14 April 2017 – All the way from Santu Lussurgiu to Oristano….. [Italy, (Sardinia)]
The fifth day of our Sardinian bike tour started in the ancient village of Santu Lussurgiu and took us to the city of Oristano through tiny villages and past the Roman ruins of Fordongianus. There was plenty of riding and plenty of delicious food and gelato to fuel our cycling adventures!
After our long day of riding and amazing (but late) dinner in the Antica Dimora del Gruccione restaurant the night before, we all slept in until almost 8am. It was lucky because breakfast in the hotel didn’t start until 8.30am. Which anyone with small kids knows is on the late side!
Breakfast was in same room as our previous nights dinner and was mostly the same guests. There was an excellent collection of cakes, cream and home-grown strawberries and Easter Italian cakes. There was also freshly baked bread, Sardinian cheeses and home-made jams.
The food was all delicious, and after so much riding we figured that multiple pieces of cake with lashings of cream for breakfast was entirely justified!
It would have been lovely to hang around our cute hotel (and enormous suite) all morning but a day of riding called our weary legs. Again our bag transport man arrived before we’d even made it onto our bikes. The ride for the day was listed at 58km (it inevitably ends up being more though) and after 3 days of challenging hills it was meant to be an easier day with mostly downhill and flat terrain, and only a few smaller hills. Today we had originally planned to ride the challenge version of the ride as the route looked interesting, but with an additional 18km and 500m of climb over the easy ride (including a large climb first up) we decided to take it easy ourselves, which proved to be a wise decision.
We bid a reluctant farewell to our hotel and wheeled the bikes back out through the narrow streets to visit the market square .
Santu Lussurgiu is indeed a beautiful little town and we hadn’t really spent a great deal of time exploring. In hindsight a rest day here hanging out in the hotel and exploring would have been lovely, but maybe we’ll visit again on a return visit to Sardinia.
We had a reasonably slow push of the bikes and trailer through the narrow streets until we found a street that was at least relatively flat and wide enough to fit the bike trailer, before we commenced a short climb out-of-town and a 5km descent, which offered stunning views back over Santu Lussurgiu and of the surrounding countryside….. and of course with zero places to stop and take photos safely!
Despite not leaving the hotel until 11am, and visiting the market square on the way out, we for once made good time (mostly due to the downhill) and ripped through the first 13.5km in just over half an hour. We had a quick drink and lolly stop in town of Paulilatino. There were plenty of olive groves everywhere on this mornings ride!
Out of town we were cycling (as usual for this bike tour) on the highway. It was rather straight and we could see for kilometres. The road had quite a few ‘rollercoaster’ sections with lots of straight road with hills and decents interspersed.
The next hour of riding was cruising past farmland with the typical stone walls and lazy goats. It was obviously olive country as we lost count of the number of olive farms we saw.
By 1pm we’d ridden over 26km, which was going to put us in Fordongianus in time for lunch. There was a rather spectacular and steep descent into Fordongianus – oh to be able to pull over safely and take photos!
It was Good Friday and we had no idea whether this meant limited places would be open. Given most of the towns we had been passing through were very quiet anyway we weren’t holding our breath on food options. Luckily there was a bar open in Fordoniganus which had both decent toilets and some food – winning! The kids and Anto had some paninis and I ended up with a custard croissant as it was the only vegetarian item available, but it wasn’t too bad, and it was a continuing theme of eating for the day after breakfast cake!
Like most of the villages we had visited in Sardinia, there were few people who seemed to speak English but we managed to get by with our limited Italian and plenty of hand signals. Most locals found some sweaty Australian parents cycling with young kids somewhat amusing!
After lunch we had a little cruise through the village and then headed down towards the Roman ruins that we had spied on our decent into Fordongianus. The village owes its name to the ancient Traini Forum, which was the most important Roman city in the island’s interior.
We found the Roman baths and hot springs which were indeed very hot, at over 50 degrees. The kids wanted to swim in them but you couldn’t even put your hand in them for very long!
We could have lingered longer checking out the town and the baths but with only 30km completed we figured we’d better get back on the bikes. There was a rather nasty category 4 climb just out of Fordongianus which made our weary legs work a little. We consoled ourselves with the fact that it was the last real hill climb of our Sardinian bike tour as the final riding day was basically flat. It also helped that the views at the top of the hill back over the village were pretty stunning. The section of orange roofed houses in the photos below are Fordongianus where we lunched.
Hill climb done we were rewarded with another lovely downhill and spent the next 10km riding through several small towns where pretty much everything was shut. The scenery changed from farmland to open plains with plenty of cacti beside the road.
When we’d looked at the ride profile for the day we figured we’d make good time as there was a lot of downhill and the last 20km of the ride was essentially flat. Unfortunately it was a really windy day and we seemed to be riding into a headwind for the vast majority of the day.
