Sardinia is famous all over the world for its beautiful coasts with fantastic beaches, and its mountainous and wild interior is also worth visiting. Many travelers describe Sardinia as being a continent unto itself, with each area and town having diverse landscapes and local traditions.
Sardinia is also the land of an ancient society which has its roots in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, and was then influenced (along its coastal areas) by the most important civilization in the history of the Mediterranean: Phoenicians, Etruscans, Romans, the maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa, Spain, Piedmont. The result is a rich mix of Mediterranean culinary heritage. Most of the recipes and products are surprisingly different from any other Italian preparation, such as "filindeu," the “thread of god,” a special pasta considered the rarest in the world.
On our Chef Bike Tour of Sardinia we will personally appreciate the specialties of both the coastal and the mountain areas. From the sea you will sample mullet bottarga, fregola with clams, Carloforte tuna, one of the most valuable and sought-after varieties in the world, and "Burrida a sa Casteddaia," a typical dish from Cagliari containing catfish and nuts.
In the mountains you will taste one of the oldest breads in the world, “pane carasau,” also called sheet music bread. Sardinian pecorino is famous the world over, and the local hams and sausages are also very good. Some dishes have a very strong flavor, such as "su callu de crabittu (a special cheese),” or “sa cordula (the braid),” made from the intertwined intestines of lamb. The national dish of Sardinia is suckling pig. To get its special taste it is made from pigs no larger than four kilos (8.8 pounds) and cooked slowly over a fire.
Sardinia is also a land of prestigious wines: full-bodied reds such as Cannonau, white wines suitable to accompany fish such as Vermentino di Gallura, and meditation wines such as Malvasia and Vernaccia.
Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of PRUNE, which she opened in New York City’s East Village in October 1999.
PRUNE has been recognized in all major press, both nationally and internationally. Gabrielle has made numerous television appearances including segments with Martha Stewart, Mark Bittman, and Mike Colameco and was the victor in her Iron Chef America battle against Bobby Flay on The Food Network in 2008. Most notably, she won an Emmy for her role in Season 4 of the PBS series Mind of a Chef. Gabrielle has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Food & Wine, Afar, Travel and Leisure, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, Elle, and House Beautiful. Her work has been anthologized in Best Food Writing 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011 and 2013. Gabrielle has won 4 james beard awards, culminating with the top honor of Outstanding Chef in 2018. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, which has been published in six languages Most recently, she wrote the cookbook, Prune, featuring 250 recipes from her East Village restaurant.
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Cagliari - Arrival
Our tour starts in the capital of Sardinia, Cagliari (called Casteddu in Sardinian, which means castle). Cagliari is an ancient city with a long history. It has been ruled by several civilizations, and under the modern city there is a continuous stratification attesting to human settlement over the course of some five thousand years, from the Neolithic Period to today.
Today the city is the regional, cultural, educational, political and artistic center of Sardinia and it’s also known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and monuments.
We plan to meet in the afternoon (exact time TBA) after airport transfers and check-ins. The guides will lead a stroll in the old town to get immersed in its unique atmosphere. A must-to do is an aperitivo - enjoy a glass of local vermentino - on the old city wall. Guides will deliver a tour overview and cover the logistics. Gabrielle Hamilton will give her take on what’s ahead as well.
Chef Luigi Pomata from Carloforte is known as "the chef of red tuna" and you'll understand why after his menu presentation and his explanation of how his tuna is sourced.
Santa Cristina - Oliena - 9 or 17 miles - Rolling
Today we have an early start because we need to make it to the fish market. The San Benedetto market in Cagliari is the biggest of its kind in Europe and it showcases an eye-opening and mouth-watering selection of seafood and other Sardinian gastronomical treasures. Gabrielle (and of course you can help) will shop for a picnic lunch.
