Sardinia, Italy. October 2 -9, 2019
Well, as I told Marco’s parents when I gave them a big squeeze last week, I’m back! Sono tornata! Back in Sardinia, Italy and so happy to be here with my love. While I’m kicking myself for not coming earlier in the summer, I’m grateful to be here and even more grateful that the weather is still amazing! Warm and sunny, blue skies, and insanely gorgeous views everywhere. My first week back on this gorgeous Mediterranean island involved winemaking, a Sardinian wedding, some religious concerns, and a move from village to city.
There are times in life when we just need to take a blind leap of faith and go for it because life is short! This move to Sardinia is one of those times for me. Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s a quick rundown of how I got here. Fourteen months ago, a handsome Sardinian man named Marco came to the winery where I was working to intern in the cellar for harvest. I had moved to Paso Robles earlier that year to pursue my passion for wine and was also working as a harvest intern with the winemaking team. I like to think Marco really came to California just for me. 😉 Long story short, we fell in love!
Following harvest, I came to Sardinia to meet Marco’s family over the Christmas holiday season. At the time, I understood little to no Italian, could hardly speak a word of the language, and Marco’s family doesn’t speak English (except for his sister). Despite all of this, they warmly welcomed me into their home and family. I learned there are all sorts of ways to communicate other than spoken language. My favorite of which revolved around Marco’s mom teaching me to cook Sardinian dishes.
After that month in Sardinia, Marco and I headed down under to work a vintage in the southern hemisphere in Australia. More specifically at a massive winery in McLaren Vale. When harvest was over, we spent time exploring wine regions around South Australia and Victoria, before heading back home. Originally, our plan was to stay in Australia the whole year but getting consistent work after harvest proved to be difficult with the work and holiday visa we had. So, I headed back to America and Marco came back to Sardinia.
Now, after four long months apart, we are reunited on this beautiful Mediterranean island. I’m looking forward to exploring more Sardinian wine, starting my business plan, blogging, and starting to speak Italian. Ok, now that you’re all caught up, here’s what went down my first week in Sardinia. It was an eventful one, a Sardinia wedding included!
Following around 24 hours of travel, including a nine-hour layover, I arrived in Olbia. Marco was waiting for me in arrivals and when we first saw each other, I think we both were in a bit of shock. Though we had seen each other over WhatsApp basically every day for the past four months, seeing each other in person was a surreal experience at first. Needless to say, we forgot anyone else was in the airport for a good five minutes before heading to Monti, the village where Marco works and was living. Monti is a small mountain village in Gallura in the midst of acres and acres of vineyards. Adorably quaint and totally gorgeous.
Night one called for my first pizza back in Sardinia, radicchio and gorgonzola, one of my favorites. Plus, a bottle of wine made by one of Marco’s winemaker friends. An interesting blend of Cannonau, a Sardinian variety, and Cabernet Sauvignon, an international variety.
Though I consider myself a world traveler and have traveled internationally on many occasions, I’ve never had jet lag quick like I did this time around. Well, maybe when we went to Australia. That was kind of gnarly. I think traveling forward in time zones makes it more difficult to adjust and I had such a hard time actually sleeping at night and waking up in the morning. Luckily, I had a couple of days to recover before experiencing my first Sardinia wedding on Saturday.
On Friday night, we headed to Sassari to Marco’s family home to stay overnight because the wedding was nearby the next day. I was happy to find I could understand Marco’s parents this time around and could even speak a little Italian of my own that they could actually understand. Go me!
In Sardinia, as in the rest of Italy, winemaking is a family affair and most families make their own wine each and every year. Marco’s family is no exception to this rule. Before having dinner, we headed over to his dad’s garage cantina so Marco could control the wine. This vintage, the family is producing Cannonau, Vermentino, and Carignano. I even got to assist with some additions and punch downs, getting my winemaking action in for the 2019 harvest!
