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You can reach almost every corner of Sardinia by train – as long as you’re not in a hurry. British author D.H. Lawrence made this discovery a century ago. The best way to explore the island is by Trenino Verde: these green trains ride during the summer months (from mid-June to mid-September). There are 4 different itineraries, covering a network of 404 kilometres of narrow-gauge rails through the mountainous interior to the lushest and most beautiful regions of Sardinia. Tutti a bordo!
“We take the slow train, no matter where it goes.” That is what Lawrence wrote in 1921 in his book Sea and Sardinia. And he was right. A ride on the Sardinian narrow-gauge train is an experience; a feast for the eyes with postcard perfect views. The trains didn’t actually earn their name from their green colour, but rather because they go through pristine nature areas that are inaccessible to cars. In addition to the regular green trains, you can also take a ride on a steam locomotive or a vintage carriage.
The regular train from Cagliari connects in Mandas with the Trenino Verde to Arbatax: a 5-hour ride with countless turns over a 125-year-old railway, through the heart of the green mountains of Ogliastra to the east coast. Through tunnels and over bridges, the train climbs to the highest point Arzana at 868 metres before winding its way down to sea level. A real roller-coaster ride.
Another route you can access from Cagliari is the Trenino Verde from Isili to Sorgono. The 83-kilometre stretch takes 3 hours but it’s worth the effort. Heading north through the interior, the train climbs to an elevation of 800 metres, chugging its way through quiet mountain villages and old stations that were closed down many years ago. The final destination, Sorgono, is beautifully located in a valley on the edge of Golfo di Orosei National Park.
This narrow gauge train in the far north of Sardinia takes you in 3.5 hours from Sassari (30 minutes from Alghero) to Palau on the north coast, across from the Maddalena archipelago. The train travels through the old city of Tempio Pausania in the Gallura mountains. This train takes countless turns, bridges and terminus loops at a high elevation. The views become increasingly expansive, overlooking granite mountains, forests of cork trees and the Mediterranean Sea.
Although it’s the shortest of the 4 routes, it’s also quite stunning: in 2 hours you will travel from the mountain village of Macomer in Campeda (accessible from Nuoro), through the sloping vineyards of Planargia and wine-growing villages such as Tresnuraghes to the port of Bosa on the west coast. We highly recommend disembarking along the way to sample the outstanding Malvasia wine.