Sardinia is often visited by wine enthusiasts, especially in the southern part. Among the towns that carry on this area’s wine tradition, Santadi is one of the most important. But wine is only one of the things you’ll find if you visit Santadi, which has indeed a wide array of interesting attractions on offer.
Continue reading this guide to discover everything Santadi has to offer, and for information that will help you plan your visit.
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Some Background Information About Santadi, Sardinia
Located in Sulcis region of Southern Sardinia, Santadi is a town of about 3,000 inhabitants that boasts an important wine-making tradition.
The town itself is developed around the church of San Nicolò and is characterized by low rise buildings and narrow streets. At the edge of the village, the houses give way to a landscape with lush vegetation. The forests in the surroundings are a perfect destination for nature lovers.
Speaking of nature, one of the most beautiful and striking places to see in the surroundings are the Is Zuddas caves, created by water over the course of millennia. On the other hand, if you are fond of trekking, you can find several trails in the Gutturu Mannu park, one of the largest green areas in Italy.
Santadi has Nuragic origins, proven by the many artifacts that can be seen at the town’s archaeological museum. In the Middle Ages, the town belonged to different owners, passing from the Giudicato of Cagliari to the Republic of Pisa, and then under the rule of the Aragonese.
At the end of the Middle Ages, many towns like Santadi were abandoned due to the plague and the skirmishes between the Sardinian Giudicati and the Spanish army. The town was repopulated in the 17th century, while in the 19th century, with the end of the Sardinian feudal system, Santadi became a municipality.
What To See And Do In Santadi, Sardinia
Taste the Carignano wine
The Carignano del Sulcis vine is an ancient black grape variety with unclear origins. Some say it is a native vine of Sardinia, while others claim that it was brought on the island by the Spaniards. In fact, local winemakers often call Carignano Axina de Spagna, which can be translated in Spanish Grapes.
The Carignano vine is characterized by its incredible resilience. The exposition to the sun, the sea salt and the wind allow the production of a wine with an unmistakable aroma. The Carignano wine is famous for its deep red color and for its aromas that range from wild berries to vanilla or licorice, with notes of myrtle and Mediterranean scrub. Like many red wines, Carignano is usually served with meat dishes or cheese.
In the Santadi area, there are numerous wineries where you can taste various kinds of Carignano wine and perhaps buy a few bottles to take home. Among these, one of the most important is the Cantina di Santadi, in business since 1960 and famous for its production of Carignano, as well as Sangiovese and Merlot.
Cantina di Santadi is open for visits from Monday to Friday. Wine tasting tours are available at 10:30 am and at 4:30 pm. On Saturdays, there is only one tasting at 10:30 am.
Experience local traditions and folklore
Santadi is strongly linked to its traditions. One of the most particular is the Mauritanian Wedding. It consists in a marriage celebrated according to the rural tradition of Sulcis. It is celebrated in early August, with bride and groom dressed in traditional costumes followed by a wedding procession composed of folkloric music groups and decorated carts called traccas. The festival is divided into several moments, which include the dressing of the bride and groom and the moment of the wedding celebration.
Another typical Santadi event is Pane e Olio in Frantoio. However, this is a decidedly more recent event than the Mauritanian Wedding, as it was first organized in 2003. Pane e Olio in Frantoio is completely dedicated to the country’s food and wine tradition, in fact it is possible to taste various products, and learn about the traditional techniques of production of the various foods. The event takes place between the end of November and the beginning of December.
Visit the Chiesa di San Nicolò
Located on the hill of San Nicolao, the small church in the village of Santadi features a typical neoclassical style. Actually, the building has seen numerous restorations and extensions, to the point that it is difficult to trace the exact period in which it was built. The most recent renovation was done in the 19th century, which gave the church’s facade its current neoclassical appearance. The bell tower is probably the most distinctive part of the church, a direct extension of the facade that distinguishes the parish from the surrounding buildings.
