Sardinia. And Sardinians.

To get from Alghero to Corsica, we take a bus north to Santa Teresa di Gallura, then a ferry onwards to Bonifacio in southern Corsica. We have with us an inimitable guide, Marco. Along the way, we’re treated to wonderful stories about Sardinia and Sardinians.

Alghero after a thunderstorm

Leaving town at 6 am to catch the 10 o’clock ferry, we drive through flooded streets. I was awoken in the middle of the night by lightning and heavy rain crashing down on the ceiling window right above my face. Bit exciting, that. Nothing like a good thunder storm.

It’s to be expected, Marco tells us. The previous week, temperatures had reached 40 degrees – late May is much too early in the year for that kind of heat. So a thunder storm was needed to clear the air.

Sardinia and Sardinians

Marco is full of all kinds of useful and quirky information. Did you know that Sardinia used to have malaria-mosquitoes until Mussolini got rid of them? And sure enough, the International Journal of Anthropology has an article about this. Only, the article credits the Rockefeller Foundation – rather than Mussolini – for its eradication. Both, perhaps?

Sardinia and Sardinians

Along the road, loads of people are about, carrying buckets. They’re collecting snails after the night’s heavy rains. The snails are fed on bread crumbs for three days, then cooked. Damned good, we’re told.

Marco goes on to talk about Sardinia’s history: 15 000 – 17 000 years ago, people migrated from Tuscany to Elba, then on to Corsica and down to Sardinia. Maybe! There aren’t exactly written records. Rome started conquering in 238 and stayed on for nearly 550 years. The present roads are basically the same today as during the Roman era. Yes, I can see that.

Marco is clearly passionate about his island, happily telling us stories from everyday life and inter-human relations in Sardinia. The island’s way of life is old-fashioned and ecological. Life moves at a slower pace; everyone’s friends and neighbours. Friendships are important and very strong.

Alghero harbour

He relates examples from his own life. A keen fisherman, when he catches more than he needs, it’s given to friends. In return, he’ll get vegetables or something from someone with a plot of land. It’s been strawberries lately. Way too much, actually. Strawberries everywhere!

His uncle is a tomato-man. Instead of setting 20 or even 100 plants, he sets 2500. What do you do with all those tomatoes? Begs his friends and family to take it off his hands, apparently. Or, obviously, I should say. Marco does. Again and again. He has lived in London and speaks Cockney with a Sardinian accent. It sounds rather nice. Except he says “obviously” all the time.

“Take the white tracks!” he encourages. “That’s where you’ll find paradise. Small white beaches where you can be by yourself all day. Don’t be scared to drive down the white tracks, even though they seemingly lead nowhere.”

He continues dispensing advice: “If you’re driving around on Sardinia, make sure you stop by a house around lunchtime. Pretend you’re lost and ask for directions to … wherever. You’ll almost certainly be invited in for lunch. It’ll last for ages, you’ll get delicious food and meet new friends.” It does sound tempting. And very far from the reality of life in the city.

Near Grotta di Nettuno, Sardinia

Sardinia is faced with an aging population. Same in much of Europe of course, but Sardinia has the lowest birth rate of all: 0.3 children per family! As there isn’t much work, the young leave for mainland Europe and the UK. Tourist season is only 3 – 4 months. I wonder what it’s like here in January. The thought of a wintertime visit is very appealing.

At the very top of Sardinia, Gallura is a major granite exporting region. The city of Rome was built almost entirely out of Sardinian granite. As is the base of New York’s Statue of Liberty. Across the Strait of Bonifacio is Corsica – and France.

21 Responses to “Sardinia. And Sardinians.”

  1. Angela 19 September 2011 1549 #

    Aww Sophie, I hope you enjoyed my hometown! For as much as I hate Mussolini, Marco is right, he’s the one who got rid of malaria by clearing up and developing entire areas, the Rockefeller Foundation has nothing to do with it :)
    I hope you’ve had the time to visit many places and you enjoyed your stay!
    Angela recently posted..Sardinia, land of mystery. Part 1: Tales and unexplained facts

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 September 2011 1559 #

      @ Angela – I’m so glad you commented on this :) Thanks for clearing up the mosquito-issue. Sadly, I didn’t see half as much as I wanted to. We were only in the northern parts. It was so beautiful, and everyone we met were so friendly and generous and fun. I’d like to go back and explore the whole island.

