adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

Villasimius: Paradise in Sardinia

It's sort of funny how we ended up in Villasimius.  The whole idea to even go to Sardinia began over Christmas during our dinner at Terra Terra in Florence.  Christian, our amazing host, told us all about his life on the beautiful island, which we already knew was accessible via a very cheap flight on RyanAir.  He described the pristine beaches and laid back lifestyle so passionately that by the time we had washed down our traditional Sardinian meal of malloreddus and roasted suckling pig with some Mirto, we were sold.  A few weeks later, we booked our 75 minute flight from Marseille to Cagliari, still unsure of exactly what part of the island we would explore. Fast forward to Prague.  Another dinner, making friends with another Italian who was sitting at a nearby table.  As we stuffed our faces with pork schnitzel and potato dumplings at Lokal, we asked our new friend Chris about Sardinia.  His face lit up as he told us about the beauty and serenity of Villasimius.  "It's very quiet and relaxing.  The best place in Sardinia.  You spend time at the beach, you eat good seafood, and then you go up north to Olbia for a few days to party."  At this point, I was already 13 weeks pregnant, so we weren't exactly looking for a wild party scene.  We decided skip Olbia, but Villasimius sounded right up our alley.  A quick look at a map told us that it was located just 30 miles from Cagliari.  Done.

beaches of Villasimius

And, oh my, was it everything we were hoping for.  A small and quiet town, steps from incredible white sand beaches.  A beautiful oasis at the foot of gently rolling mountains.  Paradise.  Rather than book a resort, we decided to stay at the boutique hotel, Hotel Mariposasand I really cannot say enough about this place.  The hotel itself was just lovely and the staff attended to our every need.  We had a very comfortable room with a large terrace overlooking the pool and with a view of the sea.  Each day we rose early, enjoyed breakfast on the terrace, and then went into town.

our wonderful hotel

the view from our terrace

Our path into town, lined with lime trees, took us by fields of wildflowers and patches of giant Queen Anne's lace.  With a panoramic view of the mountains, each morning we held hands and took the 10 minute walk into the small village filled with pizzerias, gelaterias, local markets, and cafes spilling into the sidewalks.  We'd gather up some supplies for lunch, peek our heads into the doorways of shops lined with olives, cheese, and bread, and walk back to our little home for the week, this time facing the sea and stopping to smell all the wild dill that grew by the side of the road.

view of town from our hotel - so close!

our path into town - paved and very well lit at night

lush green mountain view on our way into town

wildflowers

some of the Queen Anne's lace was so big!

in the center of town

the sea view from town

our walk back, towards the sea

wild dill! once i noticed it, i saw it everywhere

It was so nice to be in Villasimius right on the cusp of high season.  The weather was wonderful - not too hot, but warm enough to lay out - and we basically had the place to ourselves.  We were told that the beaches are packed in the summer, but during our visit, they were nearly empty.  We had stretches of soft sand and calm, crystal clear blue water with no one around to bother us.

the Med.

all to ourselves!

glittering and gorgeous.

We'd spend our afternoons relaxing by the pool at the Hotel Mariposas, with its impeccably maintained garden, or walking along the beach.  A few times we'd make the long walk over to Porto Giunco, a lagoon-beach where the flamingos live.

our lovely oasis for the week - pool at the Hotel Mariposas

our walkway along the beach to Porto Giunco

I climbed over that!

Michael at the top

the flamingos in Porto Giunco

taking a little rest at the top before we head back

After a few hours of sunbathing, reading, and listening to music, we'd have lunch.  Sometimes we'd eat the fresh bread, olives, artichokes, sheep's milk cheese, and salami from town, and other times we'd take another walk into Villasimius and enjoy a pizza, caprese salad, or some grilled fish and vegetables from La Galleria.

typical lunch spread

the incredible caprese salad at La Galleria

my favorite pizza in Villasimius

balance it out with some grilled veggies

fresh swordfish for Michael

And if we were feeling particularly naughty, we'd cap off the afternoon with some artisanal gelato from either Amore Mio or Prato Verde.

gelato and sun

We'd start our evenings with an aperitivo, of course.  Sometimes we'd enjoy our free drinks in the garden at the hotel and sometimes we'd go into town and relax at Toma Bar.  Michael found his new favorite Italian drink, the Negroni Sbagliato, which unlike a traditional Negroni, is made with Prosecco instead of gin.  He also tried out the typical Sardinian Spritz, which is made with Prosecco, aperol, and seltzer.  I stuck to either sparkling water, mango juice, or my own Italian favorite, San Pellegrino's Sanbitter, which tasted like a really fancy Ruby Red Squirt.  And of course all of our pre-dinner drinks were served with little snacks to enjoy.

Negroni Sbagliato

aperitivo hour at Hotel Mariposas!

wish they had this in France :(

After some cocktails, we'd head off to dinner.  Remember how much food we ate during our first trip to Italy?  We basically repeated that here.  And that's what you really want to hear about anyway, right?  Each night, we'd order the whole shebang - antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti, sometimes even a dolci, cafe and then some Mirto for Michael.  He really could not get enough of that Mirto - the smooth and herbal digestif that we first tried at Terra Terra.  The magical elixir that, dare I say, convinced us to go to Sardinia.

mirto bianco

The cuisine in Sardinia is heavily focused on sheep's milk cheese (there were herds of sheep everywhere!) seafood, and dumpling-like pasta.  Each meal started off with a basket of fresh bread and carasau, a thin, paper-like flatbread that was crispy and lightly drizzled in olive oil.

bread and carasau with balsamic vinegar and olive oil

For an antipasti, we'd typically either order a caprese salad, or my favorite, an octopus salad.  It was cold, fresh, and covered in olive oil.  It almost reminded me of the amazing baked octopus in Porto.  I really enjoyed the octopus salad that we got from Le Anfore, a really beautiful restaurant/hotel located just outside of town.

yum yum!

