When you come on my tours I hope you’ll feel as if you’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole into a Wonderland of strange language, landscapes, white rabbits, mad hatters and cheshire cats. Relax and bask in another culture. There will be many green bottles saying ‘DRINK ME’ and food saying ‘EAT ME’.
The strangest of my tours is Celebrating Sardinia. Sardinia is only barely Italy, so don’t assume because you’ve explored the mainland, you also know that bean-shaped island off its west coast.
The tour is timed to enjoy the festivities for the patron saint of Sardinia, Sant’Antioco. His tomb is in the cathedral of the town of Sant’Antioco on the island of the same name, now linked by a causeway to the southwest corner of the island of Sardinia. The celebration takes place two weeks after Easter.
Stefano Castello welcomes us with a tune on the launeddas, a bagpipe without a bag, found only on Sardinia. Notice his cheeks.
The opening procession of the festival immerses you in the all-encompassing strangeness of the Sardinian Wonderland. There are many other traditional festivals in Italy, but here you have the sense of the past spilling over into the present. The fabric and needlework to make the costumes, the woodworking and decoration of the carts and the oxen which pull them, the music and the dance, all these skills were passed on to the present generation by parents and grandparents. They didn’t disappear only to be insecurely resurrected from hearsay, books and photos.
I think Sardinia is the only place where there are more sheep than humans. Giulio Basciu is one of the dwindling number of Sardinians living a traditional rural life.
Antonella Ajò learned to pot because she wanted to make ceramic models of every romanesque church in Sardinia. She achieved her goal, but having became addicted to the craft, she can’t stop.
Something else you can only find here is bissu, a fibre made from the beard of a mollusc.
It used to be harvested from the bivalve Pinna nobilis, which was becoming extinct and was protected in 1992. Ariana Pintus has found another abundant shellfish whose beard has the same properties. It’s painstaking work cleaning and spinning the fibres.
It’s time for one of those green bottles with the ‘DRINK ME’ label.
Not many places have salt pans you can visit to find out how salt gets from the sea to your table.
You definitely won’t find delicious culurgiones anywhere else.
For sure one of the highlights of the tour, and an experience it would be hard to find anywhere else, is making bread with Anna Marras and her friends. Antonella, the potter, told me about this group of retirees who amuse themselves by keeping alive their old traditions and teaching them to the young.
We were blown away by their hospitality.
Three days into the tour fisherman Mauro Pintus, on whose boat we spend a blissful day on the lagoon, phoned to say he couldn’t do Wednesday, but how about Friday. The reason? For six months they’d had tickets for a pop concert in Milan, but he’d totally forgotten about it. I managed to swap Friday’s activities to Wednesday. And the weather was much better on Friday. Thank you pop concert!
On our last day we go to see another unique prehistoric Sardinian structure: a Bronze Age nuraghe built by a civilisation that endured from 1700 to 200 BC. They played the launeddas that Stefano demonstrated on the first day of our tour.
I'm repeating this blog I wrote two years ago because, if it weren't for Covid-19, we would have been Celebrating Sardinia right now. Next year's tour is already confirmed, and there are only three places left. Why not join us for an extraordinary experience from 29 April to 8 May 2022? You'll find dates for 2023 and more details about the tour here.
If you can't wait until next year to travel to this Wonderland, the Giants of Sardinia tour takes place in October, by which time travel to Italy may be possible. If not, you may apply your deposit to another tour or have a refund.
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This blog was originally published on Slow Travel Tours on 28 June 2019.
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