Calasetta – or Cala di Seta, as it used to be known – is one of the most charming small towns in Sardinia, and if you are exploring the south of the island you should make it a point to visit, at least for a day.
This is a truly scenic place. Picture bright white buildings; colorful balconies beautifully decorated with flowers; cobbled alleys with the odd sleepy cat: it is simply picture perfect. Add to this a handful of gorgeous beaches (more about them below); a fantastic Museum of Contemporary Art; an incredibly scenic lighthouse and a fantastic winery, and you get the idea: this is a place truly worth visiting.
If you are wondering how to make the most of Calasetta you have come to the right place. Continue reading this post to discover everything you need to know about Calasetta and to better plan your visit.
Some Background Information On Calasetta
Located on Sant’Antioco island in the Sulcis Archipelago, in Southwestern Sardinia, Calasetta was founded in 1769 and like the nearby Carloforte has strong Liguria and Tunisian influences. In fact, the town was born when 38 families of coral fishermen from the Tunisian island of Tabarka (who had originally settled there from Genoa) moved there.
Later on, tuna fishermen arrived, as well as settlers from Piedmont who brought grapes with them.
Today, the language you will hear in Calasetta (aside Italian, that is!) is Tabarkian – an interesting Ligurian / Genoese dialect which is strikingly at odds with Sardinian, the minority language spoken on the rest of the island.
The Best Beaches In Calasetta
As always, I am starting with a focus on the local beaches – but rest assured that there’s more than just beaches in Calasetta (see below for more non-beach related activities). There are three sandy beaches in Calasetta, whereas the rest are small rocky coves, jagged cliff formations and scenic fjords.
Continue reading for more information.
This is the main beach of Calasetta, and you can easily walk there from the village. It’s characterized by incredibly fine white sand and the clearest waters you could hope for, and since water is so shallow it is the perfect place for families with small children.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The beach is equipped with kiosks and places to rent umbrellas and other beach equipment. There is parking nearby.
This is one of the larges beaches in Calasetta, measuring roughly one km. As it is highly exposed to the winds, it’s the perfect place if you enjoy adrenaline filled sports such as windsurfing or kitesurfing. If you aren’t a great swimmer or – generally speaking – a fan of the wind, you are better off avoiding it on windy days.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The beach is located at about 4 km from Calasetta. There is a parking spot on site, and you will find umbrellas and chairs for rent, as well as a kiosk for drinks and light meals.
GOOD TO KNOW: Another great beach for windsurfers is Cussorgia, at 4 km east of the village.
Cala Lunga is located on a lovely fjord and as such it is incredibly sheltered from the wind. The beautiful rock formations and the shallow waters make it incredibly scenic.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The beach is at about 20 minutes drive from Calasetta. There is parking on site, but nothing else in terms of services.
A beautiful beach characterized by fine pale grey sand. It’s main characteristic are the sand dunes on which you will be able to spot beautiful marine lilies and other Mediterranean vegetation. The transparent water is rather shallow, so even non-experienced swimmers and children can fully enjoy it.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You will find sunbeds and umbrellas for rent, and a kiosk for drinks and light meals. Keep in mind it can get very crowded in the peak months.
Not far from Cala Lunga, Cala Tuffi is a beautiful natural pool.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: To get to Cala Tuffi, drive on Strada Comunale per Cala Sapone towards Mercury Boutique Hotel. Once you park the car, it’s a nice walk downhill. Alternatively you can follow the trail that starts near Cala Lunga and will take you there in about 20 minutes. Finally, you can get there by boat.
Located at about 20 minutes drive from Calasetta, Cala Sapone is characterized thick grain sand mixed with small pebbles as well as corals. From there, you can easily walk or swim to Cala della Signora – another scenic cove.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Parking is somewhat limited on the site, so make sure to go very early in the morning or around lunch time, when families usually leave, to get a spot. You will find a kiosk on site, as well as umbrellas and sunbeds for rent.
