The Costa Verde

Gloriously isolated beachs on Sardinia's little-trammeled southwest coast

I took a wrong turn on my way to Scivu beach and ended up at the gate to Is Arenas prison.

The guards waved cheerily as I executed a five-point turn in front of the fence (the prison itself must have been beyond the next hill) to retrace my route and take the road down to one of Sardegna's most gloriously isolated beaches. When I got there, I silently thanked the presence of that prison for helping keep development at bay.

For such a spectacular Italian shoreline, the Costa Verde—a string of wide, miles-long sandy beaches backed by 200-foot dunes on the southern half of Sardegna's western coast—is wonderfully underinhabited.

Folks from the surrounding area do come on the weekends, but on any hot, sunny weekday outside of August you're likely to find only a handful of families on each beach, most clustered around the umbrellas and chairs by the snack kiosk.

If the Gulf of Orosei is the stretch of Sardegnan coast every Italian plans to work into their next vacation, the Costa Verde is the one they may have heard of but it never occurred to them to visit, possibly due to the paucity of pizzerias.

To many Italians—who are passionately sociable and like to share their vacations with friends and strangers alike—this sounds dull. Italians seem suspicious of any seaside town that doesn’t already have at least 20 resort hotels, a cement promenade along the shore, and far more gelaterie than could comfortably be supported by what is, in the off-season, a fishing village of 400 people.

However, to those who revel in the solitude of a nearly empty beach, gentle breezes rustling down the grass-tufted dunes, where the only real activities are lying on the beach or swimming in the ocean, the Costa Verde is a little slice of heaven.

The beaches of Costa Verde

Scivu is typical of the Costa Verde: a broad, yellow-sand beach at the base of a long boardwalk stair-stepping down from the parking area through the dunes to a lone kiosk offering drinks, gelato, and rental umbrellas.

Scivu is 3km long, but there were maybe 30 people on the entire beach. I scrambled over the rocks at the north end to find only a single family of five on the equally pretty neighboring beach of S'Acqua Durci, to which there is no road.

It takes a bit of driving to visit each beach on the Costa Verde (save for one stretch, there's no seaside road, so you have to do a lot of backtracking along winding side roads to the inland highway), but it is worth it.

North of Scivu and S'Acqua Durci lies Piscinas. At 4.3 miles long, it is the largest of the coast's beaches and the most popular—you can tell because it has two beach bar/rental kiosks rather than just one.

The Costa Verde's only coastal road runs north from Piscinas. It passes plenty of spots just begging for you to pull over to the side of the road and scramble down to isolated rocky coves and pocket beaches.

Beyond the beaches

As you explore Sardegna's southwest, you'll pass the hulking remains of buildings marking many a 19th century mine. Some of these building simply stand there, crumbling photogenically, but a whole passel have been turned into museums; area tourist offices can provide details and tour hours.

Ancient history buffs can take the highway south of Fluminimaggiore to visit the Punic-Roman Temple of Antas, its reassembled portico of columns rising picturesquely against the forested hills. (Tel. +39-0781-580-990, www.startuno.it; €3)

The most rewarding excursions, however, are inland, in the western section of the Barbagia region of forested mountains and high plains:

  • Giara Gesturi is a plateau forested with gnarly-barked cork trees and populated by wild herds of cavallini (miniature horses)... Full story
  • Nuraghe Su Nuraxi is the biggest, and most famous, nuraghic complex in Sardegna, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the few nuraghe that still retains parts of its upper levels... » more

Tips & links

Arbus tourist info
  • Ristorante Torri dei Corsari. Viale della Torre, Torre dei Corsari. tel. +39-070-977-028, www.ristorantefrongia.it. Meals from €30. Full story
  • Sa Lolla. Via Cavour 49, Barumini (near Nuraghe Su Nuraxi). Tel. +39-070-936-8419. Four-course lunch menu turistico €13. Full story
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