I came to Sardinia with few preconceptions, except about its reputation for brigands and kidnappings. Our itinerary included a visit to the mountain village of Orgosolo, a headquarters for the brotherhood in recent years. Today it’s better known as the Painted Village, with politically inspired murals decorating most of the houses in the centre of town. The selection of topics is diverse, with Gandhi, Garibaldi and the Vietnam War all rating a mention. You need goat-like abilities to deal with the steep, narrow streets. And I have to admit that the closest we came to anyone looking like a brigand was the old guys playing bocce.
Over the space of a week we’ve traversed Sardinia from the capital, Cagliari, in the south to St Teresa di Gallura in the north. Italian and Spanish influences abound, with people in the town of Alghero Sardinia still speaking an old Catalan dialect.
Our first taste of Sardinian hospitality came early in our tour in Pabillonis, where we were feasted and entertained by half the village. We were piped into the communal area by two men playing strange three reed instruments that surprisingly manage to drone-like miniature bagpipes. The men’s cheeks distend, and they use circular breathing to continue their lively music for considerable periods. There was a sucking pig roasting on a spit, home-made cheeses and sausages, salads, olives – and the list goes on.
There are two hotels in Sardinia which rate a special mention.
The Su Gologone hotel, in the mountains to the east of Sardinia, rambles over the hillside with numerous open-air groupings of lounges to tempt weary visitors. The whole complex is full of artworks, pottery and framed textiles, including examples of exquisitely embroidered regional dress. It’s also a place for some serious shopping if you have the time and money.
Our second amazing Sardinia accommodation was a farm stay at Il Muto di Gallura not far from the town of Aggius in the north of Sardinia. It is granite country here, and the many farm buildings are built with the stone in a very rustic country. Il Muto is a working farm with pigs, cows, donkeys, goats etc. Our hosts also make their own wine.
We were serenaded by a local male singing group – four men ranging from the 30s to late 70s sang the most amazing harmonies. In a traditional form, the men stand in a huddle facing inwards while they concentrate on harmonising their voices.
Religion is still important in Sardinia, which has a long history of Catholicism. One of the simplest and most impressive churches is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity at Saccargia. Consecrated in 1116 AD, this ancient church is out in the middle of fields. While it’s interesting from the outside, it’s the interior that grabs the attention. The apse behind the altar is decorated with simple murals that have defied the centuries.
Not far from Saccargia is the 900-year-old fortified town of Castelsardo on the north coast of the island. Originally built high on the cliffs by the Genoese, the old town is surrounded by bastions and criss-crossed by steep flights of stairs. In deference to our tiring legs, we caught a shuttle bus to near the top and walked down through the narrow steep laneways to the harbour.
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By Margaret Farrell – A Blue Dot frequent traveller