We then transfer to Oliena, one of the most representative villages of Sardinia’s true soul. On the way there, we will stop to visit the most fascinating archeological site on the island: the sacred well of Santa Cristina. This is the best way to introduce you to the oldest culture of the Mediterranean area, the Nuragic Civilization. Back in the Bronze Age, that civilization left its imprint with its megalithic towers, the “nuraghi.” Still to this day, the Nuragic Civilization is capturing the interest of archeologists who are trying to explain where those people came from and why they built those huge towers and temples all over the island. After the visit, we enjoy our picnic of authentic Sardinian food.
After the second leg of the transfer, we finally reach the charming hotel Su Gologone, a perfect blend of authenticity and hospitality in a truly stunning setting. You’ll have some time to rest and get acquainted with the premises while the guides prepare the bikes for our first ride among Oliena vineyards.
Dinner is at the excellent hotel restaurant.
Oliena - Orgosolo loop - 35 miles with a shorter option of 18 miles - Hilly
Today we hop on our bikes and pedal to the town of Oliena where we will observe the baking of “carasau” bread. This traditional flatbread, also called "carta da musica" in Italian (meaning sheet music) is named for its large and paper-thin shape, which is said to be so thin before cooking that a sheet of music can be read through it. The recipe is very ancient and was conceived for shepherds, who used to stay far from home for months at a time.
From the bakery we continue towards Orgosolo, a town that has been known for its beautiful murals since the late 1960's. They are political paintings that can be found on walls all over Orgosolo and reflect different aspects of Sardinia's political struggles but also deal with international issues.
In the past, the town was known for the phenomenon of “banditry." At one time, Orgosolo was known as the "Village of Murderers" due to its high crime rate. Bandits from the surrounding mountains used the church door to post notices of death sentences passed on their enemies. No worries, no more bandits around!
The way back is along a stunning panoramic road in the peaceful countryside. We cross the wine production area of the Nepente di Oliena, a variety of Cannonau grape that, thanks to the unique terroir of the Lanaittu Valley, has a really intense and persistent flavor.
The best way to experience a traditional meal is at a local agriturismo. Under the lead of Gabrielle, we will team up with our hosts to prepare a Barbaricinian menu (Barbagia is the geographical, cultural and natural region of this part of inner Sardinia).
Oliena - Dorgali loop - 31, or 18 miles - Hilly
Can the identity of a culture be mirrored by a wine? We think so.
Cannonau wine means hospitality. It is the wine that, more than any other, brings to mind Sardinia and its ancient traditions. Cannonau is the protagonist of today's ride among old vineyards and rural archeological sites that dot the Cannonau Wine Route between Oliena and Dorgali. Here, fertile land and patient work give life to authentic wines that enhance the culture, beauty, history, and tradition of the area. Cannonau is unsophisticated, yet powerful.
From a Blue Zone diet perspective, Sardinians drink wine moderately - a glass or two of red wine daily - and Cannonau has two or three times the level of "artery-scrubbing" flavonoids as other wines. Salute! Lunch is, of course, at a producer where a wine tasting will be paired with Dorgali’s products (cheese, cold cuts, homemade bread).
The ride back to Su Gologone involves one steady climb, but you can also take advantage of the van and drive back.
Before dinner, we are going to have a Q&A session with Gabrielle. Her journey and some personal details are out in the public (read Blood, Bones & Butter ) but we are sure that you have some questions about her chef life, food, and recipes. You should not miss out on the privilege of having her with us on the Chef Bike Tour of Sardinia.
Genna Silana - Baunei - 28 or 43 miles - One long climb then rolling
Today you will ride along one of the most scenic roads on the island (and perhaps in all of Europe) as we go deep into the Blue Zone area. We begin with a short transfer to reach the starting point at the Genna Silana Pass, 3280 ft above sea level. From there, we ride towards the town of Baunei, which is the most important town of the Ogliastra region. Between Genna Silana and Baunei lays a rugged protected area characterized by wild nature, high cliffs, and dense forests. Due to its position and landscape, the Ogliastra has been isolated for a long time and that has allowed its inhabitants to maintain a strong genetic identity. That could be one of the elements, combined with a healthy lifestyle and a simple organic diet, that makes them one of the longest-lived people in the world.
