11 Things Not To Do In Sardinia

There are some things not to do in Sardinia. It’s that simple. You really should avoid them.

If there is one thing that we never get tired of in Sardinia, that is pointing out that our region is fantastic and truly a world apart. Italian by law, Sardinia is and feels different. Italians themselves feel they are in foreign territory when they visit – they can’t quite put their finger on it, but they know there is something unique about Sardinia that makes it feel exotic.

It is a gorgeous island, right in the heart of the Mediterranean sea, inhabited by people who can and will give anything they have, without ever expecting anything in return; people who are however very proud and can easily get offended whenever they feel someone is lacking them respect.

Thus, here’s a short list of the things not to do in Sardinia – never, for any reason. Follow the rules, or get frowned at.

things not to do in Sardinia

11 Things Not To Do In Sardinia

Ask us if Sardinia is near Venice. Or Rome. Or north or south.

We take it for granted that literally everybody should know where our beautiful land is located. Don’t tell us that you drove by it once: we will laugh at you – seriously (see point 10 below). It’s one of the things not to do in Sardinia.

By the way, you can check out where Sardinia is in this post.

Say you want to move to Sardinia… 

Although you don’t really mean it. Because honestly, if you only had a vague idea of what it means to be born and raised here, and the struggles that living in Sardinia bring; if you only slightly understood the concepts of equal opportunities and equity, you’d understand how privileged you have been your entire life for not having to pay an extortionate price for a flight each time you have a job interview, or there is an unmissable networking event, a concert and so on. 

Do you really, truly wonder why we leave our beloved island? Do you think it doesn’t hurt when we pack our bags, knowing that in order to make a living we can’t avoid that? Ask us, and you may end up not getting the most polite reaction. We get it – most of you come from boring, grey, gloomy cities and you love Sardinia. But this is not the way to get your point across.

More than anything, do not underestimate our intelligence (and yours) with such a common sense sentence. And – hint hint – before asking us, do some reading and find out about the financial situation of Sardinia. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in Italy. And we have to pay out of our pocket each time we need to go to a job interview outside the island because guess what – interviews over zoom are only for foreigners. As if it was not faster and cheaper getting to Milan or Trieste from Slovenia or Switzerland. 

So repeat with me: one of the things not to do in Sardinia is saying you can’t understand why we leave. 

Cala Spinosa

Start or finish each sentence with “ajo’” or “eja.”

You will often hear us Sardinians say ajo, to mean “let’s go”, or eja to mean “yes”. But knowing what those two words mean isn’t in any way indicative that you can actually speak the local language (by the way, it is a language and not a dialect).

I can promise you that regularly repeating “ajo’” won’t make you look cooler to a Sardinian. In fact, you’re more likely to look like somewhat of a fool. If you are really keen on it, use it among yourself. But don’t scream “ajo’” to a Sardinian. It gets boring after a while.

Say you’d like to have a small bite, or a snack.

One of the things not to do in Sardinia, ever, is to mention that you feel like having a snack. If you your idea of a bite is that of a small, light meal, or at most a sandwich, keep in mind that here in Sardinia it may quickly turn into a full meal that would do best served at a wedding reception. It goes with the Sardinian sense of hospitality. We would not want anyone to leave our home feeling hungry.

best places in Sardinia

Say no to a drink.

This rule is particularly valid in the areas of Nuoro and Barbagia. If someone offers you a drink you shall never, ever, for any reason refuse. So, if someone gets you a drink, drink it. And if they keep pouring, drink more. Mirto (traditional myrtle berries liquor)? Fil’e ferru (Sardinian grappa)? A little wine? A beer? As long as you keep drinking.

This way, we’re all be merrier and become good friends. And, going back to point 4 above, we would not want anybody leaving our home thirsty.

Say that Ichnusa, the local beer, is tasteless.

If you really care for your life, never dare saying that Ichnusa isn’t the best beer you’ve ever had. It’s one of the things not to do in Sardinia. You see, if you offend Ichnusa, you are pretty much offending Sardinians. Even if you think it is not really too tasty, it is light, mild, etc, never say it out loud. You may have to face the anger of a bunch of Sardinians – young and old, men and women.

By the way – the fact that Ichnusa is actually owned by a foreign company and that the only Sardinian thing in there is the name, is obviously completely irrelevant. (Hint: we do know Ichnusa isn’t the best beer, but we are allowed to say it).

pictures of Sardinia

Try to outsmart a Sardinian.

We Sardinians are smart and educated. We read a lot (could be due to the fact that we live on an island and get bored for only being able to drive at most 350 km from bottom west to top east), and we do read a lot. Don’t try to teach us a lesson. Even those who look really ignorant to you, will have a sharp tongue which will turn you shy in a second. You have been warned.

Challenge a Sardinian to do anything.

As I have already said, Sardinians are proud. If you dare to challenge any of us Sardinians to do something – dangerous or not – you can rest assured we will. We are on the stubborn side, and we can hardly stand people telling us what to do. You never know what the consequences may be!

