Life On The Italian Island Of Sardinia

La Sardegna

To read a Sardinian legend, click HERE


Sardinia (Sardegna in Italian) is the second largest island of Italy.  Sicily is the largest.  
Sardinia has a very interesting flag, consisting of a red cross on a white background and the heads of four Moors
(I Quattro Mori.

flag of Sardinia

Sardegna lies in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, just south of the French island Corsica.  You can see the Corsican coastline from some parts of Northern Sardinia.  Below is a satellite picture of Sardinia.  The southern part of Corsica can also be seen in the picture.

map of Sardinia

The sea that separates Sardinia and Corsica is called Lo Stretto di Bonifacio and it is famous for being extremely rough with very rocky and dangerous parts.  Many boats have sunk making the short journey between the two islands.  The French writer Maupassant wrote a story in the 19th Century called Une Vendetta and it opens with a vivid description of the rough waters and coastlines of Bonifacio.

The capital of Sardinia is Cagliari, in the south.  The official language of Sardinia is Italian but most of the island also speaks the Sardinian language called sardo. 
Il sardo varies according to the area of Sardinia. 

To hear the Sardinian rock band Tazenda singing the famous and beautiful song No potho reposare (sung in the Sardinian language) click HERE and go to track 45.  The lead singer is the great Andrea Parodi from Sardinia who sadly died in 2006.

In the seaside town of Alghero in the north-west of Sardinia, the people speak a dialect that belongs just to that town.  It is called algherese and it is very similar to the Catalan language of Spain, having originated with a Catalan colony that settled in the area of Alghero hundreds of years ago.  That is why the colours of the Alghero flag are the same as the Spanish flag - red and yellow.  Below is the coat of arms for Alghero where you can see the red and yellow stripes.


The town of Alghero takes its name from the large quantity of seaweed (or algae) that is washed up continually on the coastline.  The people of Alghero are very proud of their town.  It is a walled, historical town with a port.  Originally, it was just a small fishermen's harbour but now it is one of the largest leisure ports in Italy!  (Picture below.)

In the old walled town of Alghero, the streets are all cobbled.  There is a large cathedral called Santa Maria and a very beautiful old church called San Francesco.  There is a cloister attached to the church of San Francesco and, in the summer, it is used for chamber music.  Below is a photo of a typical, cobbled street in Alghero.


Outside Alghero, in the countryside, there is an area called Valverde.  This is a sacred place for the people of Sardinia.  In Valverde, there is a little chapel and it is visited by thousands of Sardinians and thousands of visitors from abroad every year. 
Inside the chapel, there is a little, terracotta statuette of the Virgin Mary.  She stands just 30.5 cm. high. This statuette is called La Madonna di Valverde.  Sardinians believe that she performs miracles.  Inside the chapel, the walls are decorated with paintings produced by the local people.  Each painting depicts the story of a personal miracle.  Below is a photo of the statuette wearing a crown and draped in cloth robes, as she is traditionally seen.
Madonna di Valverde

Sardegna produces lots of cork.  This is called il sughero in Italian.  Cork trees can be easily recognised because the bark of the trunk is stripped off, making the trunk look as if it has been 'skinned.' 
It takes about ten years for the bark of the tree to become ready.   It starts to detach itself naturally from the trunk.  Workers strip it off and it is collected in tons! 
All kinds of items are made from Sardinian cork - picture frames, book covers, goblets, trays, ornaments and bottle tops. The bark regrows and in another ten years or so the trunk can be 'skinned' again! 

cork tree

The sea around the island of Sardegna is very clean and attracts thousands of holiday-makers every summer.  It is well-known that boat-owners sail from all over Europe in order to spend the summer on the Sardinian coast. 
The coast known as La Costa Smeralda (The Emerald Coast) is the most famous for attracting boats during the summer. 

It is very expensive to stay there (either in a hotel or afloat on your boat) and many film stars, royal families and other famous people spend their summer holidays in this area.  During the months of July and August, you will always see enormous and beautiful private yachts afloat in the waters of La Costa Smeralda.

costa smeraldacosta smeraldacosta smeraldacosta smeralda

If you want to look seriously stylish and important in the summer, then keep your boat moored at the Sardinian port of Porto Cervo on La Costa Smeralda.  It will cost you thousands of euros every day.  The exact price will depend on the length of your boat. 

