Secrets of Sardinia

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In the planning stages for this trip, we blithely said, “Oh, let’s go to Sardinia. I hear it’s beautiful and there are great beach pictures on Facebook.” We were looking for somewhere to go after my week at il Sasso, and wanted to be home by November 5 so that we could get ready for friends Dave and Jayne arriving from Bristol on November 10.

Sardinia it was. Don discovered Secrets of Sardinia online and it seemed a good. . .no a GREAT . . .option that included transportation, accommodation, meals, admissions, at a price advertised as “less than you’d expect,” and that was true. Finally, a trip that we didn’t have to spend weeks researching before we went.

What we didn’t know we’d be getting was Dirk. . .the true font of all knowledge of this magical island. But more importantly, a genuine human being.

You know how sometimes you feel immediately at ease with a person? That’s how we felt with Dirk: this guys knows stuff, he speaks my language and others, he has it all together. We’re safe.

For 10 days he schlepped us up and down mountains, made 3-point turns on switchbacks, hiked us up rocky paths to see Jesus, led us into a cave, fed us food until we groaned and begged for no more, educated us on the history, culture, language, wine, customs, flora, fauna, animals, food, and the spirit of Sardinia.

“Where the h*&ll are we?” We kept saying. We knew we would never find these spots on our own.

No parking spots, an unexpected detour?! “Baaahhhstards,” became a standing joke as Dirk navigated byways not for the faint of heart.

Want to know a date, the background of an area, a bit of wine or food information? Dirk has the answer.

Our leader. . .our warrior!

A Renaissance man. . .”il capo”. . .our friend..

Con Te PartirĆ². . .

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. .. Time to say goodbye. . .to Sardegna, to Dirk, to the adventures which now will rest in our memories as some of the best moments of our lives.

Monday, November. 4–With bags safely tucked into the Opel van, we set off for a walking tour of Calgliari, including views of the castle, the shopping area, and the cathedral. A special “chocolate coffee” whose name I can’t remember and who Dirk assured us would give us a BOMB of energy started the day. He was right.

With stories of the Masons, past and present, invaders, and history of the various parts of the city, we circumvented the outer walls of the castle, now with caper berries growing out of them!

The cathedral in Calgliari is among the most beautiful I’ve seen. Previous top honors have gone to the duomos (duomi??) in both Siena and Orvieto, but this one with the intricacies of carvings, carved ceilings, Spanish marble floor, small chambers, . . .well, there is simply an artisanal quality here that makes me want to return, sit inside, and soak it in.

With a bit of time for shopping, a pizza, and a last look at the city, we recounted the 10 days past and made a pact to return!

Alitalia awaited us, and all too soon we had to say “Arriverderci” which really means. . .we’ll see each other again!

And next time,Dirk, we will pay you at the BEGinning of the trip, so that when the credit card and/or machine doesn’t work, we will ferret out the snafu and pay you (currently working on it on the US end!!).

The goofy ads in the jetway made leaving a little bit easier. . .

Arriving back at FCO our challenge was to find the shuttle to Hotel Isola Sacra. Photos will help us remember where it is for the next time!

I felt like I was “coming home” when we arrived at the hotel. We’ve stayed here so many times over the years and have seen them change their name 3 times, but it’s always the same comfy and beautiful spot.

As we enjoyed an Aperol spritz and spuntini outside by the pool, knowing that once we returned to Pennsylvania there would be no more outdoor cocktails until 2020, we recounted the big and small moments.

A light dinner, an early night, not much sleep, an even earlier morning, and we were winging our way back to the US.

Sardegna, you’ve captivated us!!

Wild, wild horses. . .

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Sunday, November 3, our final full day in the land of enchantment, Sardinia. We were up and out early and as Dirk whisked us over the countryside and onto hilly, bumpy roads, he slowed the van just long enough to open his window and pluck a just ripe pomegranate for a morning treat.

