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Travel to Olbia

Though overshadowed by glinting Costa Smeralda, Olbia boasts a rich history stretching back to the Phoenicians, not one but two medieval churches, a postcard-perfect centro storico and plenty of character. Add to this a vibrant restaurant and retail scene, plus close proximity to the most gorgeous beaches northeastern Sardinia has to offer, and it’s easy to see why Olbia might just be the dream holiday destination you never even knew existed.

 

Fly to Olbia, Italy for:

Embracing the Gulf of Olbia on the Tyrrhenian sea, Olbia is a much-loved gateway to or base for discovering the fine-sand beaches of northeastern Sardinia. It was founded by the Phoenicians and aptly named ‘happy’ by the Greeks during their 7th-century rule. It’s also scattered with traces of the mysterious Nuragic culture, a Bronze-Age civilisation that left behind thousands of meticulously built structures but no written records. Take a deep dive into Olbia’s history and heritage from prehistoric to modern times at Museo Archeologico di Olbia, home to a wealth of finds from the Phoenician, Greek, Punic and Roman periods.

 

See Olbia come alive during San Simplicio festival

Built in Pisan-Romanesque style, the Church of San Simplicio stands as the finest reminder of the city’s, if not the entire Gallura region’s, medieval past. Watch out for the left-hand apse: the 13th-century fresco depicts San Simplicio himself, Sardinia’s only martyred bishop and the patron saint of Olbia. To take a crash course in all things Sardinian, schedule your Olbia getaway between 13 and 18 May, when the city celebrates the festival of San Simplicio. Not to mention its culinary and folk grandeur – think traditional Sardinian costumes, poetry competitions, mussels festival, palio della stella tournaments as well as folk song and dance numbers. Olbia’s other notable religious monument, the Church of San Paolo, adorns the city’s highest point and dates back to the Late Middle Ages.

 

Seafood and beyond

Sardinian cuisine is heavy but not hell-bent on seafood. A beloved local speciality, zuppa gallurese, for example, is a lasagna-style, oven-baked mix of bread, cheese and lamb broth. Or try culurgiones, aka home-made dumplings with potato cream on the inside and thick tomato sauce on the outside. Order either or both at family-run Ristorante da Paolo, an unpretentious affair at the crossing of Via Garibaldi and Via Cavour. Or make your way to Via Giacomo, where Dolceacqua serves up a fusion of Sardinian and Ligurian classics with a side of laid-back bistro vibes. Nested in the four-star Jazz Hotel, Bacchus is a superb spot for sampling local seafood both at its most authentic and at its most innovative. For ice cream aficionados, stopping at La Pecora Nera is mandatory, as is tasting its much-praised pistachio and dark chocolate-orange gelato.

 

Shop the street, then shop the bar

Time to take some Olbia home with you? Consider it done. Street markets mushroom across the city, with farmers’ markets popping up on Via Sangallo on Saturdays, at Piazza del Mercato on Wednesdays and at Piazza Nassiria on Mondays. Come Tuesday morning, Mercato Porto Romano awaits food and crafts enthusiasts. A few steps away, Corso Umberto, and the maze of alleyways that surround it, are jam-packed with boutiques and souvenir shops. End your shopping spree in style, and with a vermouth cocktail in hand, at Via Cavour’s Spirits Boutique, a tiny ‘shopping bar’ that carries plenty of the world’s liqueurs, including rare finds and the house vermouth, Macchia. Ready to dance the night away? Join the hip crowds at Villa Pascià as they move to electronic and latino rhythms.

 

Beachside story: Costa Smeralda

In Olbia, you’re never too far away from a fine-sand beach with emerald waters. Or a dozen. The nearest, Le Vecchie Saline, is perfect for a refreshing dip or evening walk and also a popular surfing and sailing hotspot. Just eight kilometres from Olbia in the direction of Golfo Aranci, Lido di Pittulongu stretches along 1.3 kilometres and has four separate beaches, La Playa, Squalo, Pellicano and Mare e Rocce, all family-friendly and all facing the rugged peaks of Tavolara island. Located in Monte Petrosu, Punta Molara is just opposite Molara island, a part of the breathtaking Tavolara and Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Preserve. Check the zones accessible to the general public for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving. Then there’s Costa Smeralda, of course. Connecting Baja Sardinia and Porto Rotondo, the Emerald Coast is the playground of the rich and famous, who flock here to see and be seen. And splash around in impossibly turquoise waters while they’re at it. Look for familiar faces in the bars of La Celvia, or go snorkelling in its shallow waters around rose granite rocks. Running along Golfo di Marinella, La Marinella beach offers splendid views of Soffi island and Mortorio island and plenty of watersport opportunities. Its pristine waters and soft sand make the beach a hit with families and small children, and its proximity to Porto Rotondo with partygoers.

 

Olbia weather

Olbia’s climate is warm and temperate. Winters are forgiving, springs and autumns are pleasant, and summers bring moderately hot temperatures, averaging at 28°C in the hottest month of July. The months of May, June and October are your best bet to enjoy travel-friendly weather in Olbia, with the mercury topping out at 25°C on average.

 

Olbia airport

One-terminal Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport lies some four kilometres south-east of Olbia’s city centre. It offers free Wi-Fi, ATMs and a business and a VIP lounge, plus boutiques, restaurants and a wine bar with a good selection of local vino. Catch a city bus, long-distance coach or train to reach the most popular hubs of the island. Alternatively, car hire and taxi services are also available.

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