Is Sardinia Safe for Tourists?

Traveling in Sardinia is very safe; it is one of the safest places in the whole of Italy. Sardinia is a very calm island, full of polite Sardinians, with old traditions and customs.

As long as you use common sense like you would in your own country or anywhere else in the world, then you will be fine. The people of Sardinia are very kind and would be happy to help when they can.

The coastal areas are more adapted to hosting tourists and are very accommodating. If you are looking to venture inland, you will see the real Sardinia, full of friendly, and kind locals. Sardinians are typically quite guarded of strangers, as they are from tight-knit communities. But there are some of the most helpful and most generous people you can find in Europe once you get to know them.

Little Mafia activity & kidnappings are far in the past.

Fortunately, there is almost no Mafia activity in Sardinia, compared to the Sicily & the south of Italy. Although, it is believed the mafia holds investments in Sardinia real estate.

is sardinia safe, mafia activity in sardinia
This map shows the Mafia activity

During the 1970s, Sardinia was notorious for its bandits. There were a string of kidnappings, even including the singer Fabrizio De Andre from Genoa, who later fell in love with the island, choosing to live on a farm. The bandits had nothing to do with politics, unlike the Mafia. Sardinia soon developed a reputation across Europe for these kidnappings. Throughout these dark times for Sardinia, the bandits were all that the international press had to write about Sardinia. Over-shadowing the beauty of the island. Typically, bandits were struggling farmers from the central regions of Sardinia. They would kidnap travelers looking for a ransom. The violence and kidnappings have long vanished from Sardinia.

is sardinia safe? The kidnapping of fabrizio de andre
Fabrizio de Andre

Crime Rate in Sardinia

police car lights in sardinia, is the region of sardinia safe?

According to The National Institute for Statistics, Sardinia is one of the regions of Italy with the lowest crime rate, making it one of the safest areas of Italy. It is placed third from last, out of the twenty Italian regions. The crime rate of Sardinia is several times lower than the Italian average.

In 2017 a questionnaire was sent to all Italian households, to learn about daily life across Italy. One of the questions asked the population whether they had a fear of crime in their region. Sardinia was the region of Italy that was least fearful of crime. Only 15.6% of Sardinian families consider the phenomenon of crime to be worrying.

What % of Italian families fear crime in their region?
Sardinia15.6%
The Italian Average38.9%
Lazio (Highest in Italy)50%

Don’t take sand from Sardinia beaches.

To avoid getting into trouble with the law, we urge you not to take any sand from the beautiful beaches. Just recently, in Summer 2019 a french couple was jailed for six years for stealing a large quantity of sand from a beach in Sardinia. They took 40kg of sand away in the boot of their car. Sardinia has long battled to stop tourists from removing the sand from its famously pristine beaches. It is entirely wrong to take sand from a beach. I understand that hefty fines and even arrest may come as a surprise too many, but it is a serious offense. So to stay safe, you must respect the natural environment of this beautiful island. Taking even a small amount of sand may seem harmless, but its a trend that has become so commonplace that it threatens the coastal environment.

Use common sense while traveling in Sardinia

You should never have any valuables visible in your car, as it would entice criminals to break in and steal.

If you are parking at a beach, make sure you park in a sensible place, I have seen the local police, handouts pages of fines to a long row of cars, parked on a verge at the entrance of a beach. Even if you see others parking somewhere, it doesn’t mean that it is a safe or legal place to park.

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The Airports of Sardinia

The island of Sardinia has three main airports. Cagliari Elmas Airport outside the city of Cagliari in the south of Sardinia, Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport in the north-east and Alghero Fertilia Airport in the north-west.

Which Airport do you fly into for Sardinia?

There are three airports, you should choose the airport that is most convenient, and nearest to where you are planning to stay.

If you have booked accommodation in the North of Sardinia, then fly to Alghero Airport or Olbia Airport which serves the famous Costa Smeralda. If you are going to spend your holiday in the South of Sardinia, then fly to Cagliari which is in the south.

If there is no route to your ideal airport, bear in mind that the length of Sardinia can be crossed in three hours. The journey through Sardinia is always spectacular. 

