Leo’s named after a surfing goat. The goat used to travel between Europe and Morocco in the lime green kombi before it joined Cool Campers‘ small pool of vans.
We hadn’t thought of going to Sardinia till I started searching through the Camperbug website for kombis to rent in Italy. Turns out the island, of which we saw a mere snippet of the north in our week with Leo, is an absolute pearler and we could have spent months there.
The cool Cool Campers couple, Antonio and Amandine, met us at Alghero airport on a Tuesday evening off our flight from Venice. Antonio showed me the oddities and niceties of manoeuvring a vintage kombi circa 1970. “Don’t fill up the petrol tank or it might spill out on corners”, “the fans don’t work but the windows open”, “drive between 60 to 80 kilometres per hour, he’s old”.
Leo’s a head turner. Parked up gathering supplies in the village of Fertilia we were smugly proud catching other travellers give him a twice-over. Ah yes, your white modern camper with built-in shower looks very comfortable but our Leo once housed a surfing goat!
Our first day driving took us to Capo Caccia, on Sardinia’s northwest coast in a regional park just 20 kilometre from Fertilia. The cape has fantastic views of islands and cliff faces. There’s a spectacular Neptune’s grotto to visit but we missed it. We spent the day snorkeling in crystal clear water in a small bay. The fish were pretty if not plentiful.
One trick with Leo I had to learn quickly was juggling the gears, clutch and handbrake on gradients. As we were trying to leave, the slight slope on the road led to several locals and Laressa involved in helping me do a turn without taking out other cars. Drivers in Italy seem to have no qualms about coming within millimetres of other vehicles, whether in a tight park or flying along narrow roads.
At dusk we pulled into the most casual camping ground set between vineyards, just a short forest walk away from the beach. Nobody checked passports, 24 hours’ stay started from when we entered, a bargain 20 euro per night. It didn’t have the sparkling facilities or regimental attitude about identity documents of other campgrounds we stayed at but it was charming in its simplicity and we could plug in Leo’s fridge battery. The restaurant even included a two dish vegan section.
Our next night’s stop was just an hour or so up the coast where we followed Leo’s nose to a ‘wild camping’ site at Capo dell’ Argentiera. Leo was the green machine among a small posse of white campers. Next to a surf beach with no surfers, our small bay offered sheltered snorkeling and a coastal walk that seemed to span old lava flows. Signs of an early settlement of stone houses were evident in the dunes and a cemetery across the bay caught the setting sun. I loved making coffees and pasta meals in Leo’s little kitchen at that beach.
Peeling ourselves away from this gorgeous isolated spot we headed to Stintino at the island’s northwest tip. Rows of resort sun umbrellas colonise the beaches, and the blue and turquoise sea attracts snorkelers and super yachts alike. We paid 5 euro to park for a swim near a beach restaurant before making our way northeast.
Leaving the area I had the first of three weird experiences at self service petrol stations where the pumps trickled at drip pace. Apparently, the slow pumps are a widespread issue in Sardinia.
After a brief look at a surf beach at Isola Rossa, a wrong turn at an intersection took us inland through wide valleys of trees and rocky hills. It looked like a climber’s dream and with more time I would have loved us to stay among the rocks. Straight roads became wickedly winding till we finally reached Palau on the northwest coast.
Over the next three days we enjoyed staying on both sides of Palau, one site offering tiny beaches between round boulders, and the other a water sports gem of a campground. Both Camping Acapulco and Capo d’Orso came with stunning views of the archipelago La Maddalena.
For our last night we headed back west to stay at the Laguna Blu camping ground near the airport. It’s set among trees by a lagoon and across the road from a beach. Pretty peaceful till the Wiggles-style entertainment started up for the little kids – they were dancing past 11pm.
We were sad to hand back the keys to Leo. He’d become a good mate in that week taking us on a wonderful holiday.
I’d recommend time in Sardinia in a heartbeat and hope to go back.