For lunch, we enjoy a typical spread in an authentic shepherd hut on top of a stunning limestone plateau. It’s a unique experience that takes us back in time and to a simpler way of life.
We start again and ride or shuttle to our next hotel. Time to relax, enjoy the beach, and then gather for dinner for a Blue Zone menu and a lecture by a nutritionist who is one of the main Blue Zone diet experts.
Santa Maria Navarrese - Selvaggio Blu - Boat ride
Our grand finale involves a private, all-day cruise.
Sailing starts at about 9 am, and we are back at the harbor at about 6 pm. Swimming and snorkeling in the pristine water and sunbathing will fill most of the day. Lunch is on board. It’s a privileged point of view that stimulates all the senses. We will touch upon biodiversity guided by what’s on the table. The taste and scent of freshly caught fish, served on the fishing boat, surrounded by one of the most beautiful seas in the world, is a unique experience that allows you to better understand the rich beauty of Sardinia but it is also an immersion in its true everyday life and one of its traditional economic activities. We can’t deny the fact that those activities are endangered, yet both this land and its people are very resilient. We can help keep them going through mindful tourism.
Highlights: the limestone cliffs and spectacular bays, Cala Goloritze, Cala Biriola, Cala Mariolu. We'll be back at the hotel in time for our final dinner celebrations.
For those who prefer to pedal we can take you on an optional loop that explores the hills of the hinterland and along the coastal roads and enjoy splendid views.
This morning after breakfast there will be a group private transfer to the Cagliari airport.
Sardinia is one of the very few places in the world that boasts "Blue Zone" designation. This refers to areas across the globe where people live longer and have healthier, more natural lifestyles. We’ll ride straight through the Blue Zone and appreciate the authentic food and the excellent wine, just a few reasons Sardinia holds a world record in longevity, together with an active life in the open air and a social life still linked to the community. Sardinians still hunt, fish and harvest the food they eat. They remain close with friends and family throughout their lives, retaining a rich social life that wouldn’t be complete without plenty of laughter and a glass or two of wine.
A Blue Zone is a truly rare place, almost enchanted. Incredible as it may seem to you, the inhabitants of a Blue Zone seem to have discovered the elixir of life. Sardinia is a land of happy and healthy centenarians, and in the mountain villages of Sardinia the percentage of the population living to at least 100 is the highest in the world. Maybe they themselves do not realize it, but they have shown us, in practice, the secret to a long and healthy life. What matters most is that these splendid seniors enjoy excellent health above all, and they are happy. They smile at life!
Humanity has been looking for the elixir of long life everywhere for centuries, and it has remained only a myth, an unattainable mirage. Yet this secret of happiness was hidden in small remote villages in the mountains of Sardinia. Today there are five Blue Zones recognized around the world, and in 2004 the Sardinian province of Nuoro was the first to be discovered and studied.
As soon as the discovery was announced, prestigious publications, such as National Geographic and the New York Times, as well as great academics and best-selling writers, took an interest in this phenomenon. How is it possible? Initially it was thought that the secret to such a high concentration of centenarians was genetics and they began to study the DNA of this population.
But they soon realized that the secret (as usual) was not hidden at all; it was under their eyes and you didn't need a microscope to see it. Everything was much simpler: the elixir of life is made up of an active life (not sedentary), good food (simple and local, and mostly vegetables and legumes), a good glass of wine (rich in antioxidants and obtained from the grapes from local vineyards), delicious cheese (from local goats), and fresh air.
A Blue Zone is a place where people have been able to preserve their ancient ways of living, including recognizing the importance of the elderly in society. They are not marginalized from family or village life and they are still active and independent. They still cultivate the vineyards and their vegetable gardens. Their company is a pleasure: they are givers of good humor and laughter. The will to live is another secret of the Blue Zone.
If you want to get to know these enchanted places, far from the pollution and the frenzy of modern civilization, it will be our pleasure to accompany you; we always return the Sardinia with joy. We will lead you to discover beautiful mountains and spectacular coasts, through primary forests and wild canyons. Above all we will get to know a healthy lifestyle, and a rare humanity.