Yes, these luscious fruits really DO grow on trees and not just in crates at the Giant supermarket around Christmas!

Driving through herds of goats, the tinkling bells, the smells, well, we looked at each other as we had done many times during this trip and said, “We’re not in Quakertown and Bally!!”

Onward and upward and we soon arrived at a place where Dirk simply wanted us to experience the SILENCE. What he didn’t prepare us for was another magical experience.

First, ancient stone remnants, and we guessed correctly that this ancient nauraghe was now used by shepherds.

We began to sense movement. Stillness pervaded as quietly and silently, the wild, wild horses began to approach. . .

The alpha stallion stood watch a few feet away. . . .a cow approached to share a drink. . .the horses met our gazes as we stood in awe. . .

The Secrets of Sardinia. . .

Dirk is the only tour operator who is allowed to bring his van into this area. Only one other bus tour brings folks close by,and they must get out and walk. Dirk applies for a special license yearly; the horses have gotten to know his van. In the dry summertime he brings them watermelons which they shyly approach but once they know the goodness of the moisture inside, they quickly devour them.

Even though we could barely “drag ourselves away” as the song goes, more adventure awaited us.

We were promised a “fairy garden” and what we got was a Hobbit-like burial site with multiple chambers inside. The rock covering the tomb was used for human remains, allowing animals to come and pick the bones clean, then a sacrifice and blood collected in the pool (now water) in which the bones were dipped and sanctified.

Wine tasting was next on the day’s agenda.

Their amazing cannonau wines became an instant favorite, and now I’m on the trail of their US distributor!

After the morning and early afternoon’s events, you’d think it was time to return to the B&B for a little R&R . Oh no, it was a Sunday in Italy and that invariably meant there was a festival in some little village somewhere.

The autumn festival in Gergei was everything a Sunday afternoon festival in Italy should be. . .food (ask us about the cheese samples some of us ate!!), families with small booths selling their wares, roasted chestnuts. . ..

And then came the. . .

RAIN!!! Not just a little bit. . .a DELUGE. We shared shelter with Luciano, the donkey.

OK, NOW it was time to go home, dry out a bit, and get ready for a seafood dinner, which, by the way, nearly knocked us over the edge with deliciousness and QUANTITY!!

After the antipasti of five different fish delicacies I could have been quite happily finished!

But NO. . .then came two pastas. . .

Then came two fish dishes. . .

Then came moaning and groaning as we begged to stop eating!!

WE SURRENDER!! Our delightful evening with Dirk and the lovely Lucia came to an end, we hugged Lucia “Arriverderci” with a promise on my part that my Italian would improve before we meet again.

(BTW, this blog comes to you from the kitchen table at 1270 Creekside as I enjoy the benefits of jet lag and early rising!!)

Do You Believe in Magic?

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On the itinerary that Dirk sent us before our arrival he listed many places we’d visit, and I gave it a brief look. I truly had no clue as to the treasures the island held.

Our trip on Saturday, November 2 took us first to the one of the older olive trees in Sardinia.

“Ma VA??!!” As I learned at il Sasso. . . REALLY??

The gnarled trunk offered innumerable opportunities of magical beauty.

As truly amazing as it was, it prepared and warmed us for yet another amazement awaiting us. Chiara Vigo is the last person on earth who knows the ancient secrets of sea silk, its origin, and its otherworldly magic. Today we visited her.

Her ancient knowledge has been passed down through 13 generations. The sea silk originates in the secretions of mollusks which she dives for each Spring, never disturbing the beds, while gathering the secretions which are dried, lovingly and carefully combed, then spun into filaments which shine gold. Sea silk is never sold, but Chiara may create a piece of embroidery or an item as a gift.

When she handed both Carol and me a piece of spun sea silk I was stunned and speechless.

My life is woven in the soul of water, reads the weaving. I was moved beyond words….

The Secrets of Sardinia….

