Monthly Archives: October 2019

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!!

Tuna and Berlusconi

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Tuesday began with a sweet walk on a deserted beach, with time for exploring and contemplating. I offered to vacate my seat in the van, stay there for the day, and hitch a ride home but that didn’t fly too well with Dirk and friends!

And I wasn’t really serious because our next step was a winery which produces the finest vermentino in all of Sardinia.

We were enchanted by the Capichera VT and are currently on the trail of a distributor in the US. Imagine creamy deliciousness of a golden mouth-feel that lasts and lasts. That’sVT. One bottle will find its way home in our suitcase and one with Carol and Steve. Those orphans will await the arrival of siblings who are currently in California and seeking passage to Pennsylvania.

If we thought Sardinia was just one island, we were wrong.

A ferry ride took us to Isola Maddalena and along the way we replayed the Titanic scene, although our ferry did NOT sink.

Awaiting us at the port. . .

And of course. . .food. . .delicate Sardinian tuna carpaccio.

Around town we happened upon a friend of Don’s. . .Giuseppe Garibaldi, not to mention the beautiful model watching over both of them.

A ferry back to the mainland and then a leisurely ride up the coast, stopping to gaze upon the “For Sale” villa of Berlusconi. And hey, his neighbor on the other side of the hill is Putin. Two for the price of one!!!

It was a long day and we covered a lot of territory in the eastern and northern regions of Sardinia. We dozed, Dirk drove, and we listened to la musica bellissima. After the wonderful lunch and wine I was feeling especially happy that tonight we would have a light supper, which, of course, turned out to be FAKE NEWS!! (Read my blog on Sardinian Food Part One).

What a wonderful day! Thanks, Dirk!!

Food. .. . Glorious Sardinian Food——Part One

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I guess we must admit that we are simply no good at discipline when it comes to food that can only be described as deliciousness from the earth’s bounty, food as it was intended to taste, free of pesticides and artificial flavors, and prepared by hands who respect the origins of the food. We salute you, Yolanda, of Rifugio Gorruppu. And we’re only in our second full day of staying, and eating, here!

Ravioli with a sauce that can only be described as heaven in a tomato..

Grilled zucchini and eggplant with olive oil, allowed to sit for 2 hours before serving.

Pork raised on chestnuts and acorns, butchered, and roasted to allow the skin to crackle and the meat to become succulent.

Bresaola with pecorino

A warm pecorino-filled tart with honey glaze.

Breakfast choices which change daily.

Every evening we are groaning after a table of 3-4 appetizers, a pasta course, a main course, salad, vegetables, a sweet, and a digestivo.

And here’s the clincher. . .Dirk asked if we would like to have a “light supper” tonight ofminestrone. We quickly agreed because our stomachs and waistbands are expanding every moment. We were pleased to be offered this amazing soup and we each had two large bowls. BTW, this was after antipasti of cheeses, breaded zucchini, tomatoes with pecorino, and grilled bread. We were “sorridere come la Pasqua.” Happy like Easter, an Italian saying just meaning that you are very, very happy.

After my second bowl I was full and happy, thinking, “This was exactly what I wanted,, a light meal.” As I looked at Don,, Carol, and Steve, I could tell we all had full, warm tummies.

Si. . .sorridere come la Pasqua! Certo!!

THEN THIS APPEARED ON OUR TABLE. . .

Whaaaatttt??? There had been a few subtle jokes about roast beef and roast potatoes, but here it was in front of us and we were implored to eat it. Guess what?!

We did.

We had been totally bamboozled, blind-sided, snookered by Dirk .

Payback. . .it’s all about payback. . .

Tango on the dunes

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If you”re going to drive up a mountain with hairpin switchbacks, you’d better have Jesus watching over you. And indeed, we did.

“Thank you, Jesus” was the mantra as Dirk navigated three-point turns to get us up the mountain, find the parking lot, and then scrambled up the rocky path to the top of the summit.

Under the protection of the statue, we journeyed onward and made the most important stop, in Carol’s opinion.

Fortified, we moved onward, always listening to the wonderful music which Dirk plays in the van. The arrangement of Piazzola’s “Oblivion” was especially wonderful and set the tone for our beach exploration along Sardinia’ s calm east coast at Capo Comino.

Being “out of season” we climbed the prohibited dunes and played.

We tangoed. . .

We smooched. . .

We played in the water.. . .

And we discovered another miracle of nature. These balls begin as a plant, then a hairy pod, and the fibers collect sea bits’n’pieces until it’s tumbled and somehow knows it is complete. These balls collect, probably for years or centuries, and form the basis for the dunes. Completely natural, the Posidonia oceanica are important to the ecosystem, and not surprisingly, in decline.

Another of the 7,000 Nauraghe awaited, and off we went. This one was quite interesting. . .an ancient nauraghe and also the remains of a Roman village thought to have had a population of 2,000. I keep wondering. . .what was the day to day life, what did the women do, how did they survive in what must have been a very difficult. place.

Winding our way home to Rifugio Gorroppu we were once again so grateful for Dirk and his expertise. . .not to mention his expert driving! And now. . .another dinner!

Tombs, Festivals, and Hot Water!

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We’re quickly learning important things about Sardinia and her culture.

1) Evidence of ancient civilization abounds.

2) Festivals are all-important.

3) Food is no-compromise in quality and quantity.

We began today with a trek to La Tomba di Gigante.