Stop the sheep from crossing first.

Sheep outnumber humans in Sardinia. It does happen to see flocks near the city. In the (actually likely) circumstance that you encounter a herd of sheep, sit and wait till they’re done crossing, even if they seem like a million and you are running late for a date, and by all means do not try to get across with your car, even if you intend to drive really really slow. Shepherds would not appreciate you and you surely would not want to start a fight with them (see points 6 and 7 above). Again, don’t say you haven’t been warned!

Lavender fields in Sardinia

Take what a Sardinian says too literally.

We Sardinians have quite a subtle sense of humor. Don’t take what we tell you too seriously (even if we looks serious, and at times even hostile). We’re likely making fun of you. Rather, if you manage, sharpen your tongue and answer appropriately. By all means, do not get offended. In any case, an offer of a drink will settle all matters (see points 4 and 6 above).

Fall in love with Sardinia.

Don’t leave your heart in Sardinia, don’t fall in love with its beaches, its clear waters, its gorgeous nature, its history and culture. It may soon turn into a disease which will be hard to cure. And once Sardinia and Sardinians sneak their way into your heart, it will be hard not to come back.

Have you ever been to Sardinia? Did you find Sardinians to be unique? Discover more things to do in Sardinia on my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

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Discover what to never do or say in Sardinia - via @clautavani

40 thoughts on “11 Things Not To Do In Sardinia”

  1. Great roundup Claudia.

    We visited the beautiful Sardinia in June 2013 for our honeymoon and oh yes, we completely fell in love with it. We were based around the north eastern part, close to Budoni and loved all the beaches, natural beauty and the warm welcome.

    I even developed quite a taste for a local beer too. I can’t remember the name of it but it was different to the one you’ve mentioned in this article.

    We definitely fell in love with the place and would love to go back at some point for an anniversary.

    Reply
    • You should go back, even in the winter. You now know me, and I can help you plan your next itinerary 🙂

      Reply
  2. While we have traveled all over mainland Italy, we actually haven’t gotten to Sardinia! I know places like that, while still having a flair for their mainland counterparts, often have their complete own identity and culture. Would love to be able to get down there one day!

    Reply
  3. Ha, I live in Hawaii and people say that #2 to us all the time when we talk about leaving. Even paradise can be hard to live in sometimes right?! Great post, funny, and definitely making me want to head over there soon. Where is it again?? Next to Rome?

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  4. Good to know! Looks like a lovely place to visit, and now I know what NOT to do! I probably wouldn’t turn down a drink anywhere, though! 🙂

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  5. Unfortunatelly I have never been to Sardinia so far, but I spent 2 months in Sicily and they have the similar rules I suppose 🙂 Anyway, both islands are some of the most beautiful in the world!

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  6. I haven’t been to Italy yet, but Sardinia looks gorgeous! Love a place where there’s no such thing as a “small bite.”

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  7. Sardinia is a lovely island, I was hitchhiking there a lot an enjoying beautiful nature and delicious food 🙂
    Arbatax is the best place in Sardinia 🙂

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  8. As a “proud” Sardinian I totally agree with your article. You can only fall in love with Sardinia. When we travel the world we always feel like we miss our island and we want to come back. I travelled for one almost a year in Asia and when I had my Seadas in Bali I almost cried from happiness!

    Reply
    • I bet! I just got back from Indonesia, and the last stop of my trip was Bali. I just could not help compare it to home, and it made me feel so nostalgic. Sardinia is a great place to travel and to live, despite the many difficulties.

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  9. Some points were a waste of time like #7, #8 and some others. “Don’t try to teach us a lesson. Even those who look really ignorant to you, will have a sharp tongue which will turn you shy in a second. You have been warned.” Just because someone is SardInian does not mean they are the most educated people in the planet but she/he makes it look like that. My boyfriend is Sardinian and I always give him a lesson in many different ways. The author should stop stereotyping.

    Reply
    • Update –

      12. Have a sense of humor
      Don’t take posts about what not to do in Sardinia seriously… We also have sense of humor!

      Reply
    • You are right: perhaps I should edit it into “I and my circle of family and friends read a lot!” Are you also from Casteddu? 🙂

      Reply
  10. We fell in love and moved here. The only thing that astounds us is considering the way Sards are supposed to love their Island it is amazing how they dump rubbish and litter all over it.
    It is not uncommon to see refuse dumped only metres away form proper bins!!!

    Reply
    • What can I say, other than I know and you are right? I can’t believe that in 2019 there are still people that show so little respect for the environment!

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  11. I did think the same about point 7 and 8 as a sardinian lol!But i can say that i totally agree about the humour,especially overseas it gets misunderstood a lot,and i can tell ahahaha

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  12. So after a dna result showed Sardinian ancestry, I dived in to learning all I could as there is no oral history about it (or even Italian, ) but the DNA doesn’t lie!

