Il Trenino Verde:
The Best Travel Secret in Sardinia
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Everyone raves about Sardinia's unforgettable coastline, but the island also has a hinterland which, although it is less glamorous, is equally magnificent and definitely more mysterious than anything along the shores. A little known and excellent way to view "the other" Sardinia is the so-called trenino verde (literally, little green train). The name was coined by the World Wildlife Foundation because passengers travel through some of the greenest, most sparsely-polpulated parts of the island, light years away from teeming resort areas and more well-known inland points of interest for the eat-and-run crowd.

The tracks were laid in 1888 to serve the most isolated areas of the island. They are narrow-gauge, because narrower tracks more easily permit circling even the tightest curve. Today, regular railroad service has integrated some of these narrower tracks into the normal-width railway, but the trenino verde uses the older narrow tracks. Another throwback to the past, and one of the most amusing parts of the trip, are the locomotives. At present there are two, both with coal-driven steam engines. One, a Winthertur, was built in 1894. Both locomotives pull wooden passenger cars that have been completely restored. The seats are also made of wood and are quite picturesque, if not the latest technological achievement in comfort. The engine's huffing and puffing as it forges through hill and dale are part of the journey's charm.

The trenino verde runs every day from June 30 to September 1 on fixed routes, but it is also possible to organize more specialized itineraries in collaboration with the railway company. Scheduled routes connect Nuoro and Bosa, Sassari and Alghero, Sassari and Palau and, what is generally considered the best route, Cagliari and Arbatax. This train leaves Cagliari every morning at 6:45 and arrives in Arbatax at 1:31. You have time for a quick lunch, then back on the return train at 2:57. If you decide to spend the night in Arbatax, an afternoon train leaves Cagliari at 1:57 and arrives at 8:24. Of course, you can also travel from Arbatax to Cagliari, but in that case the schedules oblige you to stay overnight in Cagliari. And don't worry if the trip sounds long: it is so varied and interesting that it passes in an instant. It will seem to pass even more quickly if you bring along a cushion to put on those quaint wooden seats.

As you're wending your way past green plains, golden pastures, lush forests, rugged mountains, crystal-clear lakes, precipitous bridges and breathtaking seacoast, you might imagine you are in the Old West instead of on a Mediterranean island. The trenino verde is a great way to see a part of Sardinia that is just as unforgettable as its celebrated northern coastline.

Michael Brouse, Rome

Tickets for the trenino verde can be purchased directly at the train station of your departure or through local travel agencies. For updated information on routes, schedules and fares, please call 011-39-079-245-740 or visit the Trenino Website.

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