Sardinia produces very beautiful jewellery and statuettes made from red coral taken from the local waters. 
The Sardinian people believe that red coral brings good luck, so, it is a popular choice for gifts at christenings and weddings, etc. 

There is a paler colour of Sardinian coral too, but this costs less and is considered inferior.  It is always the red variety that is the first choice for i sardi (Sardinians.) 
The north-west coast is the biggest producer of coral in Sardinia and it is for this reason that the area is called La Riviera del Corallo (The Coral Coast.)  Below is a photo of red coral in the sea around Sardinia.


 The flowering plant known as myrtle grows abundantly throughout Sardinia.  Its leaves and berries are used to make a liqueur called mirto.  There are two types of the liqueur: - red (mirto rosso) and white (mirto bianco.) 
It is drunk on special occasions or at the end of a large meal.  Below is a picture of myrtle growing in Sardinia.


In the Sardinian mountains, there is a village called Fonni.  It is the highest town in Sardinia and it is famous for its amazing three-dimensional paintings on the outside of the buildings.  These paintings have been created by the local people and they look very real.  It seems that real people are standing in doorways, looking out of windows or going about their daily chores. 
Do not be fooled!  All the people in the photos below are painted on the exterior walls of buildings-

Fonni Fonni Fonni(This style of painting can be seen in other villages in the area of Fonni, too.)

Sardinia produces very good bread.  One of the most famous types is called il pane carasau.  It is really only found in Sardinia!  It is wafer-thin and crunchy.  It can be sprinkled with salt and olive oil and it keeps very well.  It is also very healthy because it is so light.  Usually, you buy it in a round pack and, because there are so many wafer-thin layers, it seems to last for ages!
Originally, it was prepared for shepherds who had to stay away from home for long periods of time, travelling with their flocks.  They required bread that was light to carry and that would last for a long time.
Below,  there is a photo of il pane carasau.

(Photo by Luigi Chiesa.  Wikimedia Commons.)

Il Pecorino Sardo is a traditional Sardinian cheese made from sheep's milk.

Sardinia also produces a type of cheese called casu marzu, which is the Sardinian way to say formaggio marcio or 'rotten cheese.'   It is considered to be the most dangerous cheese in the world! 

Casu marzu is traditionally made by shepherds (pastori) using sheep's milk but it is prohibited from being sold in the European Union because of hygiene regulations and health concerns.  Nevertheless, it is a traditional food which is still produced by Sardinian shepherds for their own consumption and for family and friends.

Why is this cheese so rotten?
Warning! Do not read the next paragraphs if you think you might feel sick! ....

Casu marzu is made by first producing normal Pecorino (in photo above).  The crust of the Pecorino is then cut open and left for a few weeks to attract cheese flies which lay thousands of eggs inside the exposed cheese.   Thousands of tiny maggots hatch from the eggs and then live inside the cheese.  
 The cheese is eaten whilst the maggots are wriggling around inside.  The cheese becomes very soft and is eaten by scooping it up onto bread.  Buon appetito!
"Non mi piace quel formaggio."
Un proverbio italianoTutti i gusti sono gusti. 
(One man's meat is another man's poison.)
( Each to his own.)  (There's no accounting for taste.)

A traditional piece of Sardinian jewellery is un bottone sardo.  Its name means 'a Sardinian button.'  It is a gold or silver sphere with a round gem in the middle.   There is also a 'half button' (un mezzo bottone) which is a round shape instead of a full sphere.  
Above: un bottone sardo and un mezzo bottone sardo.

Il bottone sardo
can be worn as a brooch, necklace, earrings, a ring or a bracelet.  Some Sardinians even choose it as a tattoo!

The gem in the centre of the button represents an eye which wards off something called il malocchio, meaning 'the evil eye.'  Sardinians (and all Italians) are very superstitious and they believe that envious people can cause bad luck through their jealous and nasty thoughts.  So, il bottone sardo is worn as an amulet to protect against 'the evil eye.'

More information will be added shortly!

 Italian Zone