And here’s what we found:

There are more than 200 of these Nuragic era tombs around the island. They are named “gigante” because people believed that nothing less than a giant could have moved the stones. . .unless it was aliens!!

A mid-morning snack from the local pasticceria was the most delectable meringue I’ve ever experienced. How do you get a meringue that is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and contains nuts?

“So let’s go to take a thermal bath,’ says Dirk. I’m picturing a leisurely dip. Now picture a stone enclosure in the middle of a field of sheep.

Would youEVER in a million years picture yourself in this, much less know where to find it??!!

So after the soak we set out for Ottanto and the festival which must have attracted half the island. It happens only once a year and we happened to be here the weekend it was happening. Businesses, museums, special exhibits abound and some are open only during this festival, indicated by orange directional signs around town.

A highlight of the day was finding the beekeeper’s house where he and Steve had a lively conversation via Dirk as interpreter about the similarities in this most important,ecologically significant hobby.

The “bee boys” talked on and on. But we had to move on and allow others to learn about bees and honey.

The festival in the town was all about eating, visiting, people watching, and dancing. I think we need more of that in the US!

And then there was this:

A very noisy parade of characters dressed in sheep skin carrying 50 kg of bells, wearing traditional masks, depicting ancient peasant folklore.

Murals in Ottana are permanent reminders of the city’s stories of Boes and Merdules,

According to online sources,, which I consulted because I simply couldnt remember what Dirk told me:

Sos Boes (the oxes) and Sos Merdules (the oxes’owners) perform a chase which becomes a dance. Its aim is to exorcise the danger of the trasformation into beasts.

The Filonzana, the only femal character, is the old woman who everybody fears: stooped and dark dressed here she comes with a wooden mask. In the 70’s some people used to make a parody of this figure with smut-spotted-face and a dental prosthesis curved in a potato. She’s a woman, but a man hides under her dress; she brings wood and spindle, as the mythological Greek goddesses, ready to cut the life-thread suddenly.

She tells good o bad fortune, depending on how much she likes the wine she’s offered.

In and out of five more corte to visit museums, galleries, shops, a mask maker, a knife collection (every man in Sardinia carries a knife). . .and we were ready to head home.

It was a BEE-u-tiful day!!

Traveling Onward

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The trip from Montepulciano to Hotel Isola Sacra included a half hour taxi to Chiusi train station, a 2 hour train ride to Termini Station in Rome, the Leonardo Express to the airport, and a taxi to the hotel. All in all, 5.5 hours. Exhausting, yet I do love traveling solo and finding my own way! Call me silly!

I was happy, relieved, delighted, and well, just complete when I saw Don waiting for me outside the hotel when I alighted from the taxi. To learn that he and our friends Carol and Steve had waited for me for dinner at nearly 9 pm, well, I almost lost it. And then I learned that an old friend, a waiter at the hotel named Luigi was there. . .

A wonderful night’s sleep in a hotel we’ve come to enjoy, a breakfast room which improves each time we visit, and soon the four of us were off to Sardinia!

Dirk with Secrets of Sardinia was ready and waiting, whisked us away in his beautiful big Opel van, and off we set on our 10-day adventure.

Along the way he regaled us with bits of history, and astounded us with the depth of his knowledge of the history and culture of this island, the archaeology, the current events. At least 8-10 languages/dialects, and more on the oldest,, deepest, etc, etc. Details coming. . .

First stop, lunch under a tree near the sacred waters at the Sanctuary of Santa Cristina.

Why is it that simple fare of meat, cheese, and bread with local fresh wine tastes so much better outside in a foreign country!?

We investigated the holy water site and marveled at its amazing ancient architecture.

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And then we were off to explore more of the archaeology of the area, the “nuraghe” which are the buildings now symbolic of Sardinia and built between 1900 and 730 BC and part of the Naurgic civilization.

The stonework has stood the test of time, and is sturdy, nearly impossible to recreate, and aligned with the stars.

No records of this civilization exist, yet there is some sense of the culture. War-like, these naurighe served as fortresses in which the community gathered in times of real or imagined threats. Long buildings such as the one above might serve as grave sites. There are about 7000 naurighe in Sardinia with potentially a total of 10,000.

Driving through the countryside, we learned about the immense numbers of sheep on the island, the well-educated shepherds, and we marveled that even though this island looks small on a map, distances are long. Roads are excellent.

We finally had to ask, “Where the heck are we?” As we headed into mountainous territory, down pebbly, rocky roads, and finally to our home for the next 6 nights.

We’re in the mountains in the northeast area of Sardinia. Frankly, I don’t care where we are because Dirk is taking good care of us, he knows this place inside out, and I don’t have to do any planning.

And. . .here’s the clincher. Dirk is a tango instructor!!! On this broad terrace (above) he asked us to “walk,” an immediate indication of the skill level of a tango student. He felt we needed more centering in our walk, more extension in my back leg (but hey, I was wearing oxford-type shoes) so he demonstrated and then had us practice. JUST IMAGINE!! We’re on a tour with a tango teacher!

Dirk warned us about dinner. It’s huge, it’s totally local, and we will be presented with this quantity and quality of food every night.

OOps, I forgot to take photos of the 1) meat course, 2) dolce/dessert, 3) digestivo. And of course theres a pitcher of local wine with each meal.

Tomorrow we have a date with a thermal bath and a local festival. Day One of Sardinia–so wonderful!!