I’ve spent almost two weeks in the beautiful hillside town of Baunei, Sardinia. Despite it being small, and as one guidebook says, not much more than a shepherd’s village, I seem to find something new that I love about this place every day! Here are five to get started!
- The Location:
Travelling to Baunei on a very large bus, which was going Italian-style fast around one of the steepest, windiest, jaw-droppingly close-to-the-edge-of-the-cliff roads I have ever been on, I started to wonder if I’d maybe made a mistake choosing such a remote location in Sardinia. After passing through Tortoli, I could see a town way, WAY up on the hillside and realised that those little houses built into the side of the mountain must be Baunei. The last 15 minutes of the journey from Santa Maria Navarrese might have given me slight vertigo but it was worth it – the location of Baunei is one of the reasons it’s such a special place.
Found within the National Park of the Gulf of Orosei, the views from Baunei are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen – and that’s coming from someone who watched the sunset over Ben Lomond from her back garden every night for the past 18 months. Each time you turn down one of the little, cobbled streets in the town, you get another incredible view of the Supramonte, the valley below or the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Baunei is also a great place to use as a base for exploring the region of Ogliastra, the Gulf of Orosei and some of Sardinia’s wilder interior villages and towns. The beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Orosei, including Cala Goloritzè, can be reached by car or boat from this area and there are some amazing hikes around the town too.
- The Food:
There might not be a massive amount of choice for eating out in Baunei, but what they do have is brilliantly-traditional, no-fuss, local eateries, and great, fresh produce for cooking at home. It seems that a couple of places have shut now for the winter so potentially there might be more options in the busy, summer season. The main places for breakfast, lunch and snack-style food are Café Baunei Centro and Bar Belvedere. Café Baunei Centro, which also happens to be the only internet spot in the town (and where I am posting this from!) has a few good Sardinian meals on the menu – including the delicious ‘Malloreddus’ – dumpling-style pasta served with cheese sauce and ‘pane carasau’ – traditional Sardinian flatbread.
Both of these places serve evening meals too, but the most popular dinner spot seems to be the pizzeria above Bar San Pietro. It serves up some seriously good, HUGE pizzas. I’ve been in a couple of times so far and love their Sarda (a lot of meat!) and Quattro Formaggio (a lot of cheese!) pizzas…and yes, I somehow did manage to finish every slice by myself!
As small towns go, Baunei has the usual butchers, bakers and fruit and veg shops, as well as a reasonably sized convenience store. This is where, if like me, you’re staying in accommodation with a kitchen, you can pick up cheap, fresh local food and try your hand at cooking traditional Italian meals at home! I’m by no means a great cook (seriously, it’s a well-known fact with my friends and family) but I’m really enjoying buying locally and at least attempting to make some traditional meals whilst I’m here.
- The Locals:
Baunei is quiet, like really quiet (apart from if there is a wedding on – in which case, expect the entire town to turn out and there to be A LOT of car horns beeping) and it very much has that small, traditional village feeling. Tourists stick out like sore thumbs – and fair-haired, fair-skinned solo female travellers seem to cause a bit of a stir.
For the first few days, everyone stared. When I went to one of the local (apparently men-only) bars and ordered a beer on my third night, the old boys kept asking where my husband was. The first night I ate alone in the pizzeria, the waitress didn’t seem to know what to do with me. The local women stared more than the men when they passed me on the street but…now that I’ve been here for a couple of weeks and my basic Italian has improved, I think the locals are starting to get used to seeing me around the town! The staff at the newsagents, internet café and food store are really friendly and a simple Buongiorno with a smile to the older, more traditional generation when I pass them in the morning seems to be earning me some brownie points.
It’s a very family orientated place – everyone seems to know or be related to one another and it’s completely normal to have a conversation with someone on the street from your balcony. The old boys sit by the war memorial in the square next to the church, the women congregate outside the Biblioteca, the children ride their bikes alongside cars and everyone drives like a maniac, most often whilst talking animatedly on their mobile phones. One of the outside tables at Café Baunei Centro or a bench outside the pretty Chiesa (church) are the perfect spots to do some Baunei-people watching!
- The Streets:
I am in love with wandering the pretty, pastel coloured streets of Baunei. I try and take a new route each day I’m here, even if it means I end up slightly lost or turned around in the process! The streets are incredibly narrow and sometimes it looks like you’re about to hit a dead end and then, all of a sudden, you find yourself in another little street, usually with another incredible view of the surrounding scenery.
The street signs are hand-painted on ceramic tiles, every door is beautifully different and even the disused and derelict buildings have been given a unique Baunei touch – the owners place flower and plant pots in front of the doors (I presume to stop trespassers although here it seems unlikely) making even the most tatty-looking houses pretty.
It’s like it’s become a little challenge in my head to spot something new and different each day!
- The Slow Life:
Life in Baunei is sloooooooow…and I’ve needed a bit of an adjustment period to get used to it! The only thing that moves quickly in the town are the cars, which seem to have no regard for a. pedestrians or b. other traffic of any kind. Apart from driving, the locals do everything at an extremely leisurely pace. When you’re buying anything, it’s totally normal for the shop owner or assistant to take or, in one case, make a phone call. You’ll need to wait for the old boys to finish their stories with the newsagent before you can pay for whatever it is you’re trying to buy. Timetables for public transport might as well not exist because the buses are never on time and the drivers seem in no rush to move off when they eventually do turn up.
The cash machine is slow, the internet is slow, eating is a lesson in enjoying every mouthful, drinking is to be done as your tell great tales that require the use of both your hands and therefore the actual drinking part takes rather a long time. After you ask for il conto (the bill) you’d have enough time to drink another full pint. Nothing is done with haste…and I’ve decided that I love it. It feels as if time means something entirely different here than it does back home in the UK. As someone who has spent a large part of the last five years working to deadlines and with constant ‘To-Do’ lists, it’s been lovely to live life at a slower pace…I could almost get used to it…