Thursday 15 May 2014

A home-stay holiday in southern Sardinia

Gabriella's B&B outside Calasetta, Sant Antioco.
Since we arrived in Italy last year we've been attempting to learn Italian.  A very slow process for me! Although I enjoy attending classes at Spazio Lingua, a language school in Milan, the appeal of an Italian immersion experience grabbed me when I read this article about a home-stay in Sardinia (Click HERE).
Stefano and Gabriella on our last day.
Stefano was easily persuaded when I mentioned vino Sardo e pesce fresco for an Easter break. 
The port of Calasetta on the island of Sant Antioco with Sardinia in the background
Our destination was Calasetta, a town on the small island of Sant Antioco and the home of Gabriella, our hostess and Italian teacher for our week of holidays.
Homes in Calasetta.
Every morning Gabriella greeted us with a hearty breakfast, chatting to us over coffee, while we made plans for the day.  She encouraged us to use our limited Italian vocabulary, and was endlessly patient. Gabriella was also a wealth of knowledge about the history of Sardinia and in particular, the unique and interesting histories of Sant Antioco and the neighbouring island of Sant Pietro.

Gabriella's family have lived on Sant Antioco for several generations.  Her cosy home is actually the renovated end of a large barn, one of the many farm buildings which her father left to his children. As a child she spent her summers helping on the farm, while during the school year they lived in the town of Calasetta, less than five kilometres away.  With her family Gabriella speaks a Ligurian dialect of Italian, not Sardo, the Sardinian dialect, which is spoken less than 10 kilometres away in the town of Sant Antioco. We found it fascinating to learn a little of the distinctive history of Calasetta and Carloforte  which were settled by people from Liguria back in the mid 1700s.

On Easter Sunday, we joined most of the town in the main square of Calasetta to watch the traditional procession.  Two statues, one of the risen Christ, and one of the Virgin Mary, were carried into the square from either end of the town. Their arrival was greeted by town brass band and by gunshot rounds fired by three keen marksmen from a rooftop over looking the square.
Once the priest blessed the statues, half the crowd joined the procession down the narrow streets and into the church, while others in their Easter Sunday best, stayed chatting with their neighbours.
From this brief introduction to Calasetta we noticed that we were the only people in the square capturing the Easter traditions with cameras.  Gabriella had explained that the tourist season in southern Sardinia is brief, just July and August with a sprinkling of tourists in September, so we'd arrived well before 'the season'.
Main beach of Calasetta with banks of seaweed.
For those who would like to swim in the beautiful beaches of southern Sardinia, Gabriella's tip is to come during late May and June when the weather is warm and the crowds are non existent. 

On Easter Monday we drove north to Oristano.  Gabriella tried to warn us about the "strade tortuose" but we didn't listen.
After over three hours negotiating sharp bends and windy roads we understood.  Arriving in Oristano just in time for lunch we found the town almost deserted. Then we drove on to the Roman ruins of Tharros, where it seemed the entire population of Oristano were to be found, ambling along the rocky paths enjoying the beautiful day.
Easter Monday, Pasquetta is traditionally a day for Italian familes to enjoy a short trip and to picnic on leftovers from their Easter Sunday meal.  Tharros was obviously a favourite spot.
After this long day of driving we listened more attentively to Gabriella's suggestions.
Here are some of her other tips:
 Take the south coast road to Chia for spectacular views of cliffs and beaches. 
Stop often.
Enjoy the slower pace of life in southern Sardinia.

Another great tip from Gabriella was to take the ferry from Calasetta to Carloforte on the island of Sant Pietro!

  Grazie mille Gabriella for sharing your home and your island with us.  Ci piaccono molto!

If you'd like to get a little taste of our Easter Sunday morning in Calasetta here's a little video of the procession accompanied by the town band and vollies of gunshots.

Arrivederci da Sardegna.