Mealtimes are a big deal in Sardinia, with large families crowding around the dinner table to chow down on hearty local grub. Lots of the fruit and veg is still homegrown to this day, and things are kept refreshingly simple on the plate – garlic, lemon or olive oil being the standard accompaniment.
Proteins from the milk and cheese-inspired diet keep people fighting fit, and there’s not a lot of sugary food or meat on the menu. Leek, cabbage, onion and spinach are piled high, sometimes with a lean slice of pork or some oily fish on the side. The flatbreads are also high in protein and fibre and ingredients like fava beans, chickpeas and barley helps to keep people healthy. You don’t have to worry about small portions here, though, with pizza and pasta still making an appearance in the evenings.
A team of food boffins took a closer look at the diet, and agreed that goat’s milk and sheep’s milk were more nutritional alternatives to cow’s milk.
One of the biggest mainstays of the Sardinian diet is wine. The locals swear that a glass a day keeps the doctor away, and their habit of reaching 100 suggests they might be onto something. One of Sardinia’s nicknames is ‘insula vini’, which translates as ‘wine island’, and to sample the good stuff you can go wine and oil tasting at a vineyard in the hills. Pecorino cheese and salami is laid out by the family who run this place, and you’ll get to try the reds and whites that might just be the key to longer life.
One of the theories behind people’s longevity here is that island life has kept them isolated from other cultures, as well as infection and disease. The Barbagian Mountains were a haven for Sardinian villagers who fled invaders throughout the centuries, and the traditional day-to-day hasn’t changed much in many places. Unsurprisingly, it’s this community that boasts some of the longest-living folk on the island, which experts reckon is down to their secluded location.
Paying the island’s quieter parts a visit isn’t a surefire way of adding extra years to your lifespan, but it’s the best example of what Sardinia’s countryside has to offer. The sleepy northern village of Badesi Mare is sandwiched between rolling hills and picture-perfect beaches, and you can book in for go-slow breaks at the Resort and Spa Le Dune.
Another fine example of Sardinia’s natural side is Valledoria, set just along the coastline from Badesi Mare. Mountain views come as standard, and peaceful hotels, like the adults-only Casteldoria Mare, are pulled up right against the sand.
For the ultimate slice of seclusion, check out the tucked-away Villa Lu Barranch, on the outskirts of Alghero. It’s set in grounds where you could hear a pin drop, and comes with a private pool and a sun terrace.
Sardinians practically wrote the book when it came to hard graft, and it isn’t uncommon for locals to keep working well into their twilight years. In the hilliest parts of the island, farmers can walk more than five miles a day.
Set modern-day transport to one side, and you’ll find that the walking trails here are something special. The landscape is dotted with thousands of ancient Nuraghi towers – beehive-like structures which are still puzzling historians to this day. You can clock up the miles just as easily in one of the island’s cosmopolitan towns, like Alghero.
This Spanish-inspired settlement has a maze-like old quarter, peppered with Gothic buildings, café-lined piazzas and traditional ice-cream parlours. It’s nicknamed Little Barcelona, because of its history, and you’ll even hear locals speaking in a Catalan dialect as you’re strolling through the centre. Active days out also get started at Alghero’s marina, where you can take snorkelling trips along the beach-studded coastline.
There’s no medical proof to this one, or even scientific logic, but the sense of family in Sardinia is credited with helping locals lead a happier life. It makes the island one big cheery place, where crowd-around-the-table dinners and parties are a real staple.
Everything’s set up for you to make your own family memories here, as well. You’ll find a healthy crop of traditional-style hotels sprinkled across the island, but it’s also got its fair share of family-focused places. In Olbia, the Family Life Janna e Sole dishes up sharing platters of meze-style food in its Taverna restaurant, and in Alghero, the Family Life Baia di Conte has kids’ clubs for three to 11-year-olds, and yoga classes for mum and dad.
If you haven’t got little ones in tow, there are still hotels that fall in line with Sardinia’s laid-back values. The Sensimar Matta Village has all the same relaxing credentials as the family-focused alternatives, but comes with an adults-only tag and a boutique design.
Take a look at some of our Sardinia holidays
Author: Shaun Ringwood
You get something for everyone at this family-friendly hotel – it has a top pool scene, and a great activities line-up on offer.
The has a four-strong line-up of pools, and top-drawer views of Porto Cervo Bay.
Set on a hillside near the village of Isola Rossa, the Hotel Marinedda Thalasso & Spa serves up panoramic views of the Asinara Gulf.
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