The English writer D.H. Lawrence penned a travel memoir called Sea and Sardinia after taking a trip to the Mediterranean island. The title is fitting; Sardinia and the lives of its people are very much tied to its coastal location. Dishes adopted from North African and Spanish past invaders are made of the morning’s catch, lighthouses dot the terrain, and tourism thrives throughout the lengthy summers. Visitors can sail along the crystalline waters, all the while taking in the scent of juniper from the fertile terrain. Swimming, scuba-diving, and camping are ideal activities too.
The “Sahara of Italy” in Piscinas is a golden stretch of dunes facing the blue-green sea. Nearby is a remnant of Sardinia’s mining history… the silent village of Ingurtosu, where thousands of people tried to make a fortune mining lead, silver, and zinc. Even Herbert Hoover tried his luck prospecting for copper before becoming US president. Today, only the sounds of Sardinian deer can be heard in this eerily beautiful place.
Other remnants of times long gone are the Nuraghi, about 7,000 in all, seen everywhere on a Sardinia holiday. From the word “nurra” meaning “cavity” or “mound,” the Nuraghi are domed, hollowed towers made of heavy stone, solitary or in clusters. These were probably used for shelter as well as a lookout. The most famous is the Su Nuraxi in Marmilla. The one in Barumini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Mediaeval ages left a legacy: the Sartiglia Festival, a mix of ancient rites and popular culture. Here, a “King of Sartiglia” or Su Compoidori is chosen for his courage, purity, and strength. Wearing a top hat, mantilla or silk scarf, lacy shirt, vest, leather belt, and a mask, he must perform daring acts on horseback, signalling the start of a competition to spear a symbolic star. The luck of the coming year depends on the number of stars the participants pierce.