In 1929, the Touring Club of Italy reported that “Whoever travels across this island even if only briefly, will take away lasting impressions and memories of a way of life that is unique in all senses….”. I am very pleased to report that things have not changed. This island holds on dearly to a fiercly independent character, guarding traditions against modern civilization. Yet, from east to west, the island is amazingly diverse – from the glitzy yachts afloat in Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) to the quiet, colorful medieval zone of Sa’ Costa in Bosa. Inhabited since the Neolithic Ages, this land has been settled by invaders near and far. A constant stream of invaders – Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Barbarians, Vandals, Byzantines, Saracens, Pisans, Geonese, Spaniards, Austrians – has rarely left this isolated island to fend for itself.
The result is a proud, gentle yet somewhat protective group of inhabitants that are quick to share a smile (and a recipe). The translation for its name, Sardegna as it is known in Italian, is lost in the traces of time. It holds the lofty position as the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Surprisingly, its cuisine is primarily pastoral. Unlike Sicily, the people of the land headed inland away from the marauding pirates and invaders flocking to their shores. Pecorino (sheep) are stuffed on every piece of land from coast to coast. Sardinian specialities have arisen from the vast fertile areas inland – from their famous Pecorino cheese to their unusual breads, amazing pastas and to-die-for sweets. The fishermen of the island ply the waters for tuna, mullet (and their roe) and the famed lobster of Alghero. Next blog – we are off to the sparkly Costa Smeralda and some hauntingly delicious regional dishes. Over the next few weeks, we will try our hand at Zuppa Gallurese (a wonderful bread and cheese and more cheese concoction bathed in a rich broth) and the more challenging Culurgiones (a puffy ravioli oozing with yummy sheep’s milk cheese). Ci vediamo presto! See you soon!