The Number of Passengers Flying into Sardinia

The Airports of SardiniaNumber of Passagers (2018)Percentage (%)
Cagliari Elmas Airport4,370,014 50.24%
Alghero Fertilia Airport1,354,371 15.57%
Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport2,974,280 34.19%
Total Number of Passengers8,698,665

Cagliari is the busiest airport in Sardinia. It sees more passengers than Alghero & Olbia Airports Combined. There is an almost even split of passengers flying into the North of Sardinia & into Cagliari in the South.

the airports of sardinia, ryanair plane outside alghero airport

The Airports of Sardinia

Cagliari Elmas Airport (CAG)

Cagliari Elmas Airport is the leading international gateway to Sardinia; it connects to most major European destinations. The airport handles 3 million passengers a year. It serves the south of Sardinia and tourist destinations such as Carloforte, Iglèsias, The Costa Verde, Carbonia and Pula.

Address: 
Cagliari Elmas Airport 
Via dei Trasvolatori snc
Elmas
09030 Sardinia
ITALY

Phone: +39 070 211 211

Getting to the city from the Airport

The quickest way to reach the city center is to take the train. It takes 5-7 minutes to reach the city center. A one-way ticket is €1.30, that can be purchased in the arrival hall and at the station, as well as from online ticket merchants. The trains operate from 5 am to 9 pm and one train departs for the city every 20 minutes.

Alternatively, there are taxis. It takes 10-15 minutes to drive into the city center of Cagliari and the taxi fare is between €15-20.

There is also a bus service to the city center. The first bus leaves from the airport at 8:40 am and the last bus leaves at 23:30 pm. A single one-way ticket costs €0.67, which you must have before boarding the bus, it can be purchased from the airport terminal or from newsstands. The bus stop is outside the terminal building and can be located by a black and white ARST sign. The bus station in Cagliari is at Piazza Matteotti.

Alghero-Fertilia Airport (AHO)

Alghero Airport is located 8km north-west of Alghero and is named after the village of Fertilia nearby. It is a small airport that is a gateway to the north-west regions of Sardinia. From Alghero airport, you can easily reach beautiful destinations such as Castelsardo, Sassari, Stintino, Bosa, S’Archittu, and Porto Torres.

Address: 
Alghero-Fertilia Airport 
Regione Nuraghe Biancu
Alghero
07041 Sardinia
ITALY

Phone: +39 079 935 011

Getting to the town from the Airport

Taking the bus is the best way to reach the city of Alghero. The journey takes 30 minutes. The bus departs once every hour from 5 am to 10:30 pm. You can purchase tickets from one of the machines located in the terminal for €1 or when boarding the bus for €1.50. Taxis into the town center of Alghero cost €20-25

Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport

The Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport links 14 countries to the island. It’s a prominent entry point to explore the north of Sardinia, the Costa Smeralda and tourist destinations such as Budoni, Golfo Aranci, La Maddalena, Palau, and Santa Teresa di Gallura.

Address: 
Aeroporto Olbia Costa Smeralda
Olbia
07026 Sardinia
ITALY

Phone: +39 789 563 444

Getting to the town from the Airport

A bus is the best way to reach the city of Olbia. The journey takes 10 minutes; you can buy your tickets on the bus for €1.50 or €1 at the information desk inside the terminal. Bus services numbers 2 & 10 depart to the town every 10-30 minutes. Taxis into the town charge about €15.

Which airport is best for Sardinia?

the airports of sardinia, oblia airport, which airport serves sardinia, flying to sardinia

This answer depends on where you want to stay on the island. All of the airports in Sardinia have short connections to their city. From Cagliari Airport, you can take a 5-7 minute train journey to the city center. Or you have the option of taking the bus or a taxi if you prefer. 

Both Olbia Costa Smeralda & Alghero Fertilia have bus routes, taking you on the short journey from the airport to their respective town center. During the summer a coach connects Oblia Airport to many towns along the Costa Smeralda. Alghero Airport is accessible by car via the SS291 and SP44 main roads, and Olbia Airport is reachable via the SS127 and SS125.

