Saying goodbye to Sardinia tonight, as I anxiously await a 5 am wake-up and a day of travel to my next trip in France, I’m thinking about what it’s like here, and what memories I”ll take back with me. I’m always fascinated by the elevator speech–what will you tell people when you only have about as long as the average elevator ride, about what the place was like?
Sardinia is big–really big. Looking at a satellite photo the island is huge, just a little smaller than Sicily, and so what I saw here on this second visit since 2008 were miles and miles of open country. In the Sinis Peninsula, where we spent our time, it’s wide open vistas, some farmland, some unused scrub land (near the ocean) and in the distance, mountains frame the edges. There were very few seagulls or birds that I saw, and not that many cars. In fact we never got into a traffic jam nor waited at a light the whole six days! Compare this with any where else in Italy, it’s quite a contrast.
We learned from our guide, Davide Beccu, tonight that Sardinians still aren’t used to dealing with tourists. As we approached one of the stops on our tour, we tried to enter a gate. A man began yelling at our driver, challenging him, pushing the limit with rudeness.
Many people here don’t care about tourists, and especially, are not willing to treat them as important people to respect. It’s the exception, certainly not everyone, but there has never been the volume of visitors that other parts of Italy see, so the development of tourism is still relatively new except in the far north’s Costa Esmerelda. That makes it feel authentic, and to me, more special than destinations that are always making it special for visitors. Here, you get what you get.
If you visit a seaside town, every meal will include the following: The famous wafer-thin bread called carasau, and bottarga, the salty and delicious spread made from grey mullet fish roe. Some sort of clams, mussels or shrimp with their heads on will be brought out, as well as vegetables like eggplant, whole round cherry tomatoes, or salad. Pasta, sprinkled with bottarga. (they love this stuff!) will usually come second. Most of what you eat will be local.
They truly have the locavore thing down, in fact in many markets, everything for sale is made nearby. I wanted to move to something different after the sixth day, but our last meal, of course for the third course was a giant platter with three kinds of grilled whole fish. There’s just no getting chicken or a burger here, as far I can could tell.
People here are proud of being Sardinian–they have their own language, they boast about how beautiful their country is, and they rarely if ever call themselves Italian. No, they’re Sardinian, and they don’t give a hoot about what’s going on over in Rome or Florence. Actually nobody here cares much about what’s happening in Cagliari, the island’s biggest city, either. People are intent on living their lives in their own village, or town, or wherever in Sardinia they call home.
Sardinia is a fantastic destination that never disappointed me. If you want something that has the charm and beauty of Italy, with far less people and cars, this is where you should visit.