article by Emma Curry first appeared 5th August 2017 on Manchester Evening News.
There is more to this coastal city than meets the eye.
The city of Olbia sits on the coast in northeast Sardinia in Italy. From its palm-lined waterfront and traditional restaurants tucked away town cobbled streets, to its archeological museum and squares dotted with cafes, there is plenty to explore.
Must sees for free
Take a walk through the city, from the bay and historic port, into the streets and piazzas. Piazza Margherita is a pleasant place to people-watch, while Piazza Mercato is home to the city’s market.
The Museo Archeologico sits on the harbour, on its own tiny island, and takes visitors through Olbia’s history, from the battles between Carthaginians and Romans, to the growth of maritime industries. There are exhibitions of artefacts taken from shipwrecks and the museum hosts occasional concerts in the summer. Open Wednesday to Sunday 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 8pm.
The church of San Simplico sits in a back street and is an example of the Pisan-style churches which were built in Sardinia during the 11th and 12th centuries. Open daily 7.30pm to 1pm and 3.30pm to 6pm (4pm to 7pm in summer).
Top sees for a fee
The prehistoric monuments of Arzachena sit around 20 miles north of Olbia. This cluster of monuments include burial sites known as ‘giants’ tombs’ and nuraghi (megalithic stone towers found across Sardinia). The site is open daily from 10am, closing at 8pm from June to August, 7pm in May and September, 6pm in April and October, 5pm in November and March, and 4pm in December and February. Tickets cost €3.50 for each site, €18 for all.
Take a tour of Tenute Olbios estate, which takes visitors through the wine-making process. At the end, head down to the cellar to taste three types of wine. A 90-minute tour costs €10, while a longer, two-hour tour includes a walk through the vines for €15. For another €5, guests can also sample regional cheeses, salami (cold cuts of meat) and antipasti. Tours are available in English and Italian.
Olbia’s airport, called Olbia Costa Smeralda, sits just outside the city and is connected by buses run by operator ASPO. Within the city, bus tickets cost €1 for a single, €2.80 for a day, or €10 for a week, and can be bought from newsagents, some bars and the tourist office. Driving can be confusing in Olbia, due to the one-way system.
Sardinian cuisine is varied and influenced by other Mediterranean populations, including Romans, Arabs and Spanish. Seafood plays a large part in dishes, especially in coastal towns like Olbia, where mussels and clams form the basis of many dishes. There are plenty of reasonably priced restaurants on the main streets of Olbia such as Corso Umberto. Many are aimed at tourists, with menus in English, but heading down the side streets nearby will lead diners to more traditional – and often cheaper – options. Da Paolo on Via Garibaldi is a trattoria offering local dishes, while the Antica Trattoria on Via delle Terme offers a lively atmosphere, an outdoor patio and a generous buffet of antipasti. There are fresh pastas such as gnocci galluresi, as well as pizzas in the evening.
There is a variety of nightlife in Olbia. Many hotels and restaurants offer happy hour from 4pm to 8pm. La Tasca is a cocktail and wine bar on Via Cavour, which is a good choice for live music and offers a long list of drinks. For clubbing, head to Capricorno on Via Catello Piro, one of the biggest clubs in Olbia, which stays open until 6pm.
Luxury: Ospitalita del Conte Hotel e Spa: Located in Olbia’s old town, this boutique hotel sits in a 19th century mansion and has six double rooms, two junior suites, a rooftop terrace and a lounge bar. Via Papandrea. From £131.
Mid-range: Hotel Royal: Set in a whitewashed building, this simple hotel offers welcoming rooms with balconies and wooden floors. Breakfast is served in the relaxed restaurant and there is also a bar and an outdoor pool. From £79.
Budget: Hotel Cavour: On a cobbled street, a few minutes’ walk from the station, this hotel offers rooms with free wi-fi, flat screen televisions and minifridges. There is also parking and a breakfast buffet. Via Cavour. From £49.
Currency: Euros (€) – £1 = €1.13.
Time zone: GMT+1hr.
The flight: EasyJet flies direct from Manchester to Olbia. Flight time: 2hrs 45mins. From £135 return.
: The weather is pleasant in Olbia for most of the year. The warmest months are July and August, while the coldest are February and March. Prepare for rain between January and April.
Visas, injections and precautions: None.