Check out Sa Domu Antiga
An old house built in the early 20th century, purchased by the Santadi’s municipality and turned into a museum, Sa Domu Antiga is an excellent place to take a quick trip through the past, thanks to its rooms that portray the daily life in the village. The structure of the building itself is typical of the Sulcis farmer houses, with the rooms facing the street and the courtyard located in the back. In the museum you can observe old tools such as the wooden loom, as well as bread-making and wine-making tools.
Pop inside the Archaeological Museum
A must-see for history buffs, the Archaeological Museum of Santadi features an exhibit dedicated to artifacts found in the territory. It starts with findings from the Neolithic period and goes all the way to the Roman age. The museum pays special attention to artifacts from pre-Nuragic cultures, such as ceramics, vases and sacrificial daggers dedicated to water worship.
And the Museo delle Bambole
A special display of dolls, set up in the owner’s private home. The museum boasts 1,500 dolls, from all over the world and collected since 1966. The dolls feature clothes typical of their places of origin.
Wonder around the Foresta di Pantaleo
The Pantaleo Forest is part of the Gutturru Mannu Regional Natural Park and covers about 4,200 hectares of the territory of Santadi and Nuxis. Among the trees you will find holm oaks, yews, hollies and many others. The forest hosts the largest eucalyptus in Sardinia (27 meters high – that’s 88.5 feet) and several particular plant species.
As for the fauna, Pantaleo is the habitat of the Sardinian deer, wild cats, foxes, weasels, and even of the Sardinian hare, an almost extinct species which now has only 200 examples. There is no shortage of birds of prey such as the golden eagle and peregrine falcon. The area is packed with excellent hiking trails too.
Visit the Grotte is Zuddas
The Is Zuddas Grotte is a 530 million old cave, created by the force of water over the millennia. The grottos are part of an underground cave that passes through a 240 meter (787.4 feet) tall hill, called Mount Meana. The entrance is really close to Santadi, so you can get there easily to visit the incredible halls of the grottos.
The three main halls are filled with stalactities, stalagmites other particular natural formations. The typical tree like shapes of the aragonites are famous worldwide, and also a scientific mystery. The visit to the Grotte Is Zudda lasts at least an hour, with a guide that will take you through the three main halls: Sala Eccentrica, Sala dell’Organo e Sala del Teatro.
For more information, head over to my post A Guide To Visiting The Grotte Is Zuddas.
And the Grotte Su Benatzu
A recently discovered cave used as a sanctuary in the past. It also goes by the name of “the treasure cave”, since it contained hundreds of bowls, as well as a stalagmite which acted as an altar. On the altar, the archeologists found various bronze objects, such as tripods, bracelets, knives and rings. The “treasure” was moved from the cave and is actually on show in the Santadi archeological museum, as well as in the Cagliari National Museum.
You should also read my post The Most Impressive Caves In Sardinia.
Tomba dei Giganti Barrancu Mannu
A nuragic burial site located near Santadi and surrounded by vegetation, Barrancu Mannu is a really interesting place to visit, especially if you are into history. The tomb was built with yellow and pink granite, with an exedra used as an entrance for the hallway. The union between the nature and the majestic granite construction creates a fascinating atmosphere, so I suggest you keep this place in mind if you decide to visit Santadi.
Read my post Who Were The Giants Of Sardinia?
Where to stay in Santadi
Since it is located just 60 km (little over 37 miles) from Cagliari, if you are staying in the city you can consider visiting Santadi on a day trip. On the other hand, if you want to find accommodation in the village, there are a couple of good places to stay.
How to get to Santadi
You can easily get to Santadi from Cagliari by car, taking State Road 130 all the way to Siliqua, then continuing on State Road 293 – it takes little over one hour.
The trip is significantly longer if you wish to travel by bus, but there are two daily departures from Cagliari’s Policlinico Universitario, which can be reached by light rail from Piazza Repubblica in Cagliari. Once there, hop on bus 811 towards Carbonia.