Cagliari Airport is the main gateway to Sardinia. It serves the most travelers, and handles the most international flights, from across Europe. 

Alghero & Olbia are much smaller airports but are located well if you are spending your holiday in the north of Sardinia. Alghero is found in the north-west & Olbia is in the north-east, which is the closed airport for the Costa Smeralda. 

All of the airports of Sardinia serve their purpose well, connecting the island well with the mainland of Italy, and with countries across Europe. 

Flights from the United Kingdom

EasyJet flies from London Gatwick to Olbia all year round. During the summer they also fly from Luton, Manchester, and Bristol.  British Airways and Meridiana fly from London Gatwick between April and October.

Ryanair flies from London Gatwick to Cagliari, all year round. EasyJet flies from London Stansted to Cagliari, all year round. British Airways flies from London Gatwick to Cagliari between April and October.

Ryanair flies from London Stansted to Alghero between April and October. Thomson Airways flies from London Gatwick and Manchester between May and October.

Flights from North America

There are no direct flights from North America to Sardinia; the best option is to fly to Rome, Milan, or a major European hub like London or Paris. Alitalia, Delta, and American Airlines connect Rome and Milan to several American cities, New York, Boston, Maimi, LA, and Chicago.

From the East Coast, you can anticipate a journey time of 10 hours to the mainland, then another couple hours to reach Sardinia, depending on the transfer time.

From Canda, there is a daily connection from Toronto to Rome by Alitalia. Also, AirCanada flies from Toronto and Montreal to Rome and Milan.

Flights from Australia and New Zealand

There a no direct flights from Australia or New Zealand into Italy. The quickest and cheapest option may be transferring at Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing or a middle eastern airport hub, to fly to Rome or Milan, for changing again for a regional flight to Sardinia.

Flying Economically 

Many budget airlines connect European cities to Sardinia, airlines such as EasyJet, RyanAir, and WizzAir. The most economical flights are from Berlin, London, and Barcelona.

I recommend that you search for flights using aggregator websites such as skyscanner.co.uk, for discounted scheduled flights. Summer is the most expensive time to travel to Sardinia, due to high demand, it also essential to book in advance during these months to ensure a ticket. The Easter holidays & the Christmas period also sees an influx in demand and therefore cost. In the low season, you can find some extraordinarily cheap flights from Europe. Flights are much more infrequent during the off-season.

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Where is Sardinia located?

The island of Sardinia (known as Sardegna in Italian) is not a country, Sardinia is an autonomous region of the Republic of Italy, located in the center of the Mediterranean in Europe.

Looking at the map of Europe, you will find Sardinia in the Mediterranean sea, equidistant from the mainland of Italy, and the North of Africa.

Sardinia lies 200 km (120 miles) west of the Italian mainland and again roughly 200 km (120 miles) north from the North African coast.

The French island of Corsica, which shares some historical similarities with Sardinia, is to the north, just 13 km (8 miles) away. The Strait of Bonifacio separates the two islands.

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily.

Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, is only 220 kilometers south of Cagliari, which makes it closer than the eternal city of Rome. For centuries Sardinia has been isolated between Europe and Africa.

Looking west from Sardinia, are the Spanish Balearic Islands, and the cities of Barcelona & Valencia.

Here are the coordinates of Sardinia: 40.1209° N, 9.0129° (just in case you need them)

Where is Sardinia? Find the island of Sardinia, Where is Sardinia located?

How big is Sardinia?

The population is around 1,630,000, while the area of the island is 24,090 km² ( 9,301 mi²), this equates to about 69 people per square kilometer (the average in the whole of Italy is 201 people per square kilometer.)

The amount of space in Sardinia means that traffic is a rare feature of daily life. The landscape appears rugged but untouched.

Neighboring Sicily is only a fraction larger in area than Sardinia but has more than three times as many people.

Sardinia comes with 1849 km of beautiful coastline (the longest coastline of any Italian region), which attracts tourists from around the world.

What is the Capital of Sardinia?

