Upon arriving at the car rental counter at Olbia airport in the northern part of Sardinia, I was presented with the option of a Nissan Micra or Fiat Panda. I once heard that Fiat stands for “Fix it again, Tony”, so I went with the Micra.
In hindsight, however, the Panda would have been a more apt choice because after about 10 minutes sharing the road with Italian drivers, I began to feel like an endangered species myself. I think the posted speed limits are actually the minimum speed you should be driving.
But we humans are an adaptable species. By the end of Day 1, I was speeding, cornering, downshifting, accelerating and tailgating like a pale, less hairy Andretti. By Day 2, car and driver had become one - anticipating each other's next moves, finishing each other's turns.
Day 3 brought us to Cala Gonone, about 2 hours south of Olbia, where you need to stop burning rubber and are no longer a landlubber. It is here that you can rent a boat - must rent a boat, actually, since you can only access the nearby beaches by water, as much of the area is an environmental reserve. This was another slice of paradise. Just when you think you’ve seen the nicest beach in Sardinia, there’s another one to discover the next day.
You travel in a motorboat, looking something like a souped-up Zodiac, and can opt for self-piloting or for a guided tour. Emboldened by the driving experiences of the past few days, I opted for renting it on my own, with a very skeptical but trusting wife by my side.
The vehicle of choice for the day
Wild pigs (the friendly kind) came to greet us at one beach
It turned out to be easy and highly enjoyable. 60 Euros for a full day on the ocean, skirting the cliffs and caves, and dropping anchor whenever the urge strikes. The beaches were rockier than many in Sardinia, but it was still quite a way to spend the day.