Explore the Region…Sardegna

Sardinia has much evidence of the Phoenician period, from archaeological sites to the gastronomic tradition.  The salted fish for instance, the basic ingredient for merca and bottarga.  Our journey through Sardinia starts in the Campidano region and this means arriving in Cagliari by ship.  The city lives in total harmony with its harbor.  Among the numerous interesting and worthwhile places to visit is the Grotta della Vipera, a Roman funerary monument built by Lucio Cassio Filippo for his wife who offered the Gods her life in exchange for curing her husband from malaria.

It is time to sit at the table.  A Sardinian meal often starts with a seafood appetizer.  We recommend burrida — a broth made with gattuccio di mare (a type of shark), parsley and walnuts, and bottarga — dried fish eggs from tuna or grey mullet.  We start by trying sa fregula, a thick bran kneaded with lukewarm water and then made into small pellets and served with mussels and clams, panadas sonsist of a type of pastry filled with vegetables, meat or eel.  Grilled fish is a popular second course.  From the cheese platter we have selected Fiore Sardo, a raw milk sheep cheese.  A wine worthy of drinking with the Fiore Sardo is produced in Mandrolisa, the area between Gennargentu and Barbagia, which in fact give its name to a local DOC red and rosé wine.  The meal is accompanied by the thin crispy carasau bread made from unleavened dough and baked twice.

Sardinia, itself, a large island, includes othe minor islands as part of its territory.  San Pietro Island lies on the south-western edge of Sardinia and Carloforte is its main town.  The cuisine reflects it anciant history, a successful blend of Ligurian tastes and Arab lfavors.  The Arab influence is found in the cashcà which, as opposed to the Tunisian traditional couscous, is only served with vegetables.

Leaving San Pietro Island and passing through Portoscus we reach Oristano, a town of Phoenician origins and land of the famous Vernaccia, a traditional local wine.  We continue our journey to the north.  In the outskirts of Abbasanta it is worth visiting the Lora Nuraghe, from the pre-Punic period.  We come to a crossroad: keep on traveling north, toward Porto Torres, or northwest towards Ostia.  The final destination (which can also be the starting point) of the main Sardinian road network are none other than the three main Sardinian ports: Cagliari, Olbia and Porto Torres.  We choose the latter.  The road does not run along the eastern coast although you can catch distant glimpses of it.  The road passes through Logudoro.  In the Middle Ages, this region was a giudicato (a Sardinian medieval kingdom) and its capital was Sassari.  This is where the Processione dei Candelieri (the Candle Procession) takes place on the 14th of August, a suggestive parade of nine wooden candles representing the town guilds.

From Sassari we take a detour to one of Sardinia’s jewels: Alghero.  People speak Catalan here.  We then pass through the northern side of the island, arriving in the region of Gallura and we make a brief stop in its main town: Santa Teresa di Gallura.  This is the furthest north-eastern edge of Sardinia, and here in Gallura a pleasant white wine is produced – the DOCG Vermentino di Gallura.  Moving towards the eastern coast we reach the famous, beautiful and VIP-crowded Coast Smeralda.  Leaving the Costa Smeralda and passing through Olbia, with the eastern coast on our left, we head for Nuoro to get a taste of Sardinia’s DOP Pecorino cheese.  The fresh pecorino pairs perfectly with a glass of Vermentino di Gallura DOCG, while the aged version fits better with a Cannonau DOC produced from the vines of the same name.

Barbagia has a long tradition of sheep rearing and the ricotta gentiel is a delisciou product of this tradition.  Do not miss the aranciadda nuorese, a traditional cake made with almonds and candied oranges.  On the way back from Nuoro towards the coast you can pass through Orosei or Dorgali and then move south to Cala Gonone.  This is the National Park of the Gulf of Orosei and Gennargentu where our journey has come to an end.