By LUKE, CHARMING SARDINIA
Situated in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy, France, Spain and Africa, Sardinia has long been a strategic trading and service post for conquering empires. This means the island’s culture and goods are an intriguing hybrid of influences, making this proud autonomous region not just a great place for the tourist, beach goer, or hiker, but for the eager shopper as well.
While the bigger cities in Sardinia do have larger outdoor gallerias, the true heart of Sardinian commerce still takes place in traditional central markets called Mercato Civile. In the capital city of Cagliari, the northern city of Sassari, and the western city of Oristano, flea markets are especially well-frequented, attracting traditional Sardinian artisans from all over the region. Artistic pottery runs a plenty, as do woven baskets, ceramics and handmade woodcarvings. Every region of Sardinia will have its own specialty, so if you know you’re looking for, say, the perfectly hewn willow basket, it’s best to ask the locals where to go (hint: a little town near Sassari called Castelsardo).
Boutiques, which are often run out of the family home, carry very similar wares, though they are often a little more expensive. These smaller shops just can’t be beat when it comes to specialty pottery, which often has a Greek feel to it with blue and white coloring. The boutique scene is also quite strong when it comes to precious metal products like copperware, gold, and semi-precious stones. If you’re staying mainly in Cagliari, the best streets to check out are Largo Carlo Felice, Via Roma, Via Dante and Via Paoli. Jewelry fans might also consider taking a day trip to the little town of Isili – about an hour and a quarter northeast of Cagliari – to visit some of the region’s best known jewelry makers.
Even the smallest towns throughout Sardinia will have central markets and boutiques, so be on the lookout wherever you go. Outdoor flea markets tend to run on Sundays either every week (Cagliari) or the last Sunday of every month (Sassari). Boutiques keep more frequent hours, though Sardinians do love their relaxation and summer holidays, so don’t be taken off guard if a store is unexpectedly closed.
The most successful shoppers will be those ready and willing to hunt for the best products all across Sardinia, whether on foot, bike, bus, or car. Trenitalia runs trains between major cities like Sassari and Cagliari, and the bus and train company ARST operates both local and regional services at reasonable prices (though you’ll have to be patient, as the latter’s trains are known to be poky). Car rental is available through a number of companies, so it’s best to use a price comparison site to find the most affordable deal. If you’re really planning on shopping throughout most of the island, a car is definitely the best way to go so you can zip between many small towns. The main north-south highway, SS131, will take you from Cagliari to Sassari in a little over three hours, and it’s easy to stop at vibrant Oristano along the way.
Shopping in Sardinia is a true exploration. So get out there and have an adventure!
Luke is addicted to travelling and a blogger who works with Charming Sardinia http://www.charmingsardinia.co