Each year, the Italian Tribune brings the Publisher’s Tour to our readers. Buddy and Marion Fortunato travel with their dear friends on this trip every year and the Fortunato’s have traveled Italy extensively many, many times. Over the next several weeks, we will feature segments of this year’s fascinating tour. With each journey by their travelers, the sights and culture of the places visited are retold. They bring to you reviews of restaurants, wineries and places to stay. You will learn about historic figures, the cuisine of different regions and gain a greater appreciation for the beauty that permeates the world’s most exciting country.
After arriving in Italy, the group’s first stay was on the Mediterranean’s second largest island – Sardinia. This represented a first for the Publisher’s Tour. In the northwest portion of the island is the Province of Sassari, which overlooks the Sardinian Sea and includes lovely resorts located in Castelsardo, Alghero and Stintino. As beautiful as Sassari is, it is surpassed by the coastline of the Province of Olbia-Tempio to the east. Although the land contains different environments ranging from hills and mountains to plains and even desert areas, it is the coast that is breathtaking.
In 1962, the Arab Prince Aga Khan IV decided to embark on an extraordinary tourist and real estate project to take advantage of the natural beauty of the area. This led to the development of the paradise known as Costa Smeralda. Today, this part of Sardinia is one of the most exclusive destinations in the world, drawing celebrities and affluent visitors from every corner of the globe. Tawny shops and high-end restaurants dot the towns, where the prices of homes can reach $40,000 per square foot. The heart of the Costa Smeralda is Porto Cervo. Nestled in a secluded cove, it offers exquisite accommodations in addition to a well-equipped marina, with yachts costing many millions of dollars. Those who spend the season here tend not to count their pennies!
In the southeast portion of Sardinia lies Cagliari, the capital of the province and the region. Located at the heart of the beautiful Golfo degli Angeli – the Bay of the Angels, the city was Italy’s Capital of Culture in 2015. Like Rome, Cagliari was built on seven hills, which identify the historic neighborhoods of the city.
The tour members were greeted by a dramatic view of the city rising on the hills with golden-hued palazzi, domes and facades that seemed to point upward to the rocky centerpiece of Il Castello – the city’s ancient castle. Cagliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities, but its history remains in full view. Everywhere the travelers went, traces of its rich past were present – ancient Roman ruins, museums filled with prehistoric artifacts, centuries-old churches and elegant palazzi.
Il Castello is Cagliari’s most iconic image. Once home to the city’s aristocracy, it rises above sturdy ramparts constructed many centuries ago. Inside the battlements, the old medieval city contains the city’s university, cathedral, museums and Pisan palaces, wedged into a jigsaw of narrow, high-walled alleys.
Near the center of town, Cagliari’s graceful 13th century Cattedrale di Santa Maria stands proudly on Piazza Palazzo. The interior of the once-Gothic church has all but disappeared beneath a rich 17th century Baroque decor. Bright frescoes adorn the ceilings and the side chapels spill over with exuberant sculptural whirls. However, near the central door are two stone pulpits from a much earlier era. Sculpted by Guglielmo da Pisa between 1158 and 1162, they were brought to Cagliari in 1312, a gift from the Pisans.
The Museo Archeologico Nazionalethis is the undoubted star of Sardinia’s museums, showcasing artifacts spanning thousands of years, from the early Neolithic through the Bronze and Iron Ages and up to the Roman eras. Highlights include a series of colossal figures known as the Giganti di Monte Prama and a superb collection of bronzetti (bronze figurines), which, in the absence of any written records, are a vital source of information about Sardinia’s ancient and mysterious nuraghic culture.
For those interested in shopping, Cagliari’s prime corner, where Via Roma and Largo Carlo Felice meet, is occupied by La Rinascente, Sardinia’s leading department store. Its six floors have plenty of upscale fashion. The top floor features a food hall, alongside a sophisticated bar. It was a wonderful place to stop for a quick bite because the travelers soon discovered a myriad of small shops in the area offering locally-made items and clothing.
The city of Cagliari boasts an eight mile long coastline – the Poetto. This popular beach becomes a center for meetings and nightlife during the evenings, thanks to the many restaurants and bars on the waterfront. The beautiful Mari Pintau was the first of a long series of bays and beaches that the group encountered along the breathtaking coastal road that led to Villasimius, the lovely town selected for the 2019 Publisher’s Tour stay in the Cagliari area. The wilderness, in contrast to the soft blue of the sea, guided the travelers into the heart of one of the loveliest areas of Sardinia.
Villasimius is a charming fusion of picturesque beaches, vibrant nightlife and historical culture, set within a former fishing village on the southwest tip of the island. Amazingly, even though the Sardinian visit was in the second half of October, the weather was in the mid to upper 80s each day.
The group’s stay was at the luxurious Falkensteiner Resort Capo Boi, which created the perfect balance of elegance and relaxation. The resort is best described as a paradise situated within a lush green park. Surrounded by hills, it features its own private, white sandy beach, while recreation and relaxation were present at every turn.
Finally, a stay in the area of Cagliari isn’t complete without visiting the beautiful pink flamingos that inhabit the ponds of the capital. They are just one of many fascinating and curious sights that the Publisher’s Tour encountered in this ancient province in Sardinia.
Inside the 13th century Cathedral di Santa Maria in Cagliari, Joe and Linda Fabio and Maria Clarizio and Mike Atiyeh are awed by the spectacular artwork.
WELCOME TO SARDINIA – The ladies are excited as their trip unfolds before a breathtaking view on their way to and all-day tour of Sardinia – and shopping, of course. From left are Joyce Bushey, Judy Carbone, Patti Farina, Maria Clarizio, Linda Fabio, Marion Fortunato, Marlene Mango and Maria Storm