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In the area known as Gallura, the Gulf of Olbia is spectacularly backed by an amphitheatre of granite mountains and extraordinary wind-sculpted rock formations. To the south of the city rises the knife-edge of Tavolara Island, towering over the bay. To the north is the glamorous Costa Smeralda and other resorts, all lapped by the same limpid turquoise seas. Inland awaits a different world, going back into the mists of time. The area around Arzachena is honeycombed with prehistoric sites, all reminders that this is one of Europe’s oldest islands. Olbia and its surrounding areas offer a staggering diversity of sights and attractions, as well as dining, shopping and truly unique vistas and experiences.
The cobbled lanes running off the central Piazza Regina Margherita in the old part of town, around the Corso Umberto I, are full of good restaurants and pretty piazzas to linger in over a drink. Basilica di San Simplicio is the main attraction in the old town of Olbia, along with some interesting museums. After admiring the city's best sights, be sure to take some excursions to nearby destinations along the beautiful Costa Smeralda and take in the sun at the breathtaking beaches.
Sardinians love roasting meat with aromatic herbs, and most menus will likely feature some variety. Seafood is also ubiquitous, from lobster to squid and sea bass. Try some bottarga, a local speciality made with tuna or mullet roe, known as ‘Sardinian caviar’ and especially delicious with spaghetti. Be sure to try some local specialities and home cooking at trattorias and small cafes for a real Sardinian dining experience.
Thin, crispy bread and pecorino cheese are two Sardinian specialities that should be in everyone's itinerary. Sardinian wines are also excellent, as well as 'mirto', a potent liqueur made of wild myrtle. Like every other place in Italy, Olbia and its surroundings are packed with 'gelaterie', where you can taste the lovely Italian ice cream.
You can find vibrant nightlife a couple of miles south of Porto Cervo, at Località Abbiadori, with the three most happening clubs in Costa Smeralda all located on the same street. If you're into more relaxed and low-key evenings, there are plenty of laid-back bars, restaurants and cafes where you can have a drink, go for a dance or enjoy some live music, both in Olbia and in surrounding areas like Porto Cervo.
Sardinia has a very rich tradition of craft ware; ceramics are very popular and make good souvenirs. Some of the best products come from Costa Smeralda, Alghero and Santa Teresa di Gallura. In the north you can find Castelsardo, a beautiful seaside village that has a long tradition of basket ware, while the area around Tempio Pausania specialises in splendid wool carpets with geometric designs. There are also plenty of street markets in Olbia, held on various days throughout the week. Your shopping list should definitely include some Sardinian food delights, such as the red Cannonau wine (increasingly believed to be the elixir of long life) or sweet Malvasia dessert wines, olive oil, pecorino cheese, mountain honey, torrone nougat and Nuorese sweetmeats.
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