After dinner, Marco’s mom wanted to be sure I was dressed appropriately for my first Sardinia wedding appearance. And though I had a gorgeous dress and a new pair of shoes, both of which I purchased just for this special occasion, the fashion show commenced. Dresses, jumpsuits, shawls, shoes, and sweaters from his sisters’ closet were all brought in for me to try on. We had a good laugh at “il negozio di Mamma Pina” or “Mamma Pina’s store” because it truly was about an hour of me trying things on for Marco’s mom before ultimately sticking with the dress and shoes I originally brought. Though Mamma Pina did hook me up with an adorable sweater and jacket for the outfit change that would inevitably come later in the night.
Il Matrimonio – My first Sardinian Wedding
A Sardinian wedding is an all-out experience. We’re talking a 15-hour event from the start of the ceremony to the time we headed home. To be expected, I guess, because any occasion that requires an outfit change is bound to be extravagant. The day started with Marco and I jetting off to meet up with a caravan of other cars. We drove through the winding backroads of Sorso to the bride’s house, horns honking, wedding ribbons adorning cars flapping in the wind. Here the beautiful bride was presented, along with her bridal party, and greeted by some of her closest family and friends.
Then we were off to the church! A ceremony for a wedding in Sardinia is nothing like an American wedding ceremony. We’re talking an hour long, maybe more. Some of the groomsmen speak, some of the bridal party, too. The bride and groom also did a reading from the Bible I believe. The priest had a lot to say, of course, and there was even an incredibly talented acapella group of Sardo singers singing traditional Sardinian songs. The ceremony lasts so long that people step out, head over to the bar for a caffé or birra, and then head back to the church. At one point in the ceremony, everybody in the church started shaking hands and saying “piacere,” which Marco explained was something about the community supporting the couple. Actually, I thought everyone was saying “piacere,” which means “nice to meet you” in Italian. When, in fact, people were saying “pace,” which means “peace.” I was the only one saying, “piacere.” Ha! We had a good laugh later at my mix up. Following the “piacere” incident, we headed to the bar for a caffé and returned to the church to celebrate the newly wedded couple, which involved confetti poppers and rice throwing. Then, everyone haphazardly lined up to kiss the bride and groom and wish them “tanti auguri.”
After the church, we were back in the car again and headed to Il Borgo degli Ulivi, a gorgeous villa, restaurant, and event venue that somehow managed to host around 400 Sardinia wedding guests that day. First, aperitivo by the pool, which included a selection of wine and beer, along with a whole table of fresh sushi, another table of everything fritto (fried), an assortment of seafood bites, salads, cheese, charcuterie, and bread.
Following an hour of aperitivo and mingling, we strolled over to another building where everyone sat down for lunch. Though by American terms, this dining experience was much more than just an average lunch. This was an almost five hour eating extravaganza which started at 1:00PM and ended around 6:00PM. However, Marco informed me, and I heard from many other Italians that this is not the typical Sardinia wedding lunch. I think the kitchen or event center was a little overwhelmed with the size of the wedding because there was a lot of time between courses. Here is the menu to give you an idea of what was served.
Basically, all of the antipasti were some type of cold seafood dish. My favorites were the insalata ai profumi di mare, which was a seafood salad with clams, mussels, and calamari. The polpi con cannellini e rucola (octopus with white beans and arugula) was also delicious. The gamberi al forno (large shrimp cooked in the oven) were insanely yummy, as was the risotto ai frutti di mare. A fresh lemon sorbetto even came out before the roasted pig and potatoes for a palate cleanser and digestive aid.
Honestly, everything was delicious, but I couldn’t believe the amount of food served! In between courses, we took some fresh air outside, played with babies to give their moms a break, and enjoyed celebrating the bride and groom with some parading around the dining room. One special detail I loved about this Sardinia wedding was that the family hired entertainers/babysitters for the kids, so the kids could play and the parents could enjoy the celebrations.
