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Sardinia Vacation

The last week of September 2004 I had the chance to visit Sadinia on vacation with some European friends of mine. They planned the trip and I got invited along. I had a great time and met some nice people.

The first question people ask is where is Sardinia? The map below explains.

Where is Sardinia? It is an Italian island in the Mediterranean below Corsica.

Sardinia has a long history of being swept by the tides of empire starting with the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Italian merchants. Herodotus in his book History refers to it as the largest island in the world. Ionian Greek refugees from Darius' king of Persia rampage in Anatolia sought new colonies here. Much later traders from the city-state of Genoa conquered the areas around Cagliari (pronounced like Calgary) for their solar salt ponds. This was the source of most of the city states trade wealth. When one lands in Cagliari today the mounds of salt can be seen and bags of the local salt may be purchased in local grocery stores.

The indigenous Sardinians survived centuries of conquest by retreating to the arid interior. (Indeed much of the country reminds me of the high desert and chaparral country of Arizona.) They built large stone forts that still dot the inland countryside. Finally they became part of Italy but as late as the 1980's there was still a violent nationalist movement that kidnapped people in the Gennargentu mountains. While driving up there some of this rebellion was still evident with road signs having been shot by shotguns. (An unusual sight for Europe but once again familiar for someone from Arizona.)

I flew into Cagliari which is on the coast at the southern end of the island.

Downtown Cagliari

The downtown was decked out in bunting for the annual meeting of the Alpini which is a much loved division of the Italian army mountain fighters. They wear felt hats with feathers in them that look somewhat Bavarian.

Alpini Soldier

The villa was about 30 minutes outside of Cagliari on the beach. It was 3 bedrooms with 2 baths, full kitchen, a small backyard, and walking distance to the grocery store. It was in a stucco Mediterranean style. Below is the view of the ocean with Cagliari in background.

View from Our Villa Beach

We took a day long road trip through the Gennargentu region. The mountains are rugged and surprisingly over 6000 ft high. The Sardinians are famed horsemen and there is still a herd of wild ponies one of two indigenous herds still in Europe. We didn't manage to see any even though we were in the area. One typical town we drive through was Seui, seen on the hillside here

Seui a mountain village

On the way there were lots of goat and sheep herds. With the windows rolled down one would here their bells (they all wore one) that created a magical sound. Here are the sheep tying up traffic.

Sheep traffic jam

In Seui I noticed the most amazing statue that I did a double take and insisted we turn around for another look...

Statue at Seui

This was a new statue outside of a gas station. Seems to be part of the ancient Bull/fertility beliefs. Funny to see this and all of the roadside niches of the Madonna.

The Costa Verde

The next day we headed to a beach called Fontanamere on the West coast of Sardinia also called the Costa Verde. It was supposed to be a popular beach but we missed the high season so there were perhaps a half dozen people there. The views were spectacular and the sun was warm. Alas the surf was very high so we didn't get any swimming in.

Beach at Fontamere

After spending time on the beach I insisted on driving up the coast to Masua and Nebida to get a better look at the rugged coastline.

View on the drive to Nebida and Masua

This area is near St Iglesia which used to be a big silver mining area until the 1960s. These are mining towns and there are many abandoned pits and buildings.

View from Masua

Visit to Nora

We also visited Nora on the southern-most tip of Sardinia. Nora was occupied by both the Carthaginians and Romans at various times. Until about 40 years ago it it was farm land until the farmers were kicked off to make way for out of work archaeologists. Though is was a small outpost they did take the trouble to build a small amphitheatre.

Roman amphitheatre

Here a Roman column frames the view of the bay with a spectacular beach.

A Roman column with the beach in the background

Fortunately we stocked up on beer, salami, bread, and cheese and had brought our swim suits. The water was perfect and the sun as strong as the Sardinian beer.

The crowded beach at Nora

While on the beach a young Pakistani man dressed in immaculate pyjamas accosted us to sell us jewelry. After we negotiated lanuages he learned I was American after which he ingratiated himself to me with the comment 'Bush very bad man, Clifton (sic) very good man'. I guess Pakistan is one of those blue states. Funny I didn't buy any jewelry.