Castelsardo – a photographic tour

Last night was a wildly windy night here on the shores of Lake Huron. Fall is here to stay, I suspect. Tree leaves were flying all over the place, some branches littered the patio, and my son’s sand toys were getting blown around the yard. I curled up on the couch with a book and some tea, but my thoughts began drifting to a wonderful, summery day I spent not too long ago. Why don’t we escape there together for a few minutes in a desperate attempt to deny, or at least delay, the approach of cold weather?!

This little medieval town, called Castelsardo, is one of my favourite places. It’s perched on the edge of the Strait of Bonifacio, the strip of Mediterranean Sea separating Sardinia and Corsica. On a clear day, you can see the faint outline of mountainous Corsica on the horizon. The town is built on a hill whose summit is crowned with a ancient castle, hence the name. This castle was built nearly 1000 years ago by the Doria family of Genoa. The Dorias ruled the area for hundreds of years until the Spanish Aragonese came along and took over in the 1500s. Castelsardo was the last city to join the Kingdom of Sardinia.

Today, it’s a town full of seemingly vertical one-way streets and houses built on precarious angles. I once had one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life on a coach bus full of exchange students when the driver decided to do a multi-point turn on the edge of a sheer drop, protected only by a low retaining wall. I saw my life flash before my eyes, but then nothing happened. I lived to return to Castelsardo this month with my family and it is still as beautiful as ever.

Approaching the town

Once you’ve scaled the hill by car, you have to continue on foot because there is no room for cars in the tight, maze-like streets of the ancient core, surrounded by the castle walls. The streets are full of staircases connecting one to the other, so we ditched the stroller and hauled the little man around on foot, which resulted in more than a few tantrums over appealing-looking goods laid out for sale at small tourist shops.

Navigating the maze of streets. Note the faintly visible sea in the background — it’s everywhere you look.

Next we climbed the knobby cobblestone path into the fortress and made our way up ramps and steps to what I think is the most beautiful spot in all of Castelsardo, perhaps the entire north end of the island. The view from here is unbelievable, one of those that photos fail to do justice. At least a camera provides some sense of scale to show how high up you suddenly are, as if you can survey the entire world from here.

Looking north in the direction of Corsica
The view westward along the coast. I love the transparency of that wonderfully blue sea.

 

Looking south in the mainland direction through a fortress door
I loved how all the streets were filled with potted plants, giving the impression of much greenery among a town of stone.
J. shows surprising talent with a camera in this artistic shot of fishing nets that I love.

 

Taking a break beside a beautifully colourful mailbox
The castle walls are so old that they’re now home to ingenious cactus plants.
The little man was quite pleased by his discovery of this battering ram (quite literally) used in the Aragonese invasion.

 

A happy day for all of us, though perhaps the baby was less than convinced…

Interestingly, this town didn’t even make it into my Lonely Plant guidebook, which surprised me a lot. It’s one of my favourite towns in all of Sardinia and one that I will continue to return to every time I go back because of its spectacular physical beauty and eerie medieval feel. The combination of intense sun, shimmering sea, and cool stone all around is simply addictive.

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