Once the marathon meal ended, everyone started getting restless and returned to the outdoor area near the pool where the celebrations would continue. As you can imagine after a meal like that, we all needed a caffé. But the staff wasn’t ready for hundreds of people to descend upon them again for the next part of the night. So, Marco, a couple of his friends, and I decided to drive to the bar in town to get our caffé. When we returned, the Sardinia wedding party continued with an open bar and a live band. Not to mention the tables of desserts available, a self-serve candy bar, and a gelato cart. The band actually rocked! Though I wasn’t familiar with any of the Italian songs, it didn’t matter. Music is a universal language. The musicians were great, the lead singer had a great voice, and I danced the night away with everyone else. I enjoyed watching everyone sing along and rock out to their favorite songs, just like we do in America.
The drinking, dancing, and eating continued. The outfit changes commenced so everyone could get down with their bad selves comfortably. At some point, the staff set up a whole table of panini (sandwiches), wraps, and tramezzini (triangular sandwiches). I couldn’t believe there was more food until I got hungry again at around 11:00PM after dancing and a couple of cocktails. According to Marco, this course qualified as dinner. At some point the bride tossed her bouquet and the groom tossed her garter, both familiar traditions.
The drinking, dancing, and eating continued. The outfit changes commenced so everyone could get down with their bad selves comfortably. At some point, the staff set up a whole table of panini (sandwiches), wraps, and tramezzini (triangular sandwiches). I couldn’t believe there was more fod until I got hungry again at around 11:00PM after dancing and a couple of cocktails. According to Marco, this course qualified as dinner. At some point the bride tossed her bouquet and the groom tossed her garter, both familiar traditions.
We danced and mingled under the moonlight until midnight when the bride and groom announced they had a special surprise for their guests. Everyone headed up onto the veranda and enjoyed a truly spectacular fireworks show! Then a DJ came out to play for about an hour and the dancing continued. By this point, there were about 75 people left at the wedding, all of which were from the groom’s village Anela, also the village where Marco is from. We shut the place down! Marco told me if the wedding was in the village, the party would have lasted all night until the sun came up.
The Rest of Week in Sardinia, Italy
Even though we were up until 2:00AM on Saturday, I still couldn’t manage to sleep. Stupid jet lag. So, I was struggling on Sunday when we headed into Anela. My Italian brain was not on that day. If you’ve ever learned a new language, you probably know what I’m talking about. Some days it’s there and others, it’s gone. We had lunch with Marco’s family and then Marco checked on the wine being made at his uncle’s house.
Then we went for a drive around Anela. We visited the family vineyard to get an idea of how many vines will need to be replanted this year. Hopefully I will be here to help with that! Then drove back to Monti.
Over the next couple of days, Marco went back to work at the winery and I got his house packed up in preparation for our move. I also played extensively with sweet Stella and her six new puppies.
One day Marco finished work earlier then expected and we cruised over to the other side of Gallura for a little wine tasting at Cantina Depperu. We tasted their Ruinas, a Vermentino IGT, and the Nebbiolo with one of the brothers who run the winery alongside the bottling line. We also tasted the Nebbiolo vinificato in bianco, meaning a Nebbiolo that is processed as a white wine, straight from the tank. The wine we tasted was still fermenting, but the man was kind enough to send us off with a bottle of the white Nebbiolo, so expect a blog post on that soon!
The apartment where Marco was living in Monti was on the bottom level of a family friend’s home. This older couple had lived in Monti their whole lives and the wife told me that they have been married for fifty years! Somehow, one afternoon I managed to sit outside under the Sardinia sun with her in their garden and carry on a conversation in Italian for 30 minutes or so. During which we talked about their life in Sardinia, how Marco and I met, and then we got on the topic of religion. Mamma mia! I consider myself a spiritual person. Though I don’t go to church, I believe in God, a greater spirit that connects us all, and I have a spiritual practice. However, my Italian is not advanced enough to explain this to a devout Catholic woman who attends church every single day. I managed to explain that my Yiayia is Greek Orthodox and I grew up in a Protestant church. But she must have been concerned for my soul because when Marco went back to clean up the day after we moved, she made sure to talk to him about my religion. Thankfully, he was able to appease her concerns. Grazie Dio!
On the evening of Wednesday, October 9th we moved to our new apartment in Olbia! More to come on that next week.
Un bacione! A big kiss!