Italy Journal – Northern Sardinia
Along the way to our accommodations in Northern Sardinia, we had lunch at a place called Red’s Bar in the small town of Chiaramonti. Inside the restaurant looked like any other bar/sandwich shop just about anywhere else. The bathroom was another story. One memory that will stick with me is the hole in the floor. Not just a toilet without a seat. It was a hole in the concrete. Even more charming was the small window at neck level (pre-squat), which still puzzles me. Luckily, squatting was not necessary this time around.
At an outside table placing our order, the waiter couldn’t understand my request for something “non carni”, so I got stuck with a proscuttio panini – basically a ham sandwich. Yes, all of the folks who know me as a semi-vegetarian (no red meat, including pork), go ahead and get your laughs out. It was all very entertaining to all of us, at least at first. Between the heat and the travel fatigue, opting out was not really an option because I needed something in my system.
Even before lunch, I was already a bit car sick from the constant left/right curvature of the road bouncing me around. This wasn’t Kristy’s fault, it was just the result of sitting in the back seat a bit too long, and we weren’t exactly driving a Lexus. In Positano the reason for the road’s serpentine construction was a coastline with an immediate drop of hundreds of feet. In Sardinia, even though we were nowhere near the sea at that point, it was the semi-mountainous terrain. It was similar to the most remote parts of Central and Northeast Pennsylvania. Except in Sardinia – unlike PA – I was tossing around in the back seat with a lead pig in my stomach. The after lunch portion of our trip to Aggius was a delicate balance of car sickness, potential food poisoning and the aftermath of the previous night’s wine and grappa.
We found our next stop, Il Muto Di Gallura near the town of Aggius just in time. It was in the middle of nowhere, and I hate to think what would have happened had we missed the barely visible turn into the small parking lot. We were off the GPS grid, so it’s likely we would have driven for another hour or so, in which time I would have surely made the back seat a whole new experience.
Il Muto Di Gallura, named after a mute outlaw, is what is usually called an agritourism location where tourists can experience authentic regional cooking and living. It’s a popular way to experience a country, particularly for foodies like us. Everyone is treated like family and you are basically living in the same environment as the locals. If Tarthesh was the most posh, this was the most rustic experience. While there were air conditioners in the rooms (sort of a necessity to keep the really soft tourists happy), everything else about the place was low tech. Extremely small bathrooms; small but efficiently designed bedrooms.
A much needed nap, shower and rest in our cool room put me in a better mood, but it would take me the next 24 hours to truly recover from the drive and the sandwich. I explored the house and grounds lightly, realizing at any moment I may need to go back to the room. Some of the farm dogs took pity on me and acted as my guide through the grape orchard.
That first night we met a couple from Britain – Jay and Vicki, both professors. They were tandem cycling across the vast Sardinian brownishness. They were the only other (native) English speakers. I was encouraged to pull the guitar out, but admittedly did not give my best performance. We also met Paulo, a friend and neighbor to the farm and a cork farmer himself. Yes, cork as in bottles. We had, unknowingly, stumbled into one of the primary locations in the world where cork is farmed. So over the course of the next couple of days we saw the trees and harvesting process, as well as many items made from cork that we hadn’t previously considered. It always seemed to me that cork was one of those substances that just sort of “exists” and I never paid it much mind.
The next few days were extremely relaxing – a highlight of the entire trip. The food was very good, grown or raised on premises. The farm also had their own local mierto and a wonderful mint aperitif. But aside from the foodie stuff, just roaming the farm was a treat. It was a snapshot of a simpler time, easily a location for a film of some sort.
One day we took a short drive into Aggius proper to visit a Sardinian folk crafts museum that Jay and Vicki had mentioned. This was true gem, and shed light on some of the otherworldly artwork and dress that we saw during our trip in the south. It was also the only place I could find some local music – on CD unfortunately, but it would have to do. A second stop at a gallery gave us the opportunity to see the looms in action on the regional rugs and tapestries that we had previously seen at the museum.
The second night back at the farm turned out to be better for me musically, as I was more rested and actually had a chance to warm up during the day. Paulo, the resident cork farmer, took a special interest in hearing me play. He also showed us a film about the local crafts and culture, featuring the same vocal group whose CD I purchased (Coro di Aggius Gallurra).