Sardinia is a breathtakingly beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea that truly has it all. Mountains to climb, the crystal blue Mediterranean Sea to swim in, sprawling vineyards to visit, unique wines to discover, mouthwatering cuisine, and an incredibly rich historic culture. Many people known and visit Sardinia for the picturesque beaches, but Sardinia is so much more!
First of all, Sardinia is an ancient island steeped in tradition. So ancient, in fact, that there is an ongoing theory in which Sardinia is believed to be the island described in Plato’s Atlantis written around 360 BC. So old that there are remnants of approximately 7,000 stone structures covering the island constructed by a mysterious indigenous civilization known as the Nuragic people who inhabited Sardinia from the Bronze to early Iron Age.
On this trip, I only discovered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Sardinian history. Through exploring different wine regions, learning about traditional Sardinian masks and costumes in museums, and hiking from gigantic calcareous mountains down to the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, I got the sense that Sardinia is full of wisdom gained over many, many years. If you ever get the chance to visit Sardinia, I know you’ll feel the same.
Traditions are not lost here. Sardinians are definitely proud of their heritage and some even believe Sardinia is a country in and of itself. I almost have to agree because I have visited Italy before and can honestly say Sardinia feels quite different from the country on the mainland. I feel especially fortunate for my time in Sardinia because I was able to experience the island like a local since I was staying with my boyfriend’s family. One of my favorite nights in Sardinia was on my 30th birthday. We went traditional Sardinian dancing with Marco’s parents and their dance group who convene at a local church regularly for ballu tundu or ballu bardu, the traditional folk dances of Sardinia.
People still wear traditional costumes for dancing and for festivals. In the villages I witnessed the old tradition of widowed women wearing black for the rest of their lives following the death of a husband. So beautiful and so sad. Traditional Sardinian music is also still very popular. My boyfriend and his friends still listen to this music and I even watched as a group of older men busted into a traditional a capella song at a wine street festival one night.
My favorite part of Sardinian culture is the emphasis on community and family. We visited my boyfriend’s relatives in the village multiple times. And this was not just a visit to one house, but visits to multiple houses to spend time with everyone! Oh, and at every house you MUST eat and drink something, of course. While the experience was exhausting at first for this American from a tiny family, I grew to love the feeling of being part of a large family. Everyone tries to stay close. I was surprised to find that Marco talks to his sister on the phone almost every day.
We’ll be driving down the street or out running errands and bump into someone my boyfriend knows. People warmly greet you for both hello and goodbye as you are coming and going from a store, restaurant, or bar. For my birthday, Marco and his family threw me a party at the house in which at least fifteen people came over throughout the day. His mom cooked a four course meal, Marco’s friends who had just met me for the first time a week earlier bought me presents, and they even surprised me with a cake with pictures of me, my friends and family on the frosting! The way I was so warmly welcomed into an incredible group of family and friends even when I couldn’t speak the same language to easily communicate with everyone truly has me in awe of the Sardinian people.
Lastly, the food and wine here are AMAZING and imperative to every day culture. Whether you’re meeting at a bar for aperitivo or gathering around the table for a home cooked meal, eating is important. Quite hilariously, when people aren’t eating they are often talking about a meal they recently had or something delicious to be eaten soon. As can be expected, the pizza and pasta in Sardinia are phenomenal. On my birthday, the family took me out to a trattoria in Sassari to try traditional dishes of Sardinia. I had some incredible vegetable dishes and even some more adventurous ones like snails and lamb intestines (surprisingly good). You can look forward to some veggie recipes on the blog inspired by these typical Sardinian dishes!
I have been fortunate to stay in the house of an incredible cook! Homemade raviolis, pastas, and soups are regularly on the menu. We even made pasta together that I can’t wait to recreate for Marco when we’re in Australia. I’ve had the traditional dish of porceddu, a spit-roasted suckling pig, twice now – beyond delicious! Saedas, one of Sardinia’s traditional desserts made of fried pastry stuffed with a lemony cheese and drizzled in fresh honey, are also next level yummy. Fresh produce is grown at home and olives, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, yogurt, and all kinds of pickled vegetables are homemade. Many Sardinian families even make their own wine at home! To learn more about the wines and wineries I’ve explored while in Sardinia, check out this post and this one, too!
I’m not the biggest bread person, but one thing I will miss most at meal time when we leave Sardinia is pane curasau. This traditional Sardinian bread goes with every meal. People in Sardinia often actually have pane curasau with every meal. More like an almost paper-thin giant cracker than a bread, pane curasau has an extensive history within Sardinian culture. The recipe and methods for making pane curasau have been passed down from nonnas, to daughters, to grandchildren. I was lucky enough to learn how to make pane curasau with Marco’s family in an all-day bread making marathon. To learn more about the wines and wineries I’ve explored while in Sardinia, check out this post and this one, too!
While my month in Sardinia is coming to an end, I can definitely say this is a time in my life I will cherish forever. From being warmly welcomed into a family of truly good people to exploring beaches, mountains, vineyards and wineries with the love of my life, this past month has been one for the books! I can’t wait to visit Sardinia again during summer. Fortunately, I have a good excuse to return. 😉