We also hit the worst road surfaces of the trip. We had mostly been riding on sealed roads but the second half of today’s route seemed to involve riding on a lot of dirt and gravel roads, most with huge potholes. With a trailer and bike seat it was not particularly fun, or fast. Where we had anticipated sitting on over 20km/h easily, but we were struggling along at 8 or 9 km/h. Somehow, even with the teeth-chattering bumps Soren managed to nap in the bike seat. Poor Astrid was finding her legs about squished after 4 days straight in the trailer and was starting to whinge about all the bumps!
At the 45km mark I ended up with a flat tyre, which we had kind of anticipated given what we’d been riding on. This meant another roadside stop while it was patched, further slowing us down. It also meant 4 days of flats in a row (after lucking out with none in the Netherlands). Luckily by this stage we were mostly back to riding on roads, albeit ones that were rather bumpy, gravelly and full of potholes!
One of highlights of the afternoon was seeing field after field of artichokes. We’ve never seen artichoke farms before and it certainly was a different sight!
We passed a lot of farms throughout our few days riding in Sardinia and many of them had sheep dogs that looked almost identical, we soon figured out that they were in fact ‘Sardinian shepherd dogs’. Most of them would be sleeping outside the farms and bark at us with excitement as we rode past.
Finally we were approaching the city of Oristano. Our notes indicated we’d be riding on a bike path. Well, Sardinian bike paths are not quite of the luxury standard in the Netherlands. There was an off-road path but it was obviously not well-used as there were cars parked in it and we were getting weird looks for trying to ride in it!
After primarily riding through tiny villages and small towns since leaving Alghero 4 days earlier, the traffic in Oristano was a bit different, and there were a few hairy intersections to cross. Pretty soon we found the pedestrian area of town we had been told about, and got off our bikes to walk them to the hotel. Of course we saw several other people riding their bikes in the pedestrian area.
We eventually found our hotel for the next 2 nights just after 5pm, the Hotel Regina D’Arborea, which was a beautiful building and another small hotel boutique hotel. Our room was enormous and rather posh with 2 storey and elaborate painted ceilings and the most enormous bathroom. After several long days on the bike it was pretty much heaven!
We all had a well-earned shower and then headed off to the gelato store recommended in our riding notes. Again it was a winner. We haven’t been disappointed with the quality of gelato in Sardinia. Today we tried a mojito, a lemon sorbet, a dark chocolate and a cherry. The dark chocolate and cherry were our favourites from the day.
We again had a list of recommended dinner restaurants so we had a wander to see which one we could get a booking at. As is typical in Italy, people eat late, so no one wanted to feed us before 8pm. But, we did eventually get a booking at Da Cocco e Dessi for 8pm. We were all rather hungry and tired but still had some time to fill in, so it was off for a wander around Oristano.
Oristano is a city of approximately 35,000 people located in the central-Western part of the island of Sardinia, it is also the capital of the province of Oristano. It was again a pretty city with lovely shopping streets filled with cafes and restaurants and colourful buildings. We happily wandered as the sun started setting and tummies started rumbling.
We arrived at Da Cocco e Dessi just before 8pm and were the first ones there. At least we got a drink at the bar and got to order some food. The kids were already exhausted and while we might have had a booking at 8pm, that in reality meant they started cooking at 8:30pm!
All a bit hungry we ordered a grilled cheese with vegie dish, and a mixed seafood starter with oysters, octopus, potato salad, mullet roe, and smoked salmon for starters. Our smoked salmon loving kids were in heaven! Soren was just disappointed when the mussels ran out…
For mains we had a seafood linguine and a buffalo and mozarella pizza. The pizza was wonderful and Anto and the kids loved the pasta too. It was all around a great meal, even if we felt like it was 2 hours past our bed time!
Tummies full and with tired legs it was time to head back to the hotel. As we were leaving, the restaurant was just filling up and the streets were busy with people were heading out for their dinner, including lots of young kids. Very different to in Australia!
Back at the hotel, we all collapsed into our extremely comfortable beds, Anto totally gave up any thoughts of dealing with our stinky washing, we all voted sleep was a better option!
Statistics for Friday 14 April 2017 in Santu Lussurgiu and Oristano, Sardinia – the temperature range was 10 to 22 degrees celsius with an average humidity of 94% and 25km/h winds.
The total walking for the day was 9.5km.
The total riding for the day was 61.1km with 344m of elevation. Here is the profile of our ride, it looks far easier than the 3 previous days, but our legs were obviously weary as all the little climbs and poor road surfaces really made us work!
Up next, the final day of riding in Sardinia. We explored the beautiful Sinis Peninsula to ‘Tharros’, an important archaeological site. We were also on the lookout for the famous pink flamingoes who reside in the Sinis Peninsula wetlands and lagoons……