The pasta was fantastic and we focused on our favorite local varieties:  Curlgiones, Malloreddus, and a dish called Fregula.  Curlgiones are fat balls of pasta stuffed with either potatoes or ricotta.  We had our best version at Il Giardino, which was a lovely little restaurant, although the experience was made a bit awkward by the fact that we were the only people dining there.  The entire night.  Sometimes that's what happens in the off-season!

these ones were filled with ricotta

Malloreddus was hands down our favorite dish in Sardinia.  It's a gnocchi like pasta (usually with saffron in the dough) tossed with ground meat (sheep or pork) and sauce. The sauce varied from restaurant to restaurant, and it was so fun to try all the different ways of shaping the flavor - either with saffron, fennel or sometimes a sofrito of onions, carrots, and celery.  We went on a "Tour di Malloreddus" and basically ate this every single night at each restaurant and really had a hard time deciding which was our favorite.  I loved the version we had the first night at Su Forreddu because the sauce really tasted like the kind my mom makes, almost sweet and made with the onion, carrot, and celery sofrito.  But a few days later, I thought my favorite one was at Il Giardino, because the sauce was rich and the pasta was light.

malloreddus from Il Giardino

But we both decided on the last night that the best malloreddus in Villasimius can be found at Sa Tankitta - a bustling restaurant that serves food so delicious, we went there twice!  Their malloreddus sauce was really focused on saffron and was thick and cheesy.  Definitely unique and definitely mouth-watering.

we loved this sauce. it reminded us of our meal at Terra Terra

It was here at Sa Tankitta that we also tried the Fregula - little semolina pasta with lots of fresh shellfish in a delicious broth.  We actually ordered this both times we ate here because the broth/sauce was just out of this world!  It's hard to describe and I'm sure even harder to replicate.  It was almost like a thick soup and almost like a risotto.  A light but decadent sauce with a lovely salty flavor that went well with all the fresh mussels and clams.

one of our favorite dishes of the trip.

We usually split the secondi piatti and I'm really sad to say that we never got a chance to have the famous roasted suckling pig that we first tried at Terra Terra in Florence.  Most of the time you had to order it a day in advance, and on the day we tried, the restaurant did not have any pigs for that day.  So we focused on the seafood (rather than steak or horse, which was on almost every menu!)  I stayed away from the popular swordfish and sea bass dishes since both fish are extremely high in mercury - not so good for us pregnant ladies.   Instead we'd get a mixed grill platter that also included cuttlefish and shrimp, or I'd just order fried calamari while Michael had a whole fish to himself.  It was really fun to watch the servers expertly filet and debone the fish in a matter of seconds, right there at the table.

mixed grill platter!

shrimp and cuttlefish for me

After our bellies were full, we'd start our walk back home to the Hotel Mariposas.  Sometimes we'd stop for a drink at Baccusardus, where they served locally made Sardinian beer by Birrificio Barley.  Michael really enjoyed the Sella del Diavola, or "Devil's Saddle," an amber beer named after a land formation near Cagliari.  It came served in a giant bottle.  He's drinking for two, remember?

it was fantastic! i had a sip :)

One night we looked up at the sky and could not believe the size of the moon.  It was so huge and bright, it seemed like we could reach up and touch.  We later found out (thanks to Facebook) that it was the Super Moon!  It was almost more fun to stumble upon it by accident.

our view of Super Moon from our terrace

We were so thrilled to explore another part of Italy.  We'd been dying to go back ever since our Italian Road Trip, and Sardinia was a perfect way to experience something totally different while still managing to enjoy the incredible food.  As much as we try to always take a laid back approach to exploring the places we visit, sometimes it feels like we're just rushing around to make sure we have time to see and do (and eat) everything.  This trip was so relaxing and was the first time since we've moved to France that we went on a vacation and just did nothing.  It was wonderful.  The fact that it's so accessible from France has already got us planning our next visit to Villasimius and the Hotel Mariposas, hopefully next spring with a little one in tow.

17 weeks in Villasimius

We can't wait to go back to la dolce vita. Ciao!  

6 Responses to “Villasimius: Paradise in Sardinia”

  1. Devon says:

    Oh my gosh, I LOVE this post. I have never been to Sardinia but I always heard it is just beautiful! So happy you guys got to visit!!

  2. pam older says:

    I wonder if Pula or Villasimius is nicer?? Did you go to both towns?

    I have reservations in Pula- but you have me wondering if I should change them pronto :)

    Thanks for a great post!

    Pam

  3. Sandy says:

    I found this just in time! We are planning our trip to Villasimius but were also considering Pula…I am interested in feedback on Pula as well. Pictures look wonderful

    • Irene East says:

      just seen your question about Pula. We’ve been there many times, stayed in Nora Club in September and our kids stayed next door at La Lantana. (very child friendly). At first glance, Pula town looks tired and in need of renovation and it is old in parts. Some very nice places to eat everywhere. Nora beach is unusual with a couple of old, deserted buildings but make an interesting backdrop. The sea and sand are wonderful.

      Going to Villasimius Hotel Mariposas (highly recommended) in early October for the first time – will report back with comparison! PS we are getting on in years, i.e. late 60s, tired and rather fussy!

      • Gosia says:

        Hello Irene, we are going to Sardinia in 3 weeks and have bookings in NOra Club in PUla and in MAriposa in Villasimus. Which of the 2 you preferred?

        I would be grateful for any advice.

        Kind regards
        Gosia

  4. Mary says:

    What time of year did you go? I know you booked around Christmas, but I did not see when you went.

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