  2. Angela 19 September 2011 1604 #

    Do come back! I understand it’s not easy moving around here as the public transport is very bad, but one of the areas I like the most is “Ogliastra”, I thinks it’s the most authentic of the island, the closest one to our first civilization, the nuragic. Every time I go myself I learn something about Sardinia, it’s so rich that I’m starting thinking the island is a Continent of its own :P
    Now that I’m here I want to take advantage and visit all places I haven’t seen.
    Angela recently posted..Sardinia, land of mystery. Part 1: Tales and unexplained facts

  3. adventureswithben 19 September 2011 1611 #

    2500 is a lot of tomatoes!
    adventureswithben recently posted..You Pick My Next Adventure Anywhere Around the World!

  4. Jeremy Branham 19 September 2011 1719 #

    Beautiful are but I have to admit I HATE mosquitoes (because they love me too much). Never thought there was anything to thank Mussolini for!
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..The California State Capitol – a photo essay

  5. jenjenk 19 September 2011 1723 #

    oh my gosh! i thought that street flooding pic was a river!!! woah!!
    jenjenk recently posted..Bed Bugs and How to Avoid Bringing Them Home

  6. I’ve never been to Sardinia but it does look beautiful! That was a lot of rain.
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday: Salzburg Teasers

  7. Kelly 20 September 2011 0226 #

    Sardinia looks awesome! Were the non-malaria carrying mosquitoes a bother to you?
    Kelly recently posted..How to Handle Food Allergies While Traveling

  8. Anne-Sophie Redisch
    Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 September 2011 0228 #

    @Kelly – I didn’t see any mosquitos at all, so no worries :)

  9. Jade 20 September 2011 0230 #

    had no idea about the granite at the bottom of the statue of liberty- really interesting!
    Jade recently posted..Get Inspired: A 10,000 mile Journey to Patagonia

  10. Barbara - The Dropout Diaries 20 September 2011 0617 #

    Marco sounds like a great guide. I love his tip about pretending to be lost. I am definitely putting “pretending to be lost at lunchtime” on my travel must-do list!
    Barbara – The Dropout Diaries recently posted..Singapore’s Pay-What-You-Want Restaurant

  11. inka 20 September 2011 1007 #

    Nothing better than a guide like Marco. Waht intersting titbits of information you couldn’t find anywhere else. Loved this post.
    inka recently posted..Enjoy Munich’s Viktualienmarkt

  12. Italian Notes 20 September 2011 1047 #

    What a lot of interesting info – thanks to you and Marco:)
    Italian Notes recently posted..Reading the ancient stones in Agrigento

  13. Technosyncratic 20 September 2011 1435 #

    The tip to visit homes around lunchtime and ask for directions is brilliant. I might have to try that sometime! :)
    Technosyncratic recently posted..Unexpected Perils of the Roman Baths

  14. Andrea 20 September 2011 1656 #

    I often wonder how places like this with a brain drain from population migration and short tourist seasons survive…I love snails – sounds like they’d be really fresh and delicious here.

  15. The Travel Chica 21 September 2011 1501 #

    That is A LOT of water in the streets. I would have stayed home!
    The Travel Chica recently posted..Best Restaurants in Columbus: Basi Italia

  16. robin 21 September 2011 2247 #

    I wonder if the lunch invite thing would actually work? Has to be worth a try…
    robin recently posted..La Granja

  17. Anne-Sophie Redisch
    Anne-Sophie Redisch 21 September 2011 2332 #

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Sardinia is a lovely place!

  18. Jennifer Avventura 11 June 2012 1505 #

    Great article! And Im happy you had a brilliant time here! I have a Sardinian friend who has lived in London for 20 years. He sounds so funny when he speaks Italian … he has an English accent! :)
    Jennifer Avventura recently posted..Top 10 Taste Sensations to Leave Your Mouth Watering in Sardinia, Italy

  19. Anne-Sophie Redisch
    Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 June 2012 1007 #

    Don’t suppose his name is Marco, is it?

  20. Annie@GreenGlobalTravel 21 October 2013 0904 #

    I love the “getting invited for lunch”-part, what a great tip, thanks for sharing! :-D
    Annie@GreenGlobalTravel recently posted..INTERVIEW: Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club Celebrates Cuban Culture

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