Molly had done all of the research for us to spend a long labor day weekend in Sardinia on the beach and doing adventurous things in paradise. She figured everything out and all we had to do was pay for the tickets so I really didn’t know what to expect – I was pleasantly surprised!
Friday April 28
We had more makeup classes on Friday so on Friday evening Casey, Jordan, Molly, Rachel and I packed our things and headed to the Florence airport. It started out with a typical Florence thing: our bus was 20 minutes late to the airport… or so we thought. The schedule online did not match the actual schedule so we expected it to be there much earlier. This was actually my first time flying out of the Florence airport because it is usually more expensive than Pisa. It was super small and we were taking an airline that was kind of mysterious. It was called FlexFlight but is run by Mistral Air. It is a small airline with very small planes, so they were pretty strict about bags. At first they had us taking stuff out of the bags and holding on to them while we weighed it to get around some of the rules. Luckily the people working there were very friendly and had a good sense of humor.
We boarded our tiny plane with propellers and had the plane mostly to ourselves. Casey’s bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin, so the flight attendant said, “just put it here (in the seat) and strap it in like a passenger”. That really cracked me up. I took a Dramamine before boarding and fell asleep for the one hour flight.
We landed in Olbia airport which is in located in the more northern part of Sardinia and met our private driver at the gate because it was so late and the buses were not running anymore. Driving there was scary because it was on an unlit highway surrounded by zero lights (later in the trip we were looking at post cards and there was one that was just a black card with the words “Sardegna at night”). We soon found out that our entire town, San Teodoro, completely shuts down at night. Nothing was open when we arrived and the people who showed us around our Airbnb spoke no English at all. We had a hard time communicating – we all understand a lot of Italian, but are very limited in what we can respond or ask. They spent a lot of time telling us how to separate the trash which was funny.
We walked down the main street of the town and found a falafel and pizza place that was open after awkwardly going into a couple restaurants and being turned away. We got kebabs, pizza, and some large water bottles since the water on the island is not safe to drink. The people working there were very friendly with us and appreciated our limited Italian skills.
The group settled in the condo to get a good nights sleep before going canyoning the next day…
Saturday April 29
We woke up early to the sound of a lawnmower and birds chirping. The area was so pretty in the light! We really didn’t get to see anything when we arrived because it was so dark. We all walked to the grocery store around the corner to find out that it was closed all winter until mid May. Luckily, there was another grocery store a five minute walk away. On the walk over, we noticed the entire town smelled amazing with different types of wild flowers growing along the sidewalks, especially a bush that smelled so strongly of honeysuckle. The store was pretty big and had everything we needed. I even bought some spreadable brie from a container and it was amazing!
We all ate some lunch and tried to find the beach. On the way to the beach we couldn’t escape the feeling like we were the only people on the island. We saw a dog taking himself for a walk and walked himself home which was hilarious. We could not find the beach for awhile because there were few signs, google maps didn’t have instructions, and there weren’t people around to ask! After 30 minutes of wondering we finally saw the water though! Once we knew the route it took less than 10 minutes to get to and from the beach.
The water and the beach were absolutely amazing. The sand was very fine and white. The water was crystal clear and turquoise. There were so many layers of colors in the water that you could see looking out. It wrapped around the edge of the island and you had a view of a big mountain that stood alone. All around the beach there were hills and mountains too. We walked awhile and found a spot to lay down on our small bath towels which made us perfect targets for the people trying to sell large tapestries to lay on. They were actually nice tapestries and we all wanted to get one, but didn’t want to deal with the vendors harassing us about it.
After an hour, it was time to rush home and get our things together to go canyoning! I didn’t know what to expect of canyoning either, but I knew it had to do with rock climbing, waterfalls and hiking. We met the tour guide Chicco at a restaurant on a beach and he was with a group of other adventurous looking Italians. These people ended up being his friends and friends of friends and most of them were very experienced.
We waited outside and then Chicco walked us over to this rugged car and told us to get in! On the drive up the mountain, Jordan realized that she didn’t have her phone anymore which was kind of scary. We had the guide call the restaurant by the beach to look and see if it was left there though.
The drive up the mountain was a little scary but very pretty. It looked similar to Colorado in the summer actually. I didn’t realize that once you go slightly inland it is so mountainous though. We drove for about 20 minutes and reached a little shack in the woods. We were handed two wetsuits, some thick socks, harnesses and helmet. They advised us that if we need to go to the bathroom that we should go there now “in the nature…but mind the snakes!”. I thought Chicco and the other guide, Fabio, were joking about the snakes but as soon as Rachel and I walked around the side of the building we got spooked by a snake slithering away from us quickly.
