispering pigeon looked for a vacant windowsill to spend the afternoon.  It was so quiet that I could hear the paint cracking and splitting on the wooden doors, the creaking of shutter hinges, the complaining of rattan as sleeping residents shifted a little in their balcony chairs and the faint crack of seed pods in the flower planters.

It looked as though our lunch might be a half empty bag of potato crisps back in the hotel room but just as we were about to give up hope we spotted a solitary pizzeria that remained open and in case they suddenly changed their minds and inconveniently put up the closed sign we dashed inside and found ourselves a terrace table for pizza and wine.

The day was perfect now and after lunch we made our way towards the old town and the fortress set at the very top of the rocky outcrop.  At the lower levels there were souvenir shops selling usual tourist trash and after ignoring these we tackled slippery steep stone steps worn down by the passage of time and feet. Forever going higher we came across the restaurants with tables and chairs wedged into the narrow streets, all closed of course right now but with faded menu boards inviting inspection for evening dining.

Castelsardo Sardinia Italy

At the top we paid our 3€ entrance fee and passed through the gates into the recently restored castle and centro storico where waiting for us at the top there was a breathtaking 360° panorama of the land and the sea.

Also inside there is a museum of basket weaving, which is an important local handicraft although, to be honest, you really need to be an enthusiast to find it interesting.  The tourist shops sell mass-produced, cheap baskets but within the walls of the old town old ladies sit in doorways weaving with raffia and beckoning tourists over to admire their goods on chaotic display spilling down steps which are far superior to the contents of souvenir shops.

Castelsardo Baskets

In a small alleyway I was trapped by a stooped woman with unruly grey hair, leather fingers and the complexion of pickled walnut and she took such pride in showing me her work that I felt obliged to buy one to take home.  She relieved me of 10€ and I took possession of the smallest basket in the display.

From the top we set off back down the steps stopping on the way to visit a couple of churches, first the Santa Maria delle Grazie which, unusually, has a figure of a black Christ in a side chapel* and then the Cathedral with its high tower and golden dome standing precariously close to the edge of the towering cliffs.

Now we walked back to the hotel and let the rest of the afternoon slip slowly away and later we watched the light fade and the lights begin to twinkle in the streets and alleys of the old town which drew us like moths towards a flame for an evening meal in a restaurant in a square under the shadow of the fortress above.

It had been a very good day.

Castelsardo Street

* It seems that there is some scholarly theological debate about the race/colour of Christ.  In the West we are used to the Aryan images of Roman Catholicism but it is more likely that he was darker with an olive-brown complexion and some claim (Martin Luther King for example) that he was black.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter that much, if you believe then Jesus can be anything that you want him or her to be.

Travels in Spain, Montserrat and the Black Madonna