Mild amusement. That was the expression on the face of the desk clerk as I approached with maps and guide books in hand. ‘Dimmi ‘ (‘tell me’) he said with a wry smile on his face. It was my last evening on the eastern coast of Sardinia and about to head west to Alghero early the next morning across the interior of the island. I have to admit that I was a tad nervous as it would be about a 3 or 4 hour solo drive in unfamiliar territory. So I figured that I had better have my little ole’ directions pretty well understood given my penchant to gaze off into the countryside unaware of very large 18 wheeled trucks riding my tail with headlights blaring. Memories of one hair-raising drive from Montalcino to Rome airport one very early rainy morning reminded me that the Italian truckers ARE all Formula One drivers – 18 wheels or not. But I do get the occasional Italian lesson while driving – I very clearly learned that ‘SENSO UNICO’ translates to ‘ONE WAY, SHITHEAD’ (ok, they used gestures and a few different words) while driving the wrong way down a street in Naples. But I digress; apologies. My chat with the clerk did not ease my worries. I did not need my Italian Websters to translate words like “Attenta!”. So, off I went – very early the next morning hoping to avoid “rush hour”. Well, as it turned out – piece of cake! Yes, it was a rather busy two-lane highway that was almost a straightshot across the island but once my Italian blood woke up, I was passing 18-wheeled trucks with the best of them. Nothing like the exhilaration of realizing you could be flattened at any second by oncoming traffic should you not quite make it around a big lumbering truck. Great fun!
The interior of the island has very little in common with its sparkly, sandy cousins on the coast. It is a landscape predominated by lush, green cork forests and some rather unfriendly looking cliffs. (The soft, brown exterior of the short, scrubby cork oak is stripped from the waist down once every 10 or so years. Ninety percent of Italy’s bottle corks hail from Sardinia.) Every possible inch is covered in cute, furry sheep. I have read in the news about a ‘methane tax’ being imposed on farmers in New Zealand due to the amount of methane ’emmissions’ from their herds and flocks. 8 cents per sheep. Hmmm, with 3 million sheep on the island, that could be some nice pocket change for the island. The day was turning out to be somewhat cloudy and a light cool mist hung in the air, shrouding the peaks in mystery. I could envision little villages tucked away in these hills – far away from the invaders that once roamed their shores – and understood why the Sards had become the farmers they had.
So you might be wondering about that cow up there on the left? As I headed to Alghero, I took a few detours through the isolated villages clinging to the hillsides. As I approached one village deep in the hills, I was confronted with Bessy here toodling up the middle of the road headed straight for my front window. I grabbed for my camera and realized after taking the shot, that my car windows were down and this little number was not stopping. I frantically put up the windows and waited – hoping she and her little friend behind her were just out for a friendly romp in the countryside. They both chugged right by my driver’s side window, glaring straight at me as they passed. My nervous chuckles turned to pure laughter when a few minutes later, further up the road, a little Italian man in a suit went flying by my car riding a teeny, tiny donkey with rope in hand. I silently cheered on Bessie and her friend as they headed for freedom.
I arrived intact late morning in the pretty little village of Alghero. The town’s name is derived from the word ‘alghe’ or seaweed that blooms within its tranquil azure waters. The town has a very strong Catalan influence after years of colonization by the Spanish in the fourteenth century. Catalan is still spoken by the villagers, who are a much quieter version of their mainland Italian breathern. I recently read that there is a very strict prohibition against any violation of the afternoon siesta in the home. Aaaah, if only in America….
Although the day remained chilly and windy, I spent a few reflectful hours playing along the magnificent sea walls. Realizing that I was famished, I settled on the outside patio of Il Vicere for lunch. Although wanting to try the island’s famed ‘aragosta’ (lobster), I settled on the Spaghetti alla Bottarga, a dish unique to Sardinia. Bottarga is made from dried mullet or tuna eggs, shaped into long bars, dried and then grated over pasta. My dish was heavenly – fresh pasta in a simply elegant sauce of clams and tomatoes with bottarga shaved on top. (My waiter was a close heavenly second.) After lingering over a double shot of espresso (the waiter had maybe a little to do with my lingering), it was time to head off to my next stop – the village of Bosa and the wild stretch of coast that lay between here and there. I was completely unprepared for both the amazing views that lie ahead (as seen in the photo above) and the peaceful, romantic town of Bosa. A true feast for the senses….more in the upcoming blog on this amazing little fishing village.
Well, off to Bosa we go! Ci vediamo presto!