It’s such a long and winding road that leads to the door of this organic working farm, situated high in the central Sardinian hills, that even Macca and the other lovable Liverpool mop-tops might feel somewhat dizzy. The trek up the narrow, snaking bends will have you more than ready for a glass or two of home-made wine when you arrive, courtesy of Giovanni di Costa, the Azienda’s hospitable owner.
A colourful character, Giovanni is a friendly kind of guy, and doesn’t let the small matter of speaking completely different languages pose a barrier when he chats away to his foreign guests. The delight he takes in showing you around is infectious, and it’s easy to see why the farm, which has been in his family for generations, is his pride and joy. Its roots go way back, with a small enclosure of rocks in front of the house once forming part of a villaggio dating back to 1,000 bc, when the first Nuragic settlers found their way up to this fertile terrain.
Apart from the odd piece of new-fangled farming equipment about the place, Costiolu’s unspoilt nature gives the impression that things haven’t been updated all that much in 3,000 years.
A proper retreat from the hectic trappings of everyday life, the Azienda offers a calm, country experience alongside its simple, old-fashioned farming ways, and has won Giovanni several awards, including the much-coveted Agrituristica Plein Air di Qualita, a kind of Michelin star for farm- based holidays.
Although the local town Nuoro, Sardinia’s cultural capital, remains visible from the Azienda’s lofty perch, the views are mostly taken up with its sprawling olive groves, cereal fields and grazing land peppered with languid cows, sheep and goats.
The camping area consists of nine adjacent pitches on a flat plain above the small herd of bell-tinkling goats, and there’s room enough for a good spattering of tents behind the farmhouse, too. The clean bathrooms are to be tracked down in a simple stone building nearby, and picnic tables are set on the Azienda’s terrace for dining al fresco, a la Giovanni.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all available for your delectation and feature mouth-watering home-grown delicacies, such as traditional Sardinian sheep’s cheese, goat’s yogurt, hung meats and bottles of fruity wine. Every so often Giovanni puts on a huge hog roast, whilst he teaches local kids the Barbagian way to make ricotta cheese and look after the animals.
If you fancy a trip back down the bendy hills into civilisation, Nuoro (which means ‘home’ in the town’s ancient dialect) is well worth a visit. Known as the ‘Sardinian Athens’ for its rich cultural history, many artists have lived and worked here over the years, including Giovanni’s brother. You can inspect his twisty sculptures as they are dotted around the farm, as well as decorating a piazza in town. Grazia Deledda, winner of the 1926 Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in Nuoro, and her old house has been converted to a museum to celebrate her life and work.
You will find further doses of culture in the town’s museums of and ethnography (which explore the life and traditions of Sardinians, dating back to the 1800s) and contemporary art. But for those more in favour of sipping a coffee and watching the sleepy Sardinian world go by, there are delicious little cafés scattered about the town where you can enjoy a caffeine fix.
This region’s rugged beauty may be a far cry from Sardinia’s publicised coastal splendour, which sees footballers and WAGs flocking to the island’s beaches. But for a true taste of Sardinian culture and farming life, it’s Azienda Costiolu and its affable owner that’ll make you want to ‘twist and shout’.
A small but clean shower block (1 women’s, 1 men’s), and nearer the house there’s a disabled toilet.
Tents, campervans, caravans and small groups - yes. Pets - no.
Become Clint Eastwood for the day by hopping onto one of Giovanni’s horses for an excursion. Just for a change, treat yourself to a day on the Costa Smeralda, Sardinia’s most beautiful coastline. Frolic on the beach for the day, then head for drinks or a slap-up dinner at the exclusive Cala di Volpe Hotel (0039 0789 976 111), and be prepared to spot one or two celebs there, too).
Food & Drink
Giovanni cooks up feasts in the restaurant, and there are lots of home- grown goodies to be had. Or nearby Oliena’s Su Gologone restaurant, which features a 500-year- old fireplace, has a delicious seasonal menu and local speciality: Cannonau wine.
All year, but you must book ahead.
The Owner Says
Contact Costiolu Farm, 08100 Nuoro, SS389 (Nuoro to Bitti), Sardinia
It’s approximately 51⁄2 miles (9 km) along the SS389 from Nuoro to Bitti and thankfully there are a couple of Costiolu signposts along the way.
ARST A1 buses run from Bitti to Nuoro (route Q.511). And the R2 runs from Nuoro to Bitti. They run very irregularly and on Sundays there isn’t always a service, so it’s advisable to check ahead.
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