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Nature and tradition
Sardinia is the second largest island of the Italian archipelago. The scenery of the entire island is characterised
by the wild beauty of nature, on the coast as well as inland. White sand beaches, thousands of small bays and the turquoise-blue sea guarantee relaxation and complete tranquillity. Prominent and lively beach resorts such as apricioli and Porto Cervo lie on the world-famous northeast facing Emerald Coast. Scattered prehistoric fortresses, villages, temples and burial sites stand sentinel over the barren hilly landscape of the island’s interior. The socalled nuraghi were built by a people, whose origins represent one of history’s largest mysteries.
The grotto ‘Bue Marino’ is probably the most famous grotto in Sardinia. Its name is derived from the monk seal, which could be found here until the 1980s. This species of seal is one of the rarest mammals in Europe, reaches a maximum body length of three metres, weighs around 350 kg, has small white or yellow-white dots on its belly and unparalleled large round eyes with beautiful long eyelashes. Researchers are of the opinion that the monk seals have relocated themselves and sooner or later will return to the east coast and their limestone caves.
During the guided tour a part of the caves, which feature some unbelievable halls, will be visited.
Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was born in 1807 and died in 1882, was an adventurer, sailor and folk hero, but above all a relentless freedom fighter – not only in Italy, but also in South America, where he lived in exile from 1835 to 1848.
He lies on Caprera, a granite island, which belongs to the La Maddalena archipelago. It is connected to the main island by a 600m-long causeway. Giuseppe Garibaldi purchased half of the island in 1855; in later years he acquired the rest of the island. His home was here, it is here that he secluded himself from the outside world time and again. The residence, where he lived with his family, is Caprera’s main attraction and Sardinia’s
most-visited museum. A large pine tree welcomes visitors. It stands in the courtyard of the whitewashed estate, planted by Garibaldi himself. During a tour through the house, which features many original pieces of furniture, personal items, weapons and clothing, the crutches and wheelchair stand out. Garibaldi suffered greatly from arthritis in his old age. When he sensed that his end was near, he had his bed moved to the window where he had a view of the sea. On 2 June 1882 the clock was stopped at 18:20 and the calendar was never again turned to the next page. The tomb is not far from the house. Here lie Francesca (his third wife), 5 of his children, a servant and Garibaldi himself. Only the one word, ‘Garibaldi’ stands in large letters on his sarcophagus.
Spread across the entire island of Sardinia there are ca. 8,000 truncated conical-shaped structures built out of giant blocks of basalt. From the construction and lay-out of these conical structures it is not hard to recognise that they created an entire system of fortresses and observation towers. Some of these nuraghi, built between 1500 and 400 BC, are surrounded by ramparts or form important grounds with houses, temples, tombs and one
even with a theatre.
The abbey church of Santissima Trinitá di Saccargia is located about 14 kilometres from Sassari between Ploaghe and Codrongianus. With its black and white stripes out of basalt and limestone it cannot be missed from the SS 597. It numbers among the most important PisanRomanesque buildings in Sardinia. The church was built in 1116; the atrium and 40-metre-long ‘campanile’ were added around the end of the 12th century. It served as the abbey church for the Benedictine monks from Camaldoli. Today, only a few ruins of the old monastery remain.
The stalactite ‘Grotta di Nettuno’ is a geological natural wonder. It is an especially big grotto, which extends over ca. 2,500 metres: columns of every possible shape and size, tunnels, small glittering lakes and deep wells - all connected by narrow passageways. Starting from Alghero, there are two different ways to reach the ‘Grotto of Neptune’: By boat from the harbour, the approximately one-hour ride leads along the impressive coral coast to the entrance of the grotto. Over land one reaches Capo Caccia after 25 km on a scenic and panoramic road that goes directly along the sea.
From there, the Escala del Cabirol (Goat’s Stairway) leads over 656 stone steps down to the main entrance of the grotto.
This museum, located in a traditional Gallurian house, lends insight into the life of earlier generations with over 5,000 items from the end of the 14th century through the 19th century. The oldest and most precious item in this collection is without doubt the hammer ‘Femina Agabbadòra’, the only existing example of its kind. It is the oldest instrument used for the practice of euthanasia, with which a dying family member was prematurely freed from his suffering. The last wooden hammer euthanasia using the Femina Agabbadòra is purported to have taken place in 1952!
The ‘trenino verde’, the green train of Sardinia, as it is affectionately called, is a very special way to enjoy the beauty of the island. Fondly lost in nostalgia and with unique scenic attractions, the route leads through the interior of the island winds through wild and untouched terrain, that one otherwise could only see with great difficulty. There is a reason why the stretch is so full of curves: at the beginning of the 19th century the construction companies were paid by the kilometre!
The scenic train also stops along the way, so that one may admire all the sights: untouched grottoes, spectacular waterfalls and mysterious nuraghi settlements. The old train cars are propelled by a steam locomotive from 1931. One of the most interesting routes is that between Arbatax and Mandas, it runs for 160 kilometres through the wild landscape of Barbagia. The ride takes five hours and offers countless impressions of the craggy hinterland.