What To See And Do In Calasetta
If you ever get tired of going to the beach, or if you happen to visit off-season, you will be happy to know that Calasetta has a lot more to offer. Here is a selection of the things you shouldn’t miss.
Go wine tasting at Cantina di Calasetta
Cantina di Calasetta (Calasetta Winery) was established in 1932 and is one of the oldest ones in Sardinia. Perched atop the island, this winery produces some fabulous wines. Covering around 200 hectares, the main production is of Carignan grapes (and Carignano wine) but y you will also find Vermentino and Moscato. The winery has a wine shop and a tasting room, and you can go on guided tours (which obviously include tasting). Make sure to call ahead!
Make sure to check out my post 15 Must Visit Wineries In Sardinia.
Visit the Calasetta Museum of Contemporary Art
Calasetta Museum of Contemporary Art (MACC) is often mentioned among the best museums in Sardinia (find out which one the others are in this post). It is located in a former slaughterhouse, over two floors, and it is mostly dedicated to pieces that date back to the second half of the 20th century, with a strong focus on abstract and constructivist art and art from the 1960s and 1970s.
There is a permanent exhibit entirely dedicated to Ermanno Leinardi, a local artist; as well as temporary ones.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The MACC is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. Admission fee is €4.
Admire the view of the Mangiabarche Lighthouse
The area where the Mangiabarche lighthouse is located is simply splendid. Visit in the summer months and you will find a tiny beach with the clearest water you could hope for, perfect for snorkeling and diving. Go on a windy day – whether in the summer or winter – and the scenery will be completely different, with the strong waves breaking on the shore on the rocks where the lighthouse is perched.
The name, Mangiabarche (Boat Eater, in English) is clearly evocative of what has happened – and continues happening – a bunch of times. Despite the presence of the lighthouse, boats regularly end up there.
Either way, the scenery is stunning and well worth a trip – this is a memorable photo location!
TIP: Go at sunset for an even more memorable experience.
Go to Nido dei Passeri
At about 5 km from Calasetta, along the main road, there are two massive rocks emerging from the water and commonly called “Nido dei Passeri” or Bird’s Nest in English. The name refers to the fact that birds typically create their nest on those rocks. It’s one of the most scenic spot on the island and you definitely should not miss it!
Admire the Torre Sabauda
The Torre Sabauda of Calasetta was built between March 1756 and June 1757, during the Savoy kingdom and before Calasetta was actually founded in 1770.
Built with local materials – local stones and sand – and other materials taken from nearby places, the Torre Sabauda was built with the aim of watching over San Pietro Channel, and of defending local tuna fisheries and the nearby Carloforte and – later on – Calasetta itself from pirates.
The tower has a cone shape, similar to that of many other towers found in Sardinia. It is about 12 meters tall, and the main entrance was at 5 meters from the ground – accessed used to be by way of a drawbridge. Inside, there is a staircase built within the wall that goes all the way to the terrace.
At the ground level you will find a small but well curated Museum of Archeology; whereas the terrace is used for ceremonies and temporary exhibits.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: At the time of writing, the Torre Sabauda is under restoration and can only be admire from the outside.
Visit the Domu de Janas di Tupei
Domus de Janas – which literally translates to fairies or witches houses – are found throughout Sardinia, where there are around 2000. These are small dwellings which, according to legend, where inhabited by tiny creatures. In reality, they were burial grounds where tombs were dug out of rocks.
Not far from Calasetta you will find several archeological sites that testify to the ancient past of Sant’Antioco island. The Domu de Janas di Tupei is one of them, along with a few nuraghe scattered in the countryside. Pair a visit with a trip to the Archeological Museum Ferruccio Barreca (MAB) in Sant’Antioco town for a more complete experience.