Sardinia’s capital and largest city Cagliari is located in the south of Sardinia, a port town facing out towards the north of Africa. Cagliari is known as the city of lights and is home to one out of every seven Sardinians.

Cagliari is known for its hilltop Castle, a walled medieval quarter, that stands high above the city. The city brings many tourists to the island.

Cagliari Elmas Airport is located just outside the city, and it serves half of the incoming air travelers to Sardinia. There are also frequent ferry connections from Cagliari to the Italian mainland.

Sassari and Olbia are the next largest cities in Sardinia. They are both in the north of Sardinia.

Sassari is close to Alghero Fertilia Airport. Olbia has its airport named Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport, as it is also the gateway to the famous Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) in the north-east of Sardinia.

caglairi the capital of Sardinia - Where is Sardinia
Cagliari, The Capital of Sardinia

What language is spoken in Sardinia?

Italian is the primary language in Sardinia today, although the rich Sardinian language, Sardo, is still widely spoken by 78% of the population. 

The Sardo dialect changes from region to region; some Sardinians can even notice the subtle difference in dialect from a neighboring village. 

In the city of Alghero, Catalan is still widely spoken. It’s known as the last bastion of the Catalan language in Italy. The Spanish influence is also noticeable in the architecture and flag of the city. 

Let’s not confuse Sardinia with Sicily

Many people confuse Sardinia with Sicily which is located 300 km (180 miles) south-east of Sardinia, the island of Sicily meets the toe of the Italian boot, in the south of the country.

Sardinia is an introvert when compared to its extroverted sibling Sicily. Sardinia is a very humble island, filled with endless beauty, and unanswered mysteries.

Both Sardinia and Sicily are part of Italy, and both are popular holiday destinations for Italians and international travelers searching for beautiful beaches, delicious food and wine, charming towns, archeological sites, and warm sunshine.

Many travelers have a difficult time choosing which of these islands to visit.

About the Sardinian’s

This mysterious island has kept to itself through the centuries. The Sardinian people have held on tightly to their deep-rooted culture, as empires across the Mediterranean have risen and fallen.

The people of Sardinia are very kind and humble. Family comes first in Sardinia, and the villages and towns of Sardinia are very tightknit, sharing common values and traditions.

The Sardinian calendar is packed with festivals and celebrations throughout the year.

Sardinia is even known as a Blue Zone, meaning that the people of Sardinia, on average, live longer than the rest of us.

It’s believed the long life comes from a combination of lifestyle factors, such as the importance of family, inclusion, and reverence to the elderly, a healthy diet (locally sourced food), and a connection to nature.

D H Lawrence, had this to say about Sardinia: “Sardinia is out of time and history.”

The writer also articulated the contrasts between the Italian mainland and Sardinia.

He could feel the ancient traditions and aspects of Sardinia that echo through the landscape, even today.

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Free things to do in Sardinia

While Sardinia is a fantastic holiday destination, it is also well-known for being one of the more expensive parts of Italy to take a vacation. However, there are plenty of free things to do in Sardinia so you can enjoy your time on this beautiful island without breaking the bank. To make the most out of your time in Sardinia, check out this guide to free things to do on the island.

Let’s take a look at some free things to do in Sardinia

free things to do in sardinia

Take a stroll around Castello, Cagliari

As the capital of Sardinia, there is plenty to see and do in Cagliari. One of the best things – which is also completely free – is to take a walk around the Castello, the hilltop citadel. This district, with its labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways, domes, palaces, churches, and towers, is a fantastic place to take a stroll. Here you can see magnificent buildings such as the Palazzo Archivescovile, the Palazzo Reggio and the Cathedral of Santa Maria. The cathedral is free to enter, and it is well worth heading inside. Dating back to the 13th century, inside you will find lots of exquisite frescoes and altars, as well as the intricately decorated crypt, where the tombs of the Savoy Royal Family lay.

As well as the stunning architecture, it is also a lively area with plenty of colorful buildings locals milling around. Be sure to check out Via Stretta, a tiny alleyway which the inhabitants have adorned with lots of flowers and plant pots.