The reality of the present manifested itself in a downpour and we found ourselves ready for a coffee–or wine– break nearby.

As the clouds cleared we made our way to one of the many wildly beautiful coastlines and outer islands to walk, breathe, and appreciate nature.

Wild herbs dotted our path, used over centuries and today in the kitchens of Sardinian cooks.

Driving along the sea coast, the views of beaches and rocky crags were unending.

During a surprise visit to Sandra, Dirk’s colleague and long-time friend, we marveled at her tomato greenhouse of 12,000 plants (although each one had three shoots making a total of 36,000). It’s a labor of love, not a money-maker.

To add a bit of fun, we tangoed in the tomatoes šŸ… –sort of!

Home for a shower, brief respite, and then a dinner date with Dirk and lovely wife Lucia at Sapori diVini , a tiny and very new restaurant which Dirk helped launch and owned by a delightful young couple.

It was an evening of unending good food, wine, and conversation. A ” light meal” as per Dirk.

Gelato ended the evening as our weary bodies made their way along rain-slicked streets, ready to collapse into our B& B beds.

Yes, I believe in Magic!!

Buonanotte, Calgliari. A domani!

North to South

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It was time to say goodbye to Rifugio Goruppuļæ¼ and our new friends there and head south toļæ¼ Calgliari.

Our first stop was the amazing Nauraghe Losa with three round vaulted rooms , and a perfect spiral staircase leading to the upper level. Before coming to Sardinia we had never even heard of nauraghe, but now we have an understanding that these structures were from the Bronze Age and built with basalt from about 1600-1200 BC. The buildings were multi-purpose and used for communication between settlements, agricultural purposes, and tombs. There is no written record of the people but let me tell you, these structures are a marvel of engineering and this one with its domed roofs is indescribable in complexity. How did they move the stones?? Aliens or giants (FAKE NEWS!).ļæ¼

It is the highest nauraghe in the area and was also the “nauraghe of the tombs,” referring to the cremation urns in one area.

Sulla strada di nuova–on the road again we headed to the amazing Sound Garden of Pinuccio Sciola in San Sperate. TripAdvisor describes it as this:

The SOUND GARDEN Pinuccio Sciolaā€™s open air Museum, the ā€œSound Gardenā€ is an open area filled with megalithic rocks and citrus fragrancesā€¦ a timeless space which stimulates, magnifies, contemplates, all senses. In this ā€œenchantedā€ garden, the guides take the visitors into a universe of new sounds created by the different types of stones and the way the artist worked on them. A way to savour and appreciate art, a cultural space in which, through creativity and respect, one can even take part in ā€œplaying the stonesā€ and experience the ancestral sound left enclosed in the matter for thousands of years.

By running your fingernails over the cuts in the stones you produce beautiful musical tones. Don even managed to play Jingle Bells on one of the sculptures.

Onward to Caligliari and a new B&b in the middle of town. I promptly took a long nap, woke up in time for dinner, then went back to sleep.

Now I’m going to try to publish this blog because it’s been giving me agita and I want to get on to writing about our next magical day!

Playing with Fire

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Felice Halloween! Carol and I had a bit of fun with masks before we began our first treat of the day, cooking lesson # 2, with a wood-fired oven!

First up, cheese pies. With Yolanda demonstrating portioning and rolling, we followed suit.

Pretty easy , we were thinking, not knowing what was coming next. So when we added the cheese filling and crimped the edges our manual dexterity met the challenge!

” Giro in fronte” reminded Yolanda. Turn it and keep the working part in front of you. That way the finished product will be more round. We both struggled a bit but soon noticed that Yolanda was giving us more and more rounds of dough to make into pies. We’re hired!! (Actually these were served to all guests tonight as part of the antipasti so we were secretly pleased!!)

More fun was in store as Angelo had prepared a wood fire in the oven, about 900 degrees F to bake the cheese pies and focaccia.

After a few demonstrations it was time to try our hand at baking cheese pies and focaccia.

