Carloforte to Sant’Antioco - Springtime Spin in Sardinia 2019 - CycleBlaze

June 9, 2019

Carloforte to Sant’Antioco

Our B&B in Calaforte had one of the nicest bathrooms of the whole trip. I started the day with a long wakeup shower under its glorious rain shower head. Breakfast was waiting for us in the breakfast room, just outside our door. As usual, our host greeted us with "coffee, cappuccino??" I will miss this when I get home.

We packed up, picked our way carefully across the cobbles and then free wheeled down to the port to catch the ferry to Calasetta, just 30 minutes away. I took one last photo of this alley in Calaforte to show how laissez faire they are about parking over here. I believe there are 5 cars and a moto parked between these two buildings. 

The locals seem less uptight about parking here.
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Being islanders almost all our lives, we have a sixth sense when it comes to ferries. We have been first on, last on and first left behind, we have waited in line for hours for ferries and even got blocked from catching the last ferry by a bunch of eager beaver walk-ons that had crowded the passenger loading area at Friday Harbour. So, naturally we checked the schedule for today's ferry to Isola Sant'Antioco and were in line well before it set sail for Calasetta. I purchased the tickets at the ticket booth and then we both sat back and watched the entertainment as cars lined up higgeldy piggeldy for the ferry. It was sort of self serve and obviously, there were varying opinions as to which way they the ferry would be loaded. Actually, this is the same way they park on any given street so I should not be surprised.

They'll load this wait, it will be that way!
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Our ferry left from Slip #1 of four slips. Ferries serve the mainland and Isola Sant'Antioco.
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I think I left a bit of my heart in Calaforte. If only it was not so far from home.
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Calasetta is one of the two towns on Isola Sant'Antioco, the other town being Sant'Antioco itself. Our plan for today was to do a loop of the island and then stay in a B&B in Sant'Antioco to the south. As we neared Calasetta, it was striking for its white-washed buildings and it beckoned us to explore it further. We were watching the clock closely as everything would be shuttered at 1pm (so much for exploring) and we needed to buy some food and drink for the day. Luckily, we spotted a small grocery store after disembarking so we went in and bought some water, fruit and Fanta for the ride.

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Calasetta, on Isola Sant'Antioco.
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This island has pre-historic roots like the rest of Sardinia but Calasetta itself was settled in 1769 by a small group of Italian coral fishermen from Tabarkia, Tunisia.  Later, settlers from Piedmont introduced wine making to the island. These historic connections continue to influence the local food and the local language, Tabarchino.

We could see the domes of this pretty church poking above the houses on the hillside as we arrived in Calasetta so we headed there for a look. There was a service in progress so appreciated its simplicity from the outside.

Church of San Mauritzio.
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The streets of Calasetta run parallel to the shoreline and are rather unusual in that they are long, straight and orderly. It makes for simple navigation but comes with one flaw: there were no stop or yield signs at the crossroads, at least on the roads we had chosen. One close call brought this to our attention and after that we approached each crossroad with more caution.

The beach in Calasetta was a big draw today. Like most Sardinian beaches the water is shallow and makes for great wading and cooling off. This seems to be a favourite thing to do aside from lying on a towel under an umbrella. It's sort of like a daytime passeggiata, only in the water. Swimming is much less popular than wading at the beaches we have seen.

Looking over to the mainland at Portovesme and Portoscuso.
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Spiagge Sottotorre.
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We left Calasetta and headed south into a headwind along the west coast of the island and soon came to another of the well known beaches, Le Saline. The wind and waves had brought mounds of seaweed to this beach but thankfully there was a long clear section for the locals to enjoy. This seaweed or Neptune grass (Posidonia oceanica) is prevalent on most Sardinian beaches, but fortunately it is dry and does not have any unpleasant smell at this time of year. I read that it only grows in clear water and is a sign of unpolluted water.

Spaggia Le Saline.
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The road we had chosen for today's ride was paved but showed signs it might not hold out for the duration of the ride. It became more and more remote and I started to wonder if it was wise to continue. Decision time came when our road joined into another which would take us back to Calasetta. The odd car had passed us, which we took that as a sign that there must be something motivating them to drive this route, so we carried on into the headwind.

The asphalt held out until the bottom of a steep downhill at which point it became a rough and rocky dirt road. One of the nicest beaches on the island was located about a half a km along a sandy spur. We considered it for a brief moment then returned to the present dilemma. We had no idea how far the dirt road extended but turning back seemed out of the question so we hopped off and began pushing. Luckily, the pavement returned about 100m further on up the hill.

At last we came upon the spot that all those car people had been seeking, Spiaggia Sapone. In the middle of nowhere, there were cars parked and parking, a couple of bars, a beach full of sun seekers, and a huge campground with little cottages for rent that overlooked the beach from the hillside.

Cala Sapone was extremely popular. The clouds look ominous but it was actually hot out and a little spot of rain would be welcomed.
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We carried on along the east coast of the island. The road improved, a sign that we were nearing a more populated side of the island.

My Friday is reliable transportation and is always ready for a spin.
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The roads are shoulder-less throughout Sardinia, with a few exceptions.
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Soon after that, we took cover under a tree as we were hit by a short lived rain shower on entering Sant'Antioco.  I had found this ride a bit on the remote and boring side and told David back at the sign to Calasetta two ways, I would reward myself with a gelato when we completed the loop.  There are gelato shops on just about every corner and sure enough there was one opposite the benches we had chosen on the lungomare. We knew it was warm out today, but the gelato told the real story. It was melting so fast my tongue could barely keep up.

We both liked the look of this outdoor restaurant for our dinner tonight.
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The skies were grey all day which translates to hot and hazy.
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Our B&B was just a couple of blocks from the lungomare and the gelato shop. We knocked on their door at the pre-arranged time and were welcomed with open arms by Mariangela and Antonio. He picked up my bike after I whipped the panniers off, and trucked it up the narrow steep stairs to the first floor. Then, he presented us with a nice cold 2L bottle of water and two glasses (water is not potable on this island). After settling in and a shower, we swapped two of Antonio's cold beers for two of our warm beers and kicked back to catch up on emails and plan our next day.

At 7:30, we headed down to the restaurant at the lungomare. We had what has by now become a simple meal, with spaghetti vongole (clams) and spaghetti con ricci (sea urchin) with bottargia (dried salted fish eggs) and a house white wine. I can't wait to try making the spaghetti vongole when I get home with our fresh B.C. clams.

Post-trip photo:

Thanks Jamie Oliver for the recipe for spaghetti vongole. It's fantastic.
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Today's ride: 39 km (24 miles)
Total: 1,211 km (752 miles)

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