Azure sea and white sand beaches combined with rugged nature. Sardinia is a blue zone, a place where people age at an above average healthy way. I can see why!
I regularly work together with photographer Nadine Maas to create Soulful Travel stories for various newspapers and magazines. The Italian island of Sardinia, where we were in May, is one of the places in the world where people are above average old and still very healthy, a so-called Blue Zone. Researchers have studied this phenomenon for years and wrote loads of books about it. It still remains remarkable that there are certain areas in the world where people live longer and age healthier than anywhere else in the world.
Why a blue zone?
Starting at the first drive from the small airport in Olbia, along the enchanting north coast Costa Smeralda or “Emerald Coast” towards Palau, where we stay the first night, we can vividly imagine that this is a good place for an extra long life. The sea is almost an unreal bright light green and azure blue color, the granite rocks look rustic, the vegetation is rough and some of the rocks are neon pink by an explosion of small flowers. There is a fresh and warm scent in the air: an exciting mix of pine trees, flowers and sea air. The island is covered by trees and woods for 50%. Because Sardinia is very thinly populated, about 70 inhabitants per km2, you can literally and figuratively experience the amount of space. On the quiet roads you can every now and again find a vintage Vespa passing by, which are clearly very popular. The north coast is a relatively quiet place with modern, small hotels and authentic B&Bs.
Sardinia is la dolce vita
What all of the ‘Blue Zones’ have in common is that the sun shines a lot, people experience little stress in their personal and business life’s (even though they work hard) and enjoy a rich social- and family life. It feels like a warm bath when we are welcomed by Pietro and his wife Luisa, owners of the idyllic hotel / restaurant Le Dune, which is built on a hill so you have wide views of nature and the clear sea. Pietro will show us for the next few days a lot of the island and what strikes us immediately is that people still really enjoy their life’s and are very grateful for it. Although he maybe has never heard of the term mindfulness, when we drive along the coasts and small coastal towns, while enjoying the instrumental sounds of the pianist and composer Burt Bacharach, Pietro sighs regularly and says: “Look at this girls, Isn’t it beautiful here? This is paradise, right?” That’s true indeed, but the locals are aware of this fact as well and they are very thankful for it. They are not consumed by stress and pressure and have not forgotten about the beautiful things surrounding them.
Behind the scenes: Sardinia
Life is sweet
The harbor and holiday town Palau has 4500 inhabitants and is known as the gateway to the Maddalena archipelago, about sixty small paradise islands that lie ahead of this northeastern coast. If we take a walk through the cozy streets with shops and restaurants, swallows fly low around us as if they are playing, even nature reminds us not to forget to have fun. We stop at the cozy lounge Rosso & Bianco facing the harbor, where we drink the typical Italian beverage Aperol Spritz. The ingredients of this cheerful orange beverage are; Aperol, sparkling water, Prosecco, orange and ice. Sardinians like a very bitter aperitif because, as Pietro so nicely describes it: “Life here is so sweet, sometimes you need something bitter!”
And (drum-roll…) the secret
You can get good traditional food (and accommodation) in one of the agriturisme. Li Espi is a modern take on this, a lovely place with Oriental-style rooms. The owner Marcello tells us that he has separated himself from the routine of his old life and started all over again here in Sardinia to do what he always really wanted to do. This must be the secret for a long life, since Marcello looks at least ten years younger than his fifty years of age. We wouldn’t mind aging like that.tourist office Orsus. To visit North of Sardinia, you can fly with Transavia in less than 2,5 hours from Amsterdam to Olbia.
The price depends on the season, but is very reasonable (you can be there for around €100).
In Méditerranée magazine of summer 2014 you can find one of our extensive articles on this island containing lots of tips and info.