Visit the nearby Sant’Antioco
At about 20 minutes drive from Calasetta, Sant’Antioco is the main town on Sant’Antioco island. For as small as it is (only 12000 people live there), it is quite interesting to visit, and incredibly photogenic.
Once a Phoenician-Punic colony, the town became a Roman City later on in history. The city is a maze of alleys with colorful buildings, lovely restaurants along the waterfront, and a small but good museum of archeology. Other places of interest include the well curated ethnographic museum and a fort.
TIP: Linger on for sunset, as the light descending on the fishing boats in the lagoon give it a magic aura.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Archeology Museum – Museo Archeologico Ferruccio Barreca – is open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission is €7.
Take a day trip to Carloforte
Carloforte has many historical similarities to Calasetta, in that it also is a Tabarkine enclave. Located on San Pietro island, it’s at a 30-minutes ferry ride from Calasetta, and with so many daily departures it is an easy day trip – though to be fair, I think it deserves well more than just a day.
This small town is incredibly colorful, and not far from it you will find a multitude of absolutely gorgeous beaches, viewpoints and places of historical interest. It’s also a great place for diving and snorkeling.
TIP: If you intend to explore the island rather than just the village, make sure to take your car to Carloforte.
TOP TIP: If you have a chance, try to visit Carloforte in early June, for the Girotonno – its famous tuna festival.
Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To Carloforte And Isola Di San Pietro, Sardinia.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Calasetta
How to get to Calasetta
Calasetta is located on Sant’Antioco island, in the Sulcis Archipelago, which is connected to mainland Sardinia via an isthmus. You can get there by car or public transportation.
Calasetta is at about 85 km from Cagliari. To get there by car, follow SS130 all the way to Carbonia, from where you must follow SS126. The overall trip will take you around 1.5 hours
By public transport
I don’t really encourage you to travel to Calasetta by train, as the trip is long and requires several changes and in any case you will need a car to make the most of Calasetta and its surroundings. Anyway, in case this is the only option, here’s what you need to do:
Take the train from Cagliari train station to Carbonia. Once there, take Bus 802 to Calasetta. The overall journey will take about 3 hours.
Guided tours of Calasetta
If you are short on time, you may want to opt for a guided tour that goes through Calasetta and also takes you to Sant’Antioco and Carloforte. You may want to check outthis guided tour of San Pietro Island. You can book it here or here. You can also opt for bike rental to move around. Book it here.
Where to stay in Calasetta
Calasetta is a small town, so sleeping options may be slim there. You may want to opt to stay in nearby Sant’Antioco for wider choice. Having said that, here is a selection of good places to stay.
Hotel Cala di Seta – located in the heart of Calasetta, this hotel offers small but comfortable and spotless rooms. It’s pet friendly, and breakfast is included in the price of the room. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
MuMA Hostel – on the waterfront of Sant’Antioco, this hostel offers budget friendly, comfortable spacious rooms. The hostel has its own art gallery, pets are allowed and breakfast is included in the price. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Where to eat and drink in Calasetta
Calasetta has its fair share of good bars and restaurants. When in town, make sure to try gallettine, a local crispy bread perfect in salads, soups or as a simple snack.
The following are the best restaurants and bars in Calasetta:
OASI BLU – A bit outside of town, this beautiful restaurant has a strong focus on traditional local fare, but you will also find vegan and vegetarian options.
LA PERLA – One of the nicest restaurants on the waterfront where your taste buds will pop at the delicious seafood and fish. Not your thing? There are options for meat lovers and even vegetarians.
DA PASQUALINO – A good pizzeria trattoria with plain but tasty dishes. Prices are fair and service quick.
Further readings about Sardinia
Make sure to check out these posts to better plan your trip to Sardinia:
- Where Is Sardinia?
- How To Get To Sardinia: Routes From Italy And Europe
- What You Should Know Before Traveling To Sardinia
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia
- The Most Incredible Day Trips From Cagliari
- The Nicest Small Towns And Cities In Sardinia
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