Friday, October 3, 2008

Sardinia, lost in travel

I come from a very small village in Sardinia, Ghilarza, with a fascinating history and captivating traditions. Unfortunately, if someone has ever heard about Sardinia, they’ll only know the Emerald Coast, which is admittedly beautiful, but it doesn’t have much of Sardinia anymore, as it had been bought by a well-heeled Arabic businessman who recently sold it to an American tourism company. In Sardinia there are some of the most underrated places on earth.
It’s interesting however, to acknowledge how tourists get lost in this corner of peace or at least can’t manage to appreciate every aspect of primordial life.

The whole region is far from being the well-organized touristic attraction and, although this can be frustrating for tourists, it’s what makes the place wild, unique and authentic. It’s undoubtedly a challenge for new visitors and, admittedly, not an easy one. It requires a thourough research before arriving, a good deal of spirit of adaptation and, last but not least, a lot of patience. Don’t expect a well organized network of trains, buses and trams. At this juncture, I feel compelled to issue some warnings: if you ever take the unhappy decision to trust the public transportation service instead of renting a car straight away at the airport, be careful not to miss the only one bus a day that could bring you home after a day out; go to the coach stop always a bit earlier, not because the coach come earlier but because you’ll need to identify the stop, usually a conventional place that only local people know and without any public sign.
Beside that, you’ll enjoy the place. If you get lost, I wouldn’t worry too much, people are wonderful and the selfish spirit of a hard-core individualism hasn’t still reached such godforsaken amenities.

Recently a friend of mine told me about her sister’s trip to Sardinia in rather disappointing terms: “beautiful landscape, but not much to see.” At the beginning I was surprised that such comments could be made about an Italian region as everywhere you go in Italy has their own attractions, be it historical, artistic or simply for social gathering. And to be honest, Sardinia is very rich in all of them. But then, thinking about it again, I realized that the fault is actually of the island’s administration and political class that not only neglects to improve the region’s connection system, but also doesn’t care to positively advertise the countless heritage sites.
Close to where I used to live, for example, there is the sacred Well of Saint Christine, in the prehistorical village with the same name, dating back to the IX-XI century B.C. Obviously, I have visited the prehistorical heritage site many times and only now I realize how underestimated it is, not by tourists, but by the same people living around, who don’t do anything to make the site a proper attraction. The actual water well is fascinating, for its history, the purpose it was built for and the fact that it’s extremely well kept.

My small village, Ghilarza, counts around 5,000 souls and is certainly not touristic. However, the old and complicated historical events intertwined with the generous natural resources make it an interesting spot to visit. All around the little town there are the so-called “novenari,” tiny groups of houses populated only once a year during religious festivals, when Ghilarza’s inhabitants move there to celebrate three saints of the Catholic calendar. One of these small built-up areas, devoted to Saint Micheal, has very ancient origins, as it was a village named “Urri” whose population was almost entirely wiped out by an epidemic plague around 1400 a.C.
As for Ghilarza, this little town, situated in the heart of sunny Sardinia, is one of the few places in the world where the primordial spirit of mutual help is still intact, and here you can literally leave your car unlocked without any doubt that you’ll find it exactly where you parked it.

However, in the whole island, there is the legend that Ghilarza’s inhabitants are inhospitable. This comes from the history of both the village and the whole district in which it’s situated. As a very active built-up area already in the nineteenth century, base for the main council offices, markets, medical centers and, later on, the hospital, Ghilarza attracted every day hundreds of people from the nearby villages who, in the very local spirit, expected to receive accomodation in their friends’ houses. When the “Ghilarzesi” proved literally unable to give hospitality to such a crowd of “istranzoso” (strangers), the legend started spreading all over the island territory. The truth is that my hometown’s inhabitants are open-handed as well as very friendly, to the extent that the random tourists are astonished when children naturally wave to them with a spontaneous “Ciao!”


Alison said...

I just discovered your wonderful blog through the Top Travel Content blog which I also contribute to. I'm researching an up-coming trip to Sardinia and your blog popped up.

My friend and I will be visiting for 6 days over the Easter holidays. We have booked a B&B outside of Alghero and are looking forward to exploring the area. We are both professional photographers and will be renting a car. If you have any advice on what we should see and do it would be very welcome! Meanwhile I will explore you blog and take lots of notes!


AngelaCorrias said...

Hi Alison! It's great that you come to Sardinia! For Easter you should also find nice weather. If you have your B&B just outside Alghero I tend to believe you will rent a car, otherwise you will waste too much time waiting for the public transport... What kind of things are you interested in? I mean, archaeologic sites, traditions, food? Do you have a theme or you just want to roam?
I'm sure you've heard about the Emerald Coast, as a local I'd suggest to avoid it, it's lost Sardinian identity.
Since you are in Alghero, you can drive along the west coast, beautiful panorama and relatively unspoilt, also road-wise (narrow roads and turns with little visibility).
Let me know what kind of trip you are aiming at and I can write down a little itinerary, also researching if there are typical events that could be interesting to see.

Alison said...

Hi Angela! Thanks for your response. We are renting a car and we are basically just looking for some great areas to photograph. We are both interested in nature particularly, but also historical sites and any beautiful areas - the less touristy the better. We don't have any plans at all yet as it was a spur of the moment idea, so any suggestion you have would be fantastic. Feel free to e-mail me at alison AT

AngelaCorrias said...

Great, I'll search for some suggestions and email you directly!

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin

Share this