With groups of 50 or more participants it is advisable to hire the locomotive and individually arrange the ride with the narrow-gauge railway (i.e. route, schedule, stops). For nostalgics there is even a historical train available: a steam locomotive with wooden cars, which reminisces the earlier heyday of this route. The price is dependent upon the requested trip, i.e. route, length and train.
The Trenino runs along the routes:
Sassari - Tempio - Palau | Mandas - Arbatax |Macomer - Bosa | Isili - Sorgono
This likely most well-known religious event in Sardinia has its roots in an ancient vow. St. Efisio freed Cagliari from the plague. In thanks for their deliverance from the epidemic, the residents of Cagliari vowed to honour the saint with a festival and to tell of his miracles. Since 1656 the believers keep their promise regularly at the beginning of May with a four-day pilgrimage procession. The procession, which features festively decorated wagons, riders and folklore groups from around the island in traditional costumes, which precede the sacred image of the saint, starts on 1 May from Stampace and continues over Pula to Nora. On the morning of 4 May the return journey is begun and ends in the evening in Cagliari. To fulfil the religious vow, the saint must reach the church of Sant’Efisio by midnight.
On Sardinia, Easter is the highest church festival of the year. The Sardinians call Easter ‘Sa Pasca Manna’ (the great Easter festival) while Christmas is just called ‘Paschixedda’ (the small Easter festival). Easter on Sardinia is a blend of Christian and pagan rituals, which together create a fascinating and moving festival. There is hardly a community on Sardinia, which does not have a parade during Holy Week. Tradi-tions, rituals, folklore and the Christian liturgy combine to an incredible extent. Whoever has once experienced an enthralling Procession of the Mysteries will surely remember it for a long time.
The most powerful event is probably the Easter Monday procession ‘Lunissanti’ in Castelsardo. Ancient songs ring out from an over 10-kilometre --long Lunissanti procession accompanied by flaming torch bearers. The parades in Alghero, Cagliari, Oristano, Sassari and Iglesias are also very magnificent.
A great artichoke festival with colourful programme and imaginative dishes with artichokes awaits visitors on the first weekend in December in Samassi. Here the Spinoso Sardo (spined) quality variety and the variety called Masedu in Sardinian are harvested, whose leaves are not spiny.
These artichokes are valued both on the Italian as well as international markets.
Artichokes were already used as medicinal plants in ancient Egypt. In addition to a high iron content, artichokes also contain the active ingredient
cynarin, which plays an important role both in controlling the level of cholesterol in the blood, as well as for the gallbladder.
Oristano has been the stage of this colourful competition since around 1546, during which countless equestrians bravely compete for a silver star. The objective of the tournament is to spear a hanging silver star at a full gallop. If the equestrians are successful in spearing stars, then it will be a good year, as that year’s har vest is dependent on the number of speared stars, i.e. the skill of the equestrians seals the town’s fate. Pageantry and very strict rules characterise the festival, which dominates the town for two days - on Carnival Sunday and the following Tuesday. It begins with the dressing of each equestrian by maidens in traditional dress. Afterwards he is hoisted onto the decorated horse - his feet may not touch the ground
during the festival. The historic costume is ambiguous - half man, half woman, with a bridal veil, a top hat and holding a bouquet of violets. He then races along the Via Duomo at a thundering gallop to spear the stars hanging above the street with his sword and lance. The more, the better!
All of Oristano is on their feet during the Sartiglia. Those who fancy visiting the equestrian festival should reserve their seats in the stands well in advance. The tickets cost between v 15.00 and v 30.00 depending on the seat.
In November the Sagra dello Zafferano takes place in San Gavino Monreale, about 60 km north of Cagliari. During the festival, among other activities, several typical regional dishes can be sampled, which were seasoned with the no-ble saffron.
This festival dates back to a vow that the Sassaresi made to the Mother of God in the 13th century, when the plague raged in the city. It takes place on the eve of Assumption Day - 14 August. Nine giant wooden candles, which represent the guilds, are driven through the city.
The candelieri are accompanied by musicians, who accentuate the procession with the beat of drums and melodies played upon fifes.
In the grey of morning on the first Saturday in September a group of young men in Cabras take the statue of the saint and carry it barefoot, clothed in simple white robes, to the 6-km-distant church of San Salvatore, on the Sinis peninsula. On the next day, the first Sunday in September, the men run back to Cabras with the statue. The origins of this race can probably be traced back to the year 1619 and are connected to the many raids that the Saracen pirates led from the sea, thus terrorising the local population. During one of these raids the residents are said to have protected the saint’s statue of San Salvatore from the invaders by running away with it barefoot across the fields. Instead of normal footwear, the Scalzi tied branches under their naked feet and thus stirred up so much dust that the enemy attackers believed they were a large army and fled.
