Sardinia is a very popular tourist destination – you’re guaranteed intense sunshine, beautiful beaches, turquoise water, excellent food and incredibly friendly people. However few people know about a little town called Bosa, which is why I like to think it’s the hidden gem of Sardinia.
A visit to this far flung paradise, immersed in local culture, is bound to be one of the best holidays you’ll ever have. Bosa is a truly charming maze of multi coloured houses set on the side of a hill which is crowned by a castle. The lazy Temo river snakes around the town and then glides out to the sparkling sea. We didn’t come across any foreigners during our stay in Bosa, it remains somewhat untouched by the tourism trade. Obviously it did help that I speak fluent Italian, don’t expect the locals to speak much English.
We stayed in Blu B&B, owned and run by Sebastiano Zapulla, a very friendly and very Italian host. He served us delicious breakfasts every day on the roof terrace which had to have had one of the best views of the town. Every morning we had Sardinian bread, a selection of cured hams and salamis, fresh orange juice, yoghurt and a huge bowl of chopped watermelon, honeydew melon and peaches with mint. Yum!
The rooms were equally delightful. We stayed in the lilac room – a large double room with an en suite bathroom, all painted purple except the traditional domed stone ceiling. The lobster traps, seashell curtains and creeping bouganvilla gave the B&B a magical seaside touch.
Walk around the town
The thing I enjoyed doing most in Bosa was just wandering around and soaking in the atmosphere. Old ladies shouting at friends on the street from their 3rd floor windows, people arguing because the little cobbled roads are too small for two apes (3 wheeled vans), rows of tomatoes laid out on the street in the sun to dry, there is so much going on.
If you’re tired of walking, I’d strongly recommend hiring a bicycle (our B&B chucked them in for free) as you can cycle down the river to the sea front from the old town quite easily.
I really loved the old factory buildings on the river side. A couple were just abandoned but a lot have been converted into restaurants and houses. Perhaps avoid eating lunch on the riverside though, unless you’re happy to get ripped off! One of the buildings houses the tannery musuem which we didn’t manage to go to, however I was told it’s a great place to learn about the history of the town!
The main street in the old town is the Strada Provinciale 49, which later becomes Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II. It’s a wonderful street, a lot more touristy in that it’s lined with shops, but still a lot of fun. The typical products of Sardinia are filigree jewellery which is really very pretty and red coral. I have a passionate love for red coral jewellery and couldnt help but buy a pendant. However I have heard that a lot of the coral is imported from China nowadays, apparently you can tell which is which by the colour – one is a deep red, the other more a pink-red. However I have unfortunetely forgotten which is which! Ultimately they are both corals and if you like it, just buy it!
The main square is the Piazza Constituzione which is a very elegant square with a fountain at the centre, flanked on one side by a regal looking golden building with arches. There are a lot of restaurants in this square – it’s a wonderful place to eat location wise however the prices are steep and the food quality is significantly lower, some even offering foreign foods. Obviously it is up to you, however I would encourage you just to walk around and to eat elsewhere.
On one side of the Piazza is the entrance to a very unusual art gallery. We weren’t really sure if we were supposed to be walking in but a man encouraged us to look around. I really liked the series of paintings of Pinocchio – do try and find it if you can!
Go snorkeling and kayaking
Bosa Marina has a completely different feel to the old part of the town. Large nightclubs, beach restaurants, party music and cocktails rule the land and the local youth come out to play. Definitely a place to go for a fun evening, but perhaps not for the beach, which is frankly really disappointing. However, on the seafront there is a little floating water sports centre which hires out kayaks and organises snorkeling trips. We rented kayaks twice, once we went out of the harbour, out to sea, skirting around the coast; and once we went up the river which was wonderful. Expect to be accompanied on your river cruise by flying fish!
We also booked a little snorkeling trip – they took us out on the boat to the prettiest places. The water is incredibly clear and there are a lot of colourful fish to see (and shells to find!) In retrspect the best thing to have done would have been to have hired a vespa for the week we were there, then we would have been able to access the prettier coves ourselves without needing to pay for the boat. A lot of shops sell snorkels and goggles, so I would recommend planning your own swimming trips!
An unexpected find near Bosa Marina was this little vintage train (Il Trenino Verde) which I’m guessing was restored and only recently put back to work. For a small fee you can travel out of the town and into the wilds of Sardinia. They have different packages, some stopping off for wine tastings, some just take you in a loop for the view. The train is accompanied on all its journeys by a little car that drives ahead of the train to put down and lift back up the crossings on either side of the road! I found this rather amusing.
Visit the castle
At the top of the hill sits Bosa castle, sleepily watching over the city and enjoying it’s retirement – it’s days as a defensive structure long gone. Only the walls and the tower remain, but for €5 you can walk around the walls and climb up the tower for a great view.
The path up to the castle is lined with flowers. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT attempt this walk in the middle of the day in summer like we did. We ended up faint and feeling very melted. The phrase ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ definitely came to mind! There are a lot of steps and we definitely entertained a lot of the locals by attempting to conquer them during siesta time. On the plus side the little stand that sells entry tickets to the castle also sells cold te alla pesca (peach iced tea) – a must have in Italy. I personally recommend the San Benedetto brand!
Let’s be honest – all Italian food is good, it is definitely one of the best cuisines in the world. Simple ingredients grown under the hot sun and mixed together with a love only Italians give to food can only produce an amazing meal.
However in Sardinia you can get some really good seafood!
There are two restaurants I would really recommend. The first – Mangiaimbuto, is very close to the main square (Piazza Constituzione) however almost impossible to find, I’m surprised they get any customers except for locals! We had a lovely meal there (I had sea bass with olives and potatoes and rosemary). A carabiniero (police) was sitting at the table next to us and we watched with amusement as he was perduaded to have a little digestivo!
The second restaurant, recommended to us by Sebastiano was Trattoria Sa Nassa – a charming little trattoria, bursting with character and good food located on the river front. It was a pity they didnt have any tables outside for the evenings though.
I’m sure we tried almost every gelateria in the town, however our favoruite by far was ‘Ice Dreams Cafe’ on the corner of Via Mannu and Via Vincenzo Gioberti – definitely head straight there! Coincidentally there is a wonderful pizza place just around the corner on Via Ginnasio.
My final recommendation for Bosa is to go trekking up the mountains behind the city on horseback. The Circolo Ippico Binza Campus organises treks at a reasonable price and the instructors also speak English. I didn’t take my camera with me unfortunately so dfon’t have any photos of the unbelievable scenery but I will never ever forget the experience. As you canter through vineyards, eagles soar above you and a trail of red dust hazes the air behind you.
Don’t let a lack of gear phase you. If you have no jodhpurs, ride bareback! (Bear in mind I have been riding since I was three years old; if you can’t ride, please ignore my previous advice, wear leggings and a shoe with a heel)
I hope you visit Bosa and love it just as much as I did – it really does have everything you could ever want – beautiful coastline, a pretty river, a charming colourful and cobbled old town, a castle, great food and a little train!