After peeing “in the nature” we squeezed into the two wet suits and then buckled on a harness with a thick diaper thing on the butt to protect us from rocks. We had a small orientation to tell us about what to expect when we are canyoning. They told us not to hold on to the rope and it is as simple as walking backwards down a waterfall! With that, we took a group photo and were off!
We hiked down for about 5 minutes and reached our first body of water to tread through a valley. The rocks in the river were covered with algae and were soooo slippery so we kept falling into the water. It was ice cold so I was very thankful for the double wetsuit at that moment. I was trying hard not to fall down but every time I looked up from the rocky ground, I was amazed at the views of the mountains, rocks, valleys and water.
The group reached the first area to actually “canyon” and the experts let themselves down the bottom of the waterfall with ease – they had a pulley which attached to their harness and they could control how fast or slow to go down. Casey has a fear of heights that she’s getting over, and somehow we convinced her to go first in our group of inexperienced people. She did just fine after a moment of fear and she disappeared under the rock and we heard a splash below as she jumped into the water.
My turn came up and I was really scared… I stood up to the ledge, got strapped in and the guide told me to “push my butt off the edge of the rock” and it seemed like I would just be dangling there! That’s basically what happened before I swung back to the wall and walked down the side of the rocks. Luckily there was one of the more experienced people down there to help me get down. At the bottom there was a big pool of water and I jumped right in! It was so cold and I had to swim to the other side which was more difficult as the water slowly seeped into the suit which weighed me down and also made me float a little bit.
Afterwards, we hiked up to a pretty high point over the same body of water and did the real canyoning… I went first and you basically get hooked in the same way and go stand on the ledge of a cliff with your heels hanging off. Slowly, you start leaning your body backwards without moving your feet until you are about perpendicular to the rock wall and start walking your feet backwards. The guide says, “Ciao!” as you disappear down. This one really wasn’t scary until I looked backwards and saw how high I was! When I got close enough to the water, Chicco let go of the rope and let me fall into the freezing water. It was so cool! I wasn’t there, but this was the one where Casey’s face turned completely white and she almost couldn’t do it. After a pep talk from Chicco, a few tears and some deep breaths she made it down to the water! My favorite quote once Casey was 1/3 way down, Chicco yells, “Don’t forget to breath!” it was hilarious.
Continuing on, there was a lot of difficult terrain to manage because we were talking through rivers, waterfalls, and slippery rocks. Coming to a point there was a waterfall where you could slide down like a toboggan or jump off the edge! I jumped down to the small pool which was overlooking the valley and a very tall waterfall. The group stayed in this waterfall and we were able to keep jumping in if we wanted and enjoy the view. Scaling down this super tall waterfall was the most difficult because you had to avoid the water but there were also bushes in the rocks. Second, once you went over the edge the guide could not see you at all to gauge how fast or slow to lower you. I ended up getting wrapped up in a bush which was scary and it was hard to keep your footing because of the algae!
We did a couple more canyoning but the rest was comprised of amazing hiking and tobogganing through more bodies of water. Finally, it was time to go home but we had a tough hike ahead of us… some parts were so steep there was a rope you had to use to swing yourself to the next rock. No one took any bad tumbles thankfully but it was a really hard 15 minutes of steep climbing that required at least three points of contact. The hike up was worth it to see the mountains and the water. We also found a cool cave to take a picture.
Five hours later we managed to get back to our cabin in the woods and it was time to strip off all of the gear – it was such a relief! My body felt so weird and loose without my constricting wetsuits. The tour had some snacks and drinks for us and it was the best tasting food ever. Also, the restaurant near the beach had called and they found Jordan’s phone! It was really a miracle that they found it and also that Jordan managed to stay in a good mood all day even though her phone could have been gone forever.
Putting on some dry clothes, we got into the car and drove back to the beach and chatted with our new friends. A few of them spoke some English, but we told them that we studied Italian so they spoke slowly in Italian to us for the rest of the car ride and it was awesome. I learned so many things just because I was forced to listen carefully and try saying things on my own. They gave us some recommendations on where to eat too and we made a reservation at a restaurant before saying good bye to everyone.
Something else funny was that the guides didn’t seem concerned about how we were going to pay and definitely didn’t expect a tip which is different from anything else in America. It was supposed to be 60 Euro and someone only had a 50 and 20 bill and the guide quickly handed her a 10 back without thinking. They also added us on Facebook so they could send us all of the photos from their phones and gopro from the day which is very nice of them.
Walking home, everyone agreed that that was the craziest and coolest thing they’ve ever done. I’ve certainly never done something more adventurous in my life. This was definitely one for the books and we couldn’t stop talking about how crazy the whole day was from start to finish. One of the best parts was being with the cool people in the group and being able to speak Italian and listen to the things they had to say. Once home, we had to shake out all of the rocks from our now destroyed shoes – worth it!
