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Sardinia’s ‘100 Tower Road’, one of Italy’s most scenic coastal walks

Editor’s Note – Monthly ticket is a series of articles by CNN Travel highlighting some of the most intriguing topics in the world of travel. In July, we’re hitting the trails to discover the world’s greatest hikes.

(CNN) – Made up of more than 1,000 kilometers of coastal trails surrounding the island of Sardinia, the ‘Camino 100 Torri’ – or 100 Towers Path – may not be Italy’s most famous hiking trail, but it is certainly the most spectacular. .

This epic round-trip cruise, filled with blood-red sunsets, ancient architecture and beautiful beaches, departs from the city of Cagliari at the southern tip of Sardinia.

From there, eight different trails with a total length of 1,284 kilometers await, providing hikers with the best that Italy’s second largest island region has to offer.

On average, it takes 45-60 days to complete the entire experience. But for those short on time, it can easily be broken down into smaller trips.

The main highlights, as the name of the road suggests, are the 100 stone-looking towers that line the coast of Sardinia. Built in the 1500s and 1700s to protect against enemy intrusion – including pirates – most have fallen into ghostly ruin, although some have been turned into lighthouses and houses private.

Once roamed by warriors, merchants, pilgrims, priests and wanderers, the road offers today’s hikers the unique aromas and landscapes of the Mediterranean coast. , with purple rocks, twisted beach branches, and grains of sand as thick as rice.

A spiritual journey

The 100 Towers Road takes hikers past fishing villages, old chapels, castles, salt pans, abandoned caves, desert-like ponds and dunes, with views of Sardinia’s hazy waters. never far.

But for Nicola Melis, a local engineer who rediscovered 100 Towers Path six years ago and has since circumnavigated the island four times alone, its allure is simply the scenery.

“It’s not just a path, it’s a spiritual pilgrimage inside of you,” he tells CNN Travel. “If you do it alone it’s a physical and mental challenge. You conquer Sardinia’s deepest beauty through tension and it’s rewarding.

“I like the hard parts the most, such as the steep hike up the high cliffs of Baunei, along the Ogliastra trail, with the best views, because you rely solely on strength and endurance. You never forget your first hike here, it’s like your first car or girlfriend.”

On certain sections of the trail, hikers can soothe tired feet in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

On certain sections of the trail, hikers can soothe tired feet in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

Nicola Melis

Melis is more than just a local with a passion for the trail. He is also the founder 100 Tower Path Associationan escape for visitors who want to experience the trails on their own.

Melis says what prompted him to recover and promote the route was the discovery of a 1500s soldier’s pamphlet that maps out an entire network of defensive towers. The soldier walked the path on horseback, and then, mentally changed by the long journey, decided to become a monk.

How to solve it

If stretched in a straight line, the 100 Towers Path is long enough to connect the Italian Alps with its deepest southern lands. The furthest it deviates from the coast is just two kilometers inland.

Hikers should start counter-clockwise from Cagliari, this allows them to avoid the intense NW Mistral winds that will hit them at the start of the hike, making it more challenging. .

Travelers can also join one of the association’s regular organized groups, which typically include 20-60 hikers, or embark on their own journey for as many days as they like. It is open year round.

Hikers who choose to do it alone should assess their skills and fitness level before hitting the road and be aware that they may find themselves hiking in the harsh summer sun. .

“You need to be fit, prepare to stretch, and avoid carrying backpacks that weigh more than 10 percent of your body weight,” says Melis.

“You’ll find drinking fountains and bars along the way, but sometimes they’re far away so research the itinerary carefully.”

Giants, Angels and Demons

Melis says there are four trails that have become particularly popular among hikers.

The shortest and easiest route, ideal for beginners, is the 62-kilometer Angel Road that runs from Cagliari north to the seaside resort of Villasimius.

The walking tour begins at one of the city’s oldest chapels, passing through the first five towers in a direction that resembles a hoop. Called the ‘Devil’s Saddle’, it continues along pebble and baby powder beaches, calm inlets, caves and reef-fringed seabeds.

Next is the Sarcapos trail, which runs from Villasimius to Tertenia for 143 kilometers, offering mostly pure beach bliss along the pristine shores of Costa Rei. It takes about 5-7 days to complete this hike, which features a pond inhabited by flamingos, rocky hills, a river and the ruins of a lost Phoenician city, a temple temples and cemeteries.

Aromas of strawberry and ghost tree, nettle and oak mingle with a salty sea breeze.

The most challenging trail is Ogliastra, on the east coast, suitable for experienced hikers. It runs for 144 kilometers and takes almost a week to complete, leading up the steep mountains of Baunei to enchanting sea caves like Cala Gonone, through pine and juniper forests, and natural rock arches. However, old shepherds, ancient coal merchants and donkey roads were used by shepherds.

This vehicle transports visitors into the unspoiled wilderness of Sardinia, offering breathtaking panoramas.

The 100 Towers trail is made up of eight trails spanning 1,284 kilometers.

The 100 Towers trail is made up of eight trails spanning 1,284 kilometers.

Nicola Melis

Archeology buffs will delight in the pagan “Grand Road” east of the Sinis Peninsula, another must-do part of the 100 Tower Road. Its name derives from the original nuraghe dwellings found in the area, known as the “Giants”, which resemble miniature Stonehenges.

Hikers will wander through the lost Phoenician city of Tharros, whose ruins dot the landscape, and encounter pagan sacred wells, an ancient Roman road and water system.

Meanwhile, the Mines Trail, on the southwest coast, cuts through the high white sand dunes of Piscinas, a large, powder-white beach that looks like a desert with one of the faintest seas in the Mediterranean.

Abandoned mines and oddly shaped “sugar loaf” beaches are prime stops.

“The 100 Towers Road connects 26 different coastal habitats, each with distinctive vegetation and wildlife. You’ll pass through beach deserts, granite hills and mountains,” Melis said. and 40 protected oases with wild boars, sea turtles, cormorants, marine pine forests,” Melis said.

Seaside conversion and glamping

The towers along the road were built in the 1500s and 1700s to protect against enemy incursion.

The towers along the road were built in the 1500s and 1700s to protect against enemy incursion.

Alessio Orrù / Adobe Stock

Melis’ 100 Towers Path Association unites hikers, posts an online calendar that flags group trips and offers a variety of accommodation suggestions, beach bars (‘chioschi’) and homes Shop with special prices for hikers.

Access to the trail is free, but there are separate guides for tailored short tours. It costs about 150 euros ($150) per day for two people.

Hikers can choose from 200 affiliated businesses to stop by daily.

These include campsites with ultra-modern facilities, cozy beachfront B&B restaurants, and even seaside convent resorts run by nuns, like Villa Tecla at Quartu Sant’Elena. Rates start from 50 euros a room.
4 star camping site Ultima Spiaggiain Bari Sardo, there’s a spa, restaurant, portable chalets and four pools – perfect for glamping fans – while Camping Isonedda on the Emerald Coast is right on the beach.

Sardinia’s northern shores tend to be more touristy in the summer, while the rest of the island, especially the southwest coast, is more authentic and different, allowing pedestrians to experience Fully experience the thrill of the Road of 100 Towers.

Sign up to CNN Travel’s Unlock Italy Newsletter for insider information on Italy’s most loved destinations and lesser known regions to plan your ultimate trip. Plus, we’ll get you in the mood before watching movie recommendations, reading lists, and recipes from Stanley Tucci.

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