Culture Street

Sara Alexander has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, including roles in much loved productions such as Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Doctor Who, and Franco Zeffirelliís Sparrow. She now returns to her Sardinian routes through the pages of her debut novel Under a Sardinian Sky (HQ, £7.99), available now in bookshops and on Amazon.

We are delighted that Sara was able to join us today with her top tips for the best places to visit in Sardinia. You will want to put Sardinia on your list of destinations this summer.

Top of the list of my favourite spots in Sardinia is my auntís garden table, at about 3 oíclock in afternoon in the early summer months. This is when the morning sun has cooked the marble just enough to bring a human lying on top of it to the perfect temperature for a nap. I have tried it many times; a sacrificial niece. Her house lies at the top of a steep hill looking out toward the sprawling town of Ozieri, in the northern central area of the island, with its warren of narrow lanes, or viccoli, where I spent my childhood summers.

On a more helpful note, here are my top five spots I consider worthwhile visits:

1. A day at Tavolara. This is an island off the east coast. Hire a boat to set your own pace or head over on a yacht where they will take you to a beach and feed you the freshest seafood you can get. Take a dive into the emerald-turquoise waters.

2. Cagliari. This is the metropolitan capital with a very Moorish feel. If youíre a foodie youíll love the choice of wonderful places to eat. There is a big arts scene here with an annual Jazz festival that attracts great artists.

3. Ozieri. I may be biased, but my motherís hometown - and the one Iíve based the town on in Under a Sardinian Sky - is picturesque with a great deal of charm. Head there on a Tuesday or Friday for the market Ė think fresh local produce, loud customers, clothes, shoes and great cheese. Visit the caves of San Michele, the nearby Neolithic ruins and Nuraghi (ancient fortresses) then feast at the agriturismo in Tula, in the middle of the countryside near lake Coghinas. Beautiful. Agriturismi are a great way to get a flavour of Sardinian food and culture. They are usually farmhouses that serve a set menu Ė bountiful and typical. Expect antipasti, two types of homemade pasta, suckling pig, lamb, salads, vegetable side dishes and seadas, a typical Sardinian desert: sweet, citrus cheese filled pastry disc fried till crisp on the outside and oozing in the centre, drizzled with local honey syrup. Digestif of mirto to round it off. Schedule a siesta.

4. Cala Gonone / Cala Mariolu. These two are idyllic coves reachable only by boat. Avoid the crowds of July & August and grab a spot on a boat in June / September for a glorious day dipping into crystalline coves surrounded by rugged cliffs. The approach to where the boats depart will wind you through typical villages with roads barely wide enough for a car.

5. Tharros. These are the ancient ruins that lie on the west coast in the province of Oristano. Pair a visit here with a drive through the Gennargentu national park and you will have had your fill of wilderness and history.

Buon viaggio!

undera sardinianskyUnder a Sardinian Sky centres on Mina, a London-based travel writer. The enigmatic silence surrounding her aunt Carmela has become a personal obsession for Mina.

Carmela disappeared from her Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her familyís Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother battling cancer, itís time to learn the truth.

As Mina follows the threads of Carmelaís life to uncover her fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and extraordinary love. You can buy the book here in Australia and here in the UK.

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