For dinner, there was a restaurant around the corner where we all ordered seafood and it was very fresh and delicious. Jordan and I shared some squid ink pasta with different types of fish in it. Molly had a pizza and then Rachel and Casey shared the biggest dish of crab and linguine I’ve seen in all of Italy. The entire restaurant, which was pretty full for how empty the town was, was staring at us almost the entire dinner. Maybe it was because we looked a mess – maybe it’s because we came straight from taking showers and didn’t have nice clothes to wear – maybe it’s because Italian people tend to stare a lot more than any other people. Anyways, we went home full and happy and played a couple rounds of catch phrase before succumbing to our exhaustion.
Sunday April 30
We allowed ourselves to sleep in this morning, because we deserved it. I made some breakfast and then we were off to the beach for the rest of the day! Today was very windy on the beach and even though it was warm and sunny, we were freezing because of the wind! The attire at the beach varied from speedos to people in down coats and scarves.
Something hilarious happened when we were eating some pizza in the afternoon. There was a group of men who sat next to us on the beach most of the day and one of them approaches us and starts with: Excuse me but you must help because my friend here has died and you must help bring him life. It took awhile to understand, but basically their friend had been asleep all day and they wanted to play a practical joke on him by having us line up for a photo next to their sleeping friend. They planned to show him later that night and after we chatted for awhile longer we discovered that we had made a reservation at the same restaurant that night! We were excited to see how the joke played out.
After helping the pranksters, we moved our things to some of the sand dunes away from the water and once they blocked some of the wind we were able to get warm and fall asleep in the sun. The problem being at the beach when it is cold is that you don’t know how much sun you’re getting…. The whole group walking home around 5pm realized they were completely burnt all over! I had applied sunscreen to my face a couple times, but somehow managed to not get burnt anywhere on my body.
At home, people took painful showers and winced putting clothes on for dinner and I felt bad for everyone! Jordan took the gold for the most burns all over her body and she was having a hard time.
With an hour until our reservation, we broke out some cards and wine and played a couple games of spoons! I hadn’t played that game in so long but forgot how fun it was. In the meantime, the guys from the beach had texted me (because I had them send me the photos) saying that they want to extend the prank because they had not shown their friend the photo yet. They asked us to come up to their friend at dinner and greet him by name, Alfonso, as if we had all met on the beach and make him really confused – then they would show the photo!
After downing a couple bottles of wine during cards, we walked over to the restaurant called Taverna degli Artisti and were greeted with excitement – the hostesses asked us where we were all from and upon learning we were American they told all of the other workers and they all came and asked what cities. It was refreshing because in Florence they hate Americans.
We shared a wine and each ordered some type of pasta with seafood. It was past the time the pranksters were supposed to come so I messaged to see where they were and it turned out they were at the restaurant we had eaten at the night before! The plan was ruined! However, dinner was amazing and with our check they gave us a free shot of Mirto – it is similar to a limoncello but it is dark purple/blue and it made with a local blueberry. It was way better than limoncello in my opinion.
On the walk home, we actually ran into the group of guys from the beach and tried to awkwardly execute the prank but he knew something was funky. We all went to a bar downtown and ordered a couple more glasses of Mirto and it was really interesting talking to these men because only one of them spoke a little English so we got to practice more Italian and they got to practice their English. It is so fun trying to communicate with people and explain things in different ways for them to understand.
After maybe an hour at the bar we were all tired and walked home. Since the town of San Teodoro is completely dead at night and there is not another town nearby, the stars were absolutely amazing because there was no light pollution. We laid down in the street for awhile looking at them before going inside to play catch phrase and go fish in bed.
Monday May 1
This is our last day and we were able to stay because it is Labor day in Italy and everyone has school and work off. Luckily our airbnb host was really flexible about checkout time because our flight was much later that night and we were able to have a whole other day.
Unfortunately it was cloudy and rainy in the afternoon and we actually got caught in a bit of a sprinkle. It was probably for the best though because Molly and Jordan were painfully sunburnt and needed a break from the sun.
We walked back to the grocery store, bought some postcards from a gift shop and tried to find a tourist center to ask about the buses. We weren’t sure if the buses would be running since it was a holiday, but we were unable to find any help because the tourist office was obviously closed. Eventually we figured out a bus sharing service that runs to the airport and scheduled a time for them to come pick us up that night.
For the rest of the day we took naps, did homework, played catch phrase and ate a homemade lunch. The weather did clear up so Rachel and I went to the beach to walk and possibly buy one of the tapestries the vendors had been selling all weekend but we couldn’t find any of them!
The trek back to Florence was pretty easy and the bus was perfect because we were driving along the coast and through the hills of Sardinia during sunset and it was breathtaking. I tried to take pictures but moving car pictures never really work out well. We made it back to Florence around midnight after an amazing trip!