Ogliastra is a beautiful natural theatre that opens from the mountains of "Supramonte", on the border with Barbargia, towards the central-eastern Sardinian coast. The name comes for "Olivastro", the local wild olive three. Ogliastra is know and admired for its magnificent coastal area, all surrounded by mountains and cliffs, and for some of the most untouched coast of Italy. Its natural Mountain-Sea park includes famous spots and landmarks like the "Cale" (beach-harbours); among the most famous ones Cala Gonone, Cala Sisine, Cala Goloritze, Cala Luna... Another impressive natural landmark is the massive "Pedra Longa", a natual cliff literarly planted into the sea. Ogliastra is becoming a popular area for lovers of nature, wild landscapes and fabulous local food, it is the area of the island most loved by conscious tourists that like to escape from the crowded areas of the north and the south of the island.
The two major towns of the area are Lanusei and Tortoli. Together, they are the administrative capitals of the recently born "Province of Ogliastra". Lanusei is a very ancient mountain town overlooking the valley of Ogliastra, Tortoli is a coastal settlement that reached the status of economical centre of Ogliastra thanks to the proximity of Arbatax port, the main gate to the area from the sea. Population is Ogliastra is very little, around 45000 people only, with some of the lowest densities in Italy. Dozens of minuscule villages spot the region of Ogliastra, each one with its tradition and its proud heritage.
Italian of course, but as well Sardinian languauge is widely spoken as in most of the Island. English starts to be spoken among the young people, while several elder ones can be surprisingly good in German thanks to the emigration of the 60' and 70'.
By sea: the port of Arbatax is the classic gateway from the continent. By plane: there is a small airport in Arbatax with just a few flights, only seasonal. They are working on the extension of the landing lanes now to make it more accessible. By car: from Olbia (Port and Airport) follow the SS125 (Strada Statale no. 125) Southbound for 2 hours; a very scenic journey by the way! From Cagliari, follow the same SS125 but northbound for 1.5 hours. From Alghero you need to cross Inland Sardinia: follow first Sassari, then turn towards Nuoro and then follow Lanusei. This will take you 2.5/3 hours. Another worth doing journey, with beautiful scenarios.
The ancient village of "Tiscali" (yes, it gave the name to the company...) is hidden inside an empty mountain and was discovered when part of the mountain's roof collapsed. It was build probably during the Roman invasion by the locals that do not wanted to be submitted and the abandoned. It is very well preserved and shows how people used to live 2000 years ago, without any later intervention.
The oldest Olive trees of Europe are local heritage; you can see them in the square of Santa Maria Navarrese Village.
Cala Luna, Cala Mariolu, Cala Goloritze, Cala Sisine, Cala Cartoe... some of the most magnificent and untouched sea spot in the Mediterranean.
"Trenino Verde" (the little Green Train) is one of Italy's oldest railways. It connects with a journey that may vary from 4 to 6 hours (according to how many cows need to be moved away from the train's Itinerary!) Arbatax to the South of the Island, crossing some of the most wild and beautiful untouched natural treasures of Italy.
Another classic one is the Itinerary by boat from Arbatax to Cala Gonone or Viceversa, stopping by in the many enchanting bays of the marine parks (the famous "Calas").
Itineraries in the Supramonte mountains are quite adventurous and can be made trekking, by horse or land rover. It is possible to cross the forest, or explore the river canyons, and rach some of the less unaccessible Calas.
"Culurgionis", stricly hand made bit filled pastas, with local variations in every village, are delicious big kind of ravioli, filled with mash potatoes, aromas and several kind of local cheese. Pecorino cheese is very good, as in many parts of the island, and its quality benefits from the proximity of the mountains. Roasted meat is a "must", as everywhere in Sardinia, especially suckling pig, lamb, goat and sheep. The valley of Ogliastra produced also a wide range of delicious fruits, thanks to the volcanic soil and the cool influence of the Supramonte (watermelons, oranges...). Fish arrives from the harbour of Arbatax, where local fishermen cooperatives grow also the famous "Bottarega" (fish eggs smoked and aged).
The red wine "Cannonau" is the flagship of the area, as the best Italian expression of this variety (aka Grenache in France and Garnatcha in Spain) grows in Ogliastra. It is consumed as normal red wine, or, recalling some Spanish heritage, served byt the local chilled with cutted slices of peach in it; a sort of Sangria. Pubs and bars are mostly located in the coastal villages and near resorts, especially in the area around Tortoli and Arbatax.
Some nice places to eat are:
"La Peschiera" in Arbatax, the fishermen coop serves only fresh fish of the day, very rustical stay, in an open air restaurant inside of the fishing lagoon.
"Cooperativa Goloritze", in the mountains around the village of Baunei, in the hearth of the natural park, serves great roasted meat and handmade Culurgionis.
"Da Lenin" is a popular restaurant in Tortoli, modern style, with good selection of fish.
Nightlife is mostly focused in the summer season. Arbatax, Tortoli, Santa Maria Navarrese are the towns where most of resorts, cafes, bars and discos are located.
If you are lucky enough to be invited by locals to so called "Spuntino" (little snack), you will spend your whole day eating, drinking and making party with them; it's a great local tradition. Spuntino can be held in somebody's house, on the beach (by day and/or night), or in a kind of pic nic way.