Enjoy the views from Bastione di San Remy

One of the most beautiful structures located in the Castello, the Bastione di San Remy is one of the most important fortifications in Cagliari. Built-in the 19th century upon the remains of the ancient walls, the Bastione di San Remy features a double staircase and a triumphal arch which lead to an impressive covered walkway and a large terrace. The covered walkway is a splendid enough reason on its own to visit, with its white and yellow limestone columns and Corinthian capitals built in the Classical style. However, for excellent panoramic views of the city and surrounding area, you should also head to Umberto I terrace. From here you can see the Gulf of Angels, Monte Urpinu and Bonaria Hill. The terrace is also a popular meeting point, so it is a great place to do some people watching.

Relax on the splendid beaches

Of course, Sardinia is famous for its fabulous beaches. With their gorgeous white sand and crystal clear sea, it is not hard to see why so many people love the beaches of Sardinia. The best thing about the beaches here is that almost all of them are entirely free for the general public; only a handful of highly protected beaches require a small fee to use. If you are coming to Sardinia to enjoy the sunshine and relax, the beaches will be one of the best free activities you can do.

There are, of course, many beaches which are great to spend the day, but here are some of the best:

Poetta: located in Cagliari, Poetta Beach is extremely popular, both with tourists and locals. As well as being a great place to relax and swim, there is also a pleasant waterfront ideal for walking and running.

Cala Pira: situated in south-east Sardinia, Cala Pira is not only breathtakingly beautiful, but it is also within a small cove, making it an excellent beach to visit if the weather is windy. It is also an excellent place for snorkeling. To the north of Cala Pira, there is an old Spanish watchtower where you can enjoy beautiful views of the beach.

Punta Molentis: located in the protected area of Capo Carbonara, Punta Molentis combines an idyllic beach, which is divided into a variety of smaller coves, with swathes of Mediterranean vegetation such as cacti. It is another fantastic place for snorkeling, plus the impressive rock formations provide a pleasant backdrop for holiday photos.

Take a swim in the natural pool of Cane Malu in Bosa

Swimming is one of the best things to do in Sardinia, with its sparkling blue sea. Close to Alghero is the village of Bosa. In addition to its many beaches, Bosa has many natural pools set within rock formations. The most marvelous of these is Cane Malu. Many people find the climb to the pool quite tricky; it takes quite a while to get there.

Furthermore, the path that takes you, there is not the easiest one to walk along, but if you make an effort, you will be astounded by the pool’s beauty. However, you should not just come here for the views. These natural pools are particularly fun for jumping into, so they are enjoyable as well as free.

Visit the flamingoes at Parco di Molentargius

Right behind Poetta Beach is the Parco di Molentargius which is well worth a visit if you are in Cagliari. A beautiful nature reserve covering an area of approximately 1,600 hectares, the park was established in 1999 to protect the site and its inhabitants of a variety of bird species. The Parco di Molentargius is unique in that it contains both saltwater and freshwater reservoirs. At present, 230 different bird species have been identified within the park, although it is one in particular that most people come here to see – the pink flamingo. A huge number of pink flamingos nest here and they are a wondrous sight.

Hike up Sella del Diavolo

Hiking is a popular activity in Sardinia; after all, it has some of the most stunning scenery in the entire world, and what better way to appreciate it than to walk amongst it? One of the best places to hike in Sardinia is Sella del Diavolo – or Devil’s Saddle – which is just as exciting a spot as it is beautiful. This spot overlooks the Golfo degli Angeli – the Gulf of Angels – in Cagliari, legend has it that the Devil fell in love with the area, and decided to make it his home there, gathering an army of followers to achieve his aim. In retaliation, God commanded an army of angels, and a mighty war broke out in the skies. During the battle, the Devil fell from his horse, and his saddle fell with him, landing on the ground and shaping the field as we see it today.

Hiking to the top of Sella del Diavolo will reward you with fantastic views over Poetta Beach and Cagliari. However, there are also lots of historical sights to see as you explore the area. Here you will come across caves which were inhabited as far back as the 6th century BC, a Roman cistern and a fortress from the Second World War, among many others.

