SS125 Orientale Sarda, a journey of Sardinia at another speed
Often when people who love to travel are asked what drives them to move, the answer is “the journey itself”. Today, when choosing a trip, comfort and the time used to move are almost essential factors. And everything moves accordingly
But in Sardinia, for those who want to enjoy the journey, it is possible to find road itineraries that lead to a different passage of time, perhaps slower but certainly different.
One of these road routes and probably the most famous is SS125, l’Orientale Sarda.
SS 125, the history
Built starting from the original layout of a royal road of the mid-nineteenth century, the SS125 was completed on its route from Cagliari to Olbia (at the time called Terranova Pausania) in 1928. Subsequent modifications lengthen and shorten its length, making it reach the current extension. Don’t expect a coastal road with breathtaking views of the sea. This road was designed in a time when the sea did not mean vacation. Coastal areas were often unhealthy, and malaria claimed victims here until the 1950s. So if you think of a trip with the salt that sticks to the glass, you are taking the wrong route.
Yes, you are in Sardinia.
No, in Sardinia there is not only the sea.
The paradise of Sardinian On the Road
The State Road S125 is by definition the Sardinian version of the On the Road adventure, with 354 km of mixed route where road routes similar to the high distance ones alternate with areas where the route and road signs seem to have stopped in the 1960s.
A demanding road and much loved by motorcyclists from all over Europe, which runs along the eastern coast of the island for almost its entire length, touching it only in a few points, which connects the north and the south starting from Quartucciu, in the Cagliari hinterland, arriving at the gates of Palau. In this itinerary, the landscapes and sometimes the climate change abruptly.
Let’s now see the route of the State Road S125, a succession of different landscapes that all give the same message: Sardinia is many things. Categorizing it is wrong.
The south coast and the Sarrabus
It starts from the south. Quartucciu is in the metropolitan area of Cagliari. You don’t see the sea, but you feel its presence. The first 30 km run rapidly on the S125 state road, and first pass through two important tunnels: the Murtineddu, located at the height of Capitana and 2.5km long, equipped with a futuristic automated fire extinguishing system, and that of Marapintau, of almost 1300 meters. It is therefore easy to arrive in the Villasimius area. Here too you will not see the sea, but you will feel its proximity. The wind is often hot, and sometimes moving from one radio station to another you might come across a Tunisian radio. From here, long straights and other tunnels (including the important one Gutturu Frascu over 2.6 km) lead easily from the southern coast to the eastern coast of the island. We are in Sarrabus-Gerrei, an area known for Muravera oranges and the Costa Rei beach. If you are low on fuel, you should stop and refuel.
The leap of Quirra, a void full of nature
After Villaputzu there are over 30 km of road without encountering a single town. The SS 125 is in good condition, and the area is pleasant. The greenery dominates, hills and sometimes uncultivated land, an area that makes one think of the Spanish countryside of Extremadura. But very few intersections dot this long stretch of road. No indication for any country (Tertenia is far ahead). The road runs almost parallel to the coast but 5 km away. Therefore you will not see the sea, but an almost motionless nature on both sides of the road.
This is the Salto di Quirra area, one of the least inhabited in Italy. An almost mysterious place, which the presence of a NATO military polygon helps to keep little frequented. But you didn’t take the wrong road, this is Sardinia too.
Ogliastra and the Supramonti
We have already talked about this area of Sardinia in relation to dessert specialties. Once you have passed Tertenia and Cardedu, the SS125 now approaches the coast in Bari Sardo, where our Galanias Hotel&Retreat.
The coastal area that develops later ends shortly after Lotzorai. In fact the road climbs and climbs up to Baunei. Here begins the Supramonte that takes us from Baunei and passing through Urzulei to Dorgali. Perhaps the most beautiful 50km of the whole SS125. Here you will really have the feeling, in points like the Genna Ramene Pass or Monte Lopene, to find yourself in a truly timeless place.
If you stop, the silence is often absolute. There is only nature, which appears uncontaminated except for the thin strip of asphalt you walk along.
Care must be taken. Although often deserted, this section of the State Road S125 has many blind curves. Sometimes in case of persistent rain or strong wind, stones and even large boulders invade the roadway.
You arrive at the Ghenna ‘e Silana pass: here you can find a bar and the roadman’s house suddenly, after tens of kilometers of greenery. Stop, stretch your legs and admire the view. On the one hand, the Urzulei supramonte with its bright green even in summer. On the other, an expanse of rock as far as the eye can see that in the distance leads to the mountains of another more famous supramonte, that of Orgosolo. The journey resumes, apparently easier. But once you have passed the abandoned Bidicolai roadman, you go up again and arrive in the supramonte of Dorgali. Here the road for 20 kilometers is almost swallowed up by the green of the forest, interrupted only by a petrol station that seems to have sprung up out of nowhere. Then again green and silence. You go down in altitude, you get to Dorgali.
The Baronia and the encounter with the sea
You have already covered 190 km up to now. If your journey hadn’t started by ship or plane, you probably wouldn’t be sure if you are on an island. Then, near Orosei, you will travel several kilometers surrounded on one side of the road by large marble quarries and the worry of not being on an island would resume you if you were not sure that you had read the directions for Dorgali Cala Gonone.
Nuoro (where if you want to stay, ours Residence Hotel Grandi Magazzini awaits you) and the mountains of the interior are not far away, quite the opposite.
And instead, suddenly, the sea. Cross the bridge over the Cedrino, a few more kilometers, here it is. But it’s only a moment. Then again hills, green, silence. Along the way there are crossroads that lead to fantastic beaches such as Berchida, Capo Comino. But now it doesn’t matter, we travel.
Gallura, the other Sardinia
You have arrived in San Teodoro. Traffic is strong, dozens of signs tell you about more or less exclusive hotels and residences. On the straight road that runs along the lagoon, here is the decisive smell of the sea. You have arrived in Porto San Paolo, in the roundabout you will find ours Hotel Residence Porto San Paolo. The sea seems to have never really been lacking. The island of Tavolara towers on your right, enter Olbia, which owes everything to the sea, and if you like, stay in our Hotel Felix Olbia.
But it’s not over, and when you leave the city you realize that there is still something. The road is again full of curves as you approach Arzachena. Of course, the air is different, but the green once again reminds you that you are not in an atoll, but in the second Mediterranean island. Pass the crossroads for the most luxurious areas of the island. In the Arzachena area, among others there are ours Hotel Airone in Baja Sardinia and the Country Resort Parco degli Ulivi, immerso nel verde della campagna gallurese.
The journey is about to end, you are near Palau. If it is windy, your car radio could pick up some French radio station. After all, Santa Teresa (where Felix Hotels is present with its Hotel La Coluccia) and the embarkation point for Corsica are just a few kilometers away.
Now the journey is truly over. You have traveled our island in almost its entire length. You have seen the sea (a little) and you have spent most of your time with the nature of this land. You have discovered another little-known aspect of Sardinia, a bit like the hidden beaches. The historic Strada Statale 125, a modern and ancient road, a bit like Sardinia.