The olive wood for the fire was all gathered from the area, and we learned that Angelo can tell the temperature by the color of the chimney cap.

Our finished foccaci , also served at dinner tonight:

A kiss for Angelo and a special warm focaccia for each of us, this one made with bits of pork and lard.

Five minutes later we were off for our afternoon activities, all of us smelling a bit like Smokey the bear!!

First stop Orgoloso and the famous murals painted throughout the town. Often political or depicting moments in history, these murals tell stories of protests, opinions, love affairs, and aspirations.

The 1908 fire in a sewing factory in NYC that killed 146 young immigrant workers.

White men made us sign documents then took our land.

Happy are people who need no heroes

After a morning of slaving over open fire and a walk through a town ( in the rain, I might add!!) you might think the day was over. Not a chance!! Now it was time for wine tasting!

At Cantine di Orgoloso a group of 6 wine geniuses of the island have banded together to collectively produce the finest cannanou of Sardinia. The results were spectacular!

And we are on the trail of the US distributor. As an aside, we really liked the cheese they served!

So now is our day finished? Not a chance. Off we went to one of the finest museums on the island to learn more about the culture of masks, and the meanings behind the pantomimes we saw played out at the festival in Ottana.

These traditions honoring the end of winter, awakening Earth in the Spring, weaving the thread of Life, acknowledging the necessary role of fertility of women—these traditions are alive and well and practiced yearly in Sardinia. This is a culture that protects, honors, and upholds the sanctity of Earth as our Mother. Masks and costumes play a significant role, and the masks of other cultures are preserved and honored here also. Our guide was exceptional in her explanation.

So now was it time to head home??

SI!!

And dinner–

Tired? Yes

Happy? Yes

Ready to leave here tomorrow? No, but more fun awaits in Calgliari!

Buonanotte!

The Culurgionis Consultants

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We’re starting a new business in Pennsylvania. . . The Culurgionis Consultants. What is a culurgionis you ask? Read on. . .

Cooking lesson 1: orechiette, bucatini (rolled on a knitting needle), heavenly sauce, and culurgionis.

Made with semolina, not tipo 00 as used in other parts of Italy, the pasta itself is much easier to digest and much lighter.

The culurgionis were a challenge. I’d characterize it as a Sardinian pierogi, but I might get in trouble with Yolanda or Dirk! It’s a puff of heaven unlike anything I’ve tasted. The filling is potato with 5 cheeses, and its a morsel of deliciousness when prepared with the special sauce.

Here’s a perfect one:

Here are our “artistic” attempts.

Yolanda was a patient teacher:

Carol was the champion!

Jumping ahead to dinner, here’s our results:

We may not be experts, but we all agreed we’re ready to try making the pasta, filling, and culurgionis in PA and we’ll become famous!!

After the cooking lesson we earned a leisurely lunch, then set out for rock scrambling, cave exploring, and leisurely hiking.

The old Roman bridge narrowly, very narrowly, allowed Dirk’s van to pass with about 1.5 inches to spare underneath.

The hideout of the bandit Corbeddu was our next stop. The Robin Hood of the area, he hid in one of the thousands of caves in the area.

This particular cave is an Important archaeological site most notably for a human finger dating to 20,000 years ago. Other bones indicate extinct species.

But that’s not the only notable site in this area. A short walk and rock scramble revealed a sacred area with evidence of a hydraulic water system which perhaps “anointed” warriors and others.

What we can barely impart in photos is the fact that this settlement is high up on rocky territory.

As if we hadn’t seen or done enough today, our next stop was the sacred water source Su Gologone, the most important water source in Sardinia.

An all-too-brief stop in Dorgali, known for jewelry artisans, gave me just enough time to browse and not enough time to purchase! Oh, darn!!

The culurgionis were waiting when we arrived home, along with the usual sumptuous dinner, wine, and more conversation. Dirk, you’ve done it again. Another memorable day!!