When D H Lawrence visited Sardinia with his wife, Frieda, back in 1921, they weren’t much impressed… food was scarce – they found little to eat but cabbage and bread, and some ‘hotels’ were little more than shacks, and yet in Sea and Sardinia he writes ‘This land resembles no other place. Sardinia is something else. Enchanting spaces and distances to travel – nothing finished, nothing definitive. It is like freedom itself.’
A little over 50 years ago the picture of grinding poverty began to change. The Aga Khan bought up a 35-mile stretch of coastland – the Costa Smeralda – and the rich and famous followed in their droves. Thankfully, they stick to their place, and you can enjoy the rest. Sardinia is wild, and its inhabitants are wildly independent, considering themselves to be Sard first, and Italian second.
The food is a lot better now too; bountiful gifts from the sea, and delicious meat-based dishes inland, including the traditional porceddu (suckling pig). Unusual treats include crispy bread as thin as poppadoms, pasta served with spiny lobster or sea urchins, and, for the adventurous, casu marzu, a wormy cheese. This year I’ll miss the Sea Urchin Festival (in Buggeruu), and the Artichoke Festival (Uri), which takes place in March, but will certainly catch the Torrone Festival (in Tonara), the Easter Sagra de S’Anzone celebrated with Sardinian lamb, and the Sagra degli Agrumi di Muravera – Festival of Citrus in Muravera. Cabbage indeed…
Historically it’s fascinating, with nuraghe – megalithic constructions built during the Bronze Age – to be found all over the island. Although their cultural significance is not certain, it has been suggested that the entrance orientation aligning to the sun and moon at the solstices gave them some kind of spiritual importance.
Oh, and the beaches… the turquoise sea and pristine beaches are universally understood to be the finest in Italy. (My Italian brother-in-law swears they compare with the Maldives).