Travel to Arzachena, where you will visit the ‘Tombe dei Giganti’, the tomb of the giants, megaliths stacked on top of each other from the pre-Christian nuraghi period, as well as the nuraghi of Albuiccio (admission extra). Afterwards you will on a journey of discovery through the Gallura. It is the northern region of Sardin ia with bizarre karst mountains and countless cork oaks. Hills bedecked with macchia, vineyards and groves of cork oaks characterise this landscape. You will stroll through Tempio Pausania, a small diocesan town.
The Costa Smeralda is the quintessence of turquoise-blue sea, heavenly bays, crystal clear water and priceless luxury. The breathtaking drive along the world-famous Costa Smeralda will lead you past the granite cliffs and white sand beaches with a view of the emerald-green sea. Along the way you will stop in beautiful villages like Porto Cervo, the main village of the Costa Smeralda with its yacht harbour, a meeting place of the wealthy. Cala di Volpe and Porto Rotondo are perfect for strolling and exploring at your leisure.
Today you will take a full-day outing to the island of Maddalena. The emerald green of the heavenly sea around the ‘La Maddalena’ archipelago resembles a tropical paradise. Myrtle and juniper and the pink granite boulders, etched by the wind and the waves, characterise the island of Maddalena. The islands of the archipelago were designated as a national park due to their unique flora and fauna. La Maddalena is the main town of
the identically named island and is a small romantic harbour town with lots of charm.
The first stop is Santa Maria, where a stay of one hour is planned. Then continue on to the unique ‘Spiaggia rosa’, the pink beach of the archipelago. Stops in Spargi and Maddalena round out the programme. During the boat ride spaghetti will be served for everyone on board.
You will reach Castelsardo along the enchanting nor-thern coast. The stately medieval castle sits atop a hill, with many picturesque alleys at its foot. Here you will find handicraft stands, which sell baskets made out of wild palm leaves, decorated with typical geometrical designs.
Alghero has retained its strong Catalonian identity, which is clearly reflected in the traditions, dialect and architecture style of the buildings in the historic centre. The lovely historic district, surrounded by thick city walls, is perfect for a stroll, while the fishing harbour with its lively bustle makes a delightful impression. Narrow, cobblestone alleys traverse high, once magnificent facades, and the gorgeous sand beaches located right near the city invite one to linger.
Drive along the breathtaking panoramic coast to Bosa, a lovely little town. The riverside promenade is one of the centres when it comes to grand palazzi, picturesque fishing boats, good wine and delicious cuisine. But also the historic district ‘Sa Costa’, with its maze of alleys and arcades, in which one can marvel at handicrafts, offers all manner of interesting sights. Further places of interest in Bosa are the many churches, there are a total of 23 of them. The next stop is the Sinis peninsula. The ancient, Punic-Roman Tharros is located here, one of the most interesting archaeological sites on the island in a lovely setting.
The Gulf of Orosei is located on the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on the Mediterranean, characterised by steep cliffs with curious rock formations, grottoes and magical, lonely beaches. The Ispinigoli limestone caves are unique (optional), which are known for being the location of the largest stalagmite and stalactite formations in Italy, connected to one another with a total height of 38 m from the ceiling to the floor.
Dorgali lies in the middle of the Cannonau winegrowing region with vineyards full of grapevines and enjoys a good reputation for its handicrafts. The old townscape is characterised by countless small shops, in which jewellery, ceramic, leather wares and woodcarvings can be purchased. Emeraldgreen
sea and beaches of fine, white sand characterise the coast of Cala Gonones.
Outing to Sassari with its lovely historic district: the cathedral of San Nicola, built on a Romanesque structure from the 12th century, the ducal palace and the church of Santa Caterina from the 17th century. In the afternoon you will continue on to the Roman esque Basilica of Saccargia, a jewel of European architecture. It is one of the most famous struc tures in the Pisan-Romanesque style in Sardinia, with a typical black-white striped facade
out of basalt lava and limestone.
Today you will discover the heart of Sardinia. The first stop is at Nuoro, located at the foot of a beautiful granite massif, the 955-m-high Monte Ortobene. The city is considered the stronghold of poets and thinkers, such as Grazia Deledda, whose works have their roots in the world of the shepherds and bandits of the Barbagia. The city of Nuoro houses the island’s largest folklife museum, which is definitely worth seeing. Then the excursion continues on to Orgosolo, located in the middle of an appealing landscape, full of wild and untouched nature. Orgosolo is mainly known as being the village of the murales (murals). They are fragments of the past and a world, which was always proud and withdrawn in regards to events happening in the outside world. Every single fresco is the guardian of the village history and witness to the social struggles. Over the course of time,
the ‘murales’ became tradition and a special feature of the community of Orgosolo. An open-air art gallery with over 150 murales. Afterwards, you will eat a hearty meal with the shepherds. Bon Appetit!