Whew, the heat wave continues over southern Europe! Sardinia’s beaches are crammed, of course, but it’s still possible to find secluded corners like this one at beaches near bosaPorto Alabe, and up the coast from Bosa towards S’Abba Druche, where the smooth rocky coast assumes an almost lunar quality – it’s a great spot for a secluded picnic.
At any other time (i.e. outside August), we like to venture further afield to the marvellous sandy strands around Sinis, an hour down the coast from Bosa, much of which is part of a protected marine area (Area Marina Sinis), restricting, for example, most water sports and the lighting of fires.
Included within the protected zone is the tiny isle of Mal di Ventre, 10km out to sea. The origin of its odd name (“stomach ache”) is uncertain, but, in view of the fast winds that can make for rocky sailing conditions hereabouts, it may either refer to seasickness or be a corruption of Malu Entu, dialect for bad wind (of the gusty – not gutsy – sort!). The island is uninhabited, though the remains of a double-towered nuraghe testify to occupation in prehistoric times. Boats call here daily in summer from Mandriola and Putzu Idu.

A client asked us for a week’s archaeological tour of Sardinia—followed by three days in Corsica. ferry to corsica Going round some of our old favourites in Sardinia was a blast, but this was a first visit to Corsica for us and allowed us some fascinating comparisons between the two islands.
The sites in Corsica were all in the southern half of the island, and mostly menhir sites: three places around Cauria, and Corsica’s most famous prehistoric site, Filitosa. stantari menhirsThe sites at Cauria—menhirs at Stantari and Renaggiu, and an impressive dolmen at Fontanaccia, all within easy walking distance of each other—were well-signed and easy enough to find, but the Palaggiu alignment, stranded in a sea of maquis, was quite a challenge, forcing us to double back over the same stretch of road numerous times, knocking on doors and flagging down cars. Eventually we tracked it down, completely unsigned as it’s on private land. Apparently it’s the largest menhir concentration in Corsica, consisting of 258 of the megalithic stones, many lying on the ground and all seemingly utterly abandoned.
Reaching Filitosa after this was a doddle, and a delight. A shady area menhirs in corsicaencompassing grassy meadows and thousand-year-old olive trees, it has beautifully restored menhirs, some with clearly defined facial features, some with daggers and swords incised on the stone.
On the whole, however, I find the menhirs in the Laconi area of Sardinia more impressive – OK, I’m biased.
Nonetheless, it was a great expedition, well worth doing, and Corsica is almost as lovely as Sardinia. Only one question: where are all the sheep?

giants of ,ont'e pramaA recent excursion took us to Cabras to see the formidable nuraghic sculptures of Mont’e Prama. Found on the Sinis peninsula in the 1970s, newly restored and displayed, they are the only stone nuraghic sculptures to have been unearthed anywhere and have been painstakingly reassembled from some 5000 fragments.

Forty-four statues were originally found, of which 25 have been restored, mainly representing warriors and boxers. Much mystery still surrounds the statues, but their effect is undeniable, with the heads showing hypnotically staring eyes, while some have their arms raised to hold shields. Other finds from Mont’e Prama include large models of nuraghic towers.mont'e prama giants nuraghic sculpture

You can see these marvels in the archaeological museums of Cabras and Cagliari. An extension to the Cabras museum is on the cards, which will eventually hold all—or the majority—of the statues and models.

Once the bandit capital of Sardinia, Orgosolo, deep in the interior, is now better known for its murals. We set off there on a brilliant morning, arriving at around 11, then got snapping.on the road in sardinia

Most of the murals dwell on past injustices, but they also take in world events, such as the destruction of the World Trade Center and the global economic downturn.

Though still a fairly run-down and neglected place, there are signs of regeneration in Orgosolo, cultural excursion to Orgosoloand there’s a constant trickle of camera-toting tourists.

The murals are brilliant by the way – inventive and witty.
After a wander, we ended up in Il Portico, a basic trattoria staffed by the friendliest people, where we ordered plates of pasta served with a wild boar sauce. Terrific.

Aldo’s hands-on Italian cookery lessons were the highlight of a great sardinian cuisineweek. Who’d have thought making pasta was so simple? The afternoon flew by and afterwards we ate the fruits of our endeavours – ravioli stuffed with courgette and ricotta, three types of bread rolls, fresh seafood and Aldo’s melt in the mouth crab soup, washed down with a glass or two of Vermentino (local wine, goes down nicely, and cheap to boot).
The house was perfect – up a cobbled street in the old town with a beautiful view of the sea from our balcony, ideal for watching the sun go down over a sleepy Bosa.
archaeological toursApart from the food and drink, Sardinia is a fascinating place, as we learned from various archeological visits. The earliest inhabitants of Sardinia built mysterious towers that dot the landscape and we visited one of their sites as well as a Carthaginian/Etruscan site – Sardinia seems to have been occupied by everyone at one time or another.
I liked the way this holiday combined history and activity, and we had enough chill-out time for strolling, swimming, and extended breakfasts on the balcony. All in all an excellent week.

La Cavalcata, one of Sardinia’s biggest non-religious festivals, was a real humdinger this year. Taking over Sassari, the island’s second city, it’s an unmissable occasion sardinian festivalsfor anyone interested in the island’s traditions. The morning sees a long costumed procession representing towns and villages throughout the island, each group in their traditional garb. Walking or riding through the streets, resplendent in their tunics and dresses, the men and women sporadically break into folk dances to the accompaniment of accordions. Some of the costumes are particularly theatrical—not least those belonging to some of Sardinia’s obscurer mountain villages…

festival in sardiniaThe afternoon is devoted to feats of equestrian prowess at the local race-track, with teams of riders—completely unprotected—performing jaw-dropping feats, climbing onto each other’s shoulders while hurtling along at full gallop. The element of control is truly traditional sardinian dancingimpressive.
After supping royally at the superb Bella Blé restaurant, we headed for the grand Piazza Italia, the venue for traditional folk dances and unaccompanied singing.