    Also as a wife of a recovering alcoholic, how does one politely turn down a drink?

    Post Covid your lovely island is on my list!

    Reply
    • Hi Tawna,

      I also had a DNA test reveal some Sardinian ancestry which really surprised me because I live in Sardinia and am really having a hard time with the list Claudia wrote. I cringed as I read it. Claudia is the exception to the rule. I wish I could say there is a predominant truth to reading and intelligence but sadly, I find a lot of boasting, gossiping and negative people here who like to complain. Island mentality is known on all islands and small towns everywhere so here it is no different. Since Claudia mentioned honesty as a quality, I thought it would be OK to be honest with my experience here too and bring some reality to the conversation.

      As for politely turning down drinks, don’t worry about it.
      Please, thank you and the like are not expected as the words don’t even exist in Sardo (they use the words in Italian). Just be strong and don’t let yourself get pushed around. That’s what they relate to. That’s my advice as a nice Canadian American living on the island for a decade. Not so nice anymore though haha. They see it as weakness unfortunately.

      But on a lighter note, I wouldn’t generalize either as some people are socially educated and have some manners. The more positive experience has been with people like the tour guides such as Claudia. They love to show you around and help you with your stay here. But less is more here including not revealing too much about yourself as there is great distrust of foreigners. It’s all in their history I believe. They are very proud which can often come off as arrogance so keep that in mind. You don’t need to walk on eggshells but you do need to let them know you’re the boss of you. That’s when they get the message and will show some respect. Good luck .

      Reply
      • Hello Chia, I am deeply saddened to read about your not-so-positive experience. I am sure there must be some positives, or else why would you spend 10 years in a place you don’t like?

        Now, allow me to correct you on a number of things.

        I am not a tour guide. I am a travel blogger. I do not lead tour, I do not guide people around. I just provide information on my site, in the case of Sardinia from the local perspective since this is where I am from.

        There are words in Sardinian to say please, thank you and the like. Please is “po prexeri” and thank you is “aggrassias”. Weird you never heard them having spent such a long time on the island!

        Reply
        • Hi Claudia,
          Thanks for your reply. There are indeed lots of positives too (thank goodness) but the negatives were so unexpected and frequent that I started to wonder what was going on. I have my theories though and I think one of them is a bitterness towards foreigners (especially strong, independent and innovative women) who come to work here and “take their jobs”. This envy is possibly due to the high unemployment rate on the island but also due to the feeling that you are trapped at times.
          Cagliari is a big city so I don’t know how it is there but in a small town you can feel it and it is very unpleasant. By the way, I was told that those words for please and thank you are used in Cagliari but not in my area further north. So “they don’t exist”.
          Also, I apologize for misrepresenting you. I saw that you offer itinerary assistance and thought of it as a guide for travellers not as a travel guide per se.
          I’ll end on a positive note by saying that the pandemic has created calm rather than rebellion in my area which has kept the contamination down.

          Reply
          • With smaller places it’s a bit of a hit and miss anywhere in the world, not just Sardinia. My friend had a terrible experience on a small local island in Greece – and she knows the place and the culture well; she owns property in Athens. Whenever people contact me to ask for a place to move in long term in Sardinia, I always recommend the bigger places – Cagliari, first and foremost; or Alghero. Especially Cagliari has a nice, compact expat community and it’s easier to integrate, I think. The “stealing jobs” is a very common issue, unfortunately – just as envy. But that’s in many many places, in my experience. When people aren’t willing enough to put the effort to change / improve their lives, their career, etc, they feel authorized to bring you down. Surely you can imagine what people say about me for being a travel blogger! The most moderate limit themselves to saying things along the lines of “she has rich parents” or “she’s a parasite.” I shrug it off for what it is: sheer ignorance at not knowing what running a site (actually, three sites in my case) takes. I’d love to meet you in Cagliari, if / when you are ever here 🙂

          • Thanks for your comment Claudio. Not sure which part of Sardinia you are from. My family is from Serdiana, and here we say “po prexeri.” I am sure you know there are many dialects to the language, so of course different places will use variations of the same word.

  13. Hi Claudia,
    Yes, I can imagine what you went through and also what you say is true. It is a common downside of living in small towns anywhere in the world. I think it is important to be prepared for this but I don’t have any advice other than to be aware of the problem. It’s like going to university and not having any courses on getting by in the real world once you’ve got your degree. There is excitement and the hope and beauty, and then there is the reality.
    I’ve been to both cities you recommend and I’d say, from my experience, Cagliari is the best choice. I’ve visited the surrounding islands and the beaches (Chia and Turredda for example are extraordinary) and love the old city so next time I drive down it would be a pleasure to meet you too .
    Ps I think I sent the previous post twice – sorry!

    Reply
  14. My parents were born in Ozieri. My brother and I have visited Ozieri and other parts of the island. It made us proud to be Sardinian.

    Reply

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