A colourful casa boasting an olive tree and a blue fishing boat in the cobblestone courtyard is our current home away from home in Teulada, in the southwest of the Italian island of Sardinia. One of three atmospheric apartments in a traditional house called Casa Teulada, our latest home is one of the most delightful holiday rentals we’ve stayed at so far on our grand tour.

Casa Teulada is a project of love for its owners Antonio and Christina, who rebuilt the property from rubble. “I’d been travelling for 20 years – to 55 countries – looking for the right place,” Antonio, a former tour guide turned flight attendant tells us on the scenic drive along the dramatic coastline from Cagliari airport to the village. “When we saw the place, it was a ruin, but Christina looked at it and she saw the finished property. She explained it to me, and I said yes!”

The charming casa is decorated with the kind of care and attention to detail often only applied to a main home rather than a holiday rental. The eclectic décor could be described as ‘country meets sea’: think rustic furniture, blue and white striped cushions, and boat-shaped bathroom shelves.

Yet the design somehow manages to successfully incorporate exotic pieces the widely-travelled couple (they married in Mauritius) have picked up on their trips, from wooden carvings, ceramics and textiles from Asia and Africa, to things they’ve made by hand themselves, such as bedside lamps created from recycled paper with seashells and sand in their glass bottle stands.

Seashells that Antonio and Christina have collected from beaches around the world, along with a cheerful sun symbol, have become the casa’s motif. They serve as soap holders, are ‘caught’ in a fishing net suspended from bamboo poles above a bed in one apartment, and decorate the handmade visitor’s books that are crammed with glowing testimonials and travel tips from guests.

The apartments are teeming with thoughtful touches, from the little extras that are commonplace in luxury hotels but rarely found in holiday rentals, including plenty of towels, fine toiletries, loads of cupboard space, and quality cotton sheets, to welcome surprises like picnic baskets and cooking books on Sardinia.

Antonio and Christina also win the award for best welcome package, but more on those things in another post. Let’s just say for now that guests could hole up here for a couple of days on the welcome goodies without the need to go shopping, but the weekly market was held on Monday so we had no choice but to check the town out.

We have to say that Teulada would probably not win any prizes for being Sardinia’s most picturesque village – although there is an imposing church on an attractive main square just steps from the casa and a handful of colourful houses almost as charming as Antonio and Christine’s sprinkled about town – but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in authenticity, which we find easily as appealing.

The local guys hang out on the squares socializing, dressed smartly in suit jackets, while the women, rarely seen, are probably back at the house baking bread and making pasta. Occasionally we’ll see a little old lady in a black headscarf, long black skirt and apron, carting her shopping home. And on the evening we arrived, the town was out in full force to watch a colourful procession to celebrate the patron saint’s day. More on that in another post too.

Each time we head for the market or shops, we respond to the stares with a buongiorno and receive a very warm buongiorno back. The village is so small that we see the same people day after day, including the waiter from our favourite restaurant, who enthusiastically says salve, and it’s this fast and easy familiarity that makes a stay here such a treat – a stark contrast to the disinterest that comes from the jaded residents of tourist towns.

We’ve spotted just one couple a day wandering about the streets with cameras in hand, there are approximately three postcard stands in town, and most of the foreigners we see in Teulada’s excellent restaurants seem to have settled in for a while rather than be passing through.

Teulada may not be on the sea, but it’s surrounded by gently rolling hills fragrant with Mediterranean shrubs and wild herbs, and it’s conveniently located just a few kilometres from the coast. The casa comes equipped with excellent mountain bikes for slow travellers like us, but a car is essential if you’re bringing family, you want to frequent the nearby white sand beaches, including Cow Beach, famous for its sun-baking bovine, or you want to tour the island.

Us? Well, we’re digging deeper this year rather than venturing far and wide, so we’re content to stick fairly close to the casa and Teulada this time. There’ll always be another time.

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