See where the locals shop at San Benedetto Market

It is always fun to experience a piece of local life when vacationing in a new country, and one of the best ways of doing this is by visiting a local market. There are plenty of markets in Sardinia, but one of the biggest – not only in Sardinia but in Italy itself – and best is San Benedetto Market in Cagliari. A vast covered market consisting of two floors and even spilling out onto the streets outside, there are well over 200 vendors in San Benedetto who offer the most beautiful produce on the island.

On the lower floor, you can walk among stalls selling fish, shellfish, and crustaceans; this is perhaps the most important part of the market. Upstairs a vast array of cheese, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, sweets and wines are available for sale. Of course, it is not necessary to buy anything – this is a list of free things to do, after all – but it is still a great place to wander around and soak in the beautiful Sardinian atmosphere.

Walk the city walls of Alghero

Cagliari is not the only place where you can enjoy Sardinia’s long and rich history. The island’s fifth-largest city, Alghero, also has plenty of beautiful buildings for visitors to admire. One of the best things to do for free in Alghero is taking a wall around the city walls. The sea walls run from Porta a Mare in the north down to Piazza Sulis in the south, and as you make your way down the pedestrianized promenade, you will pass towers, bastions and also examples of military weapons, such as catapults and cannons. Combined with the lovely sea views, this walk is a splendid way to spend an hour or two.

Take a walking tour of the Orgosolo Murals

The city of Nuoro attracts many visitors due to its importance as a cultural center – it is the birthplace of many artists and writers – as well as being home to several historical sights and museums. However, located just 13 kilometers away is the village of Orgosolo, which shows another artistic side to the province. Once the stomping ground of thieves and bandits, the town is now famous for its murals which can be found all around the village.

The first mural emerged during the late 1960s, painted by Dionisio, an anarchist theatrical troupe, who were questioning the role of Sardinia within the Italian government. A few years later, when the economy crashed due to the first oil crisis in 1973, more murals began to appear as a way of expressing discontent with the social system. Over the years, more and more murals have been added around the town in reaction to various global incidents, including the Tiananmen Square protests that took place in Beijing in 1989 and the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th, 2001.

Nowadays the murals make for an exciting day trip, effectively turning the village into an open-air art museum. Although there is one main street featuring the main murals, do not forget to veer off into the side streets as you can also find them along these too.

Enjoy the beauty of the Sos Molinos Waterfalls

Hidden away one kilometer south of Santu Lussurgiu is the beautiful Sos Molinos Waterfalls. Named after the many mills which were once in the area, these waterfalls drop an astonishing 30 meters and make a charming half-day trip. The walk to the waterfalls is pretty steep, but there are plenty of handrails and rest points along the way. Once you arrive at the falls, you will be able to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful spot.

Marvel at Elephant Rock in Castelsardo

The pretty coastal town of Castelsardo has lots to enchant tourists, but the main reason why people come here is to see Elephant Rock. This unusual rock formation sits by the side of a road just outside the town and is a fascinating curiosity. Made of trachyte stone, the rock was initially part of a more significant complex of stones at Monte Casteddazzu before it broke off and rolled down the valley. Over the years the foundation succumbed to erosion and eventually took the shape that we see nowadays – the form of an elephant with its trunk facing the road. Due to its unusual shape, Elephant Rock has become a big tourist attraction, and it should be part of any Sardinia itinerary.

Discover Cagliari’s history and culture for free

If you happen to be visiting Sardinia in May, you will get the opportunity to discover Cagliari’s monuments, both old and new, entirely for free. This initiative, known as Monumenti Aperti, was started to connect the city’s residents with Cagliari’s history and culture; however, there is no reason why tourists cannot take part as well. Taking place over two days, you will be able to visit a Phoenician necropolis, the botanical garden, an old slaughterhouse and Second World War air-raid shelters along with the usual churches, historical sites, and museums.

Sardinia is, as we all know, a fantastic destination. It has so much to offer, from fascinating historical sights to swathes of natural beauty. And with all of these free things that you can do during your time on Sardinia, it can even be a wallet-friendly one too.

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