Sardinia has a very much new world Italian feel. People flock here for the crystal-clear azure-emerald Mediterranean beaches, not for the architecture. Although settled centuries ago there clearly has not been the strict building code that exist in other parts of Italy. In Tuscany, crumbling stone buildings are painstakingly restored with loving perfection to retain their charm. In Sardinia, the old buildings that can be found have grey cinder blocks on view where crumbling has occurred and reconstruction has taken place. The stereo typical Italian decor of Toronto neighborhoods predominate. In fairness, we didn’t do a lot of “sightseeing” of monuments or visit the larger settlements, but even the guidebooks don’t entice one to, nor did what we saw.
But what charm Sardinia may have lost in historic buildings and architecture is offset by the island’s remoteness, allowing it to have retained striking landscapes and natural beauty. Climatic conditions here hit upon an interesting balance between lush and arid, yielding an oxymoron of flora and fauna. Driving along serpentine roads atop ocean cliffs, you feel your are in the desert yet are surrounded by green. Cacti and bamboo grow almost side by side. Parched desert soil sprouts tall deciduous trees. In the distance up modest mountainsides, the landscape changes again, taking on a rocky and spartan tundra look. Huge amounts of lavender, Queen Anne’s lace and oleanders seem to grow both wild and manicured in gardens everywhere.
Staying in Orosei, just part of an area which was once ruled by the Baron Guiso family, luck was on our side in booking accommodation and we spent a week in a beautifully restored hunting lodge on 30 hectares of land inherited by a younger Guiso-Gallisei relation. Not only did we get the benefits of their beautiful home but we also had a fully stocked wine collection from their family vineyard. The cannonau reds are quite tasty indeed, and we depleted the entire wine rack.
Stella’s ever growing love of animals expanded here to include insects and mollusks. Snails were rounded up each morning and Stella rarely was found to be free of some sort of bug crawling on her body. ‘Weedy’ was the name of choice and when one Weedy escaped, a new Weedy was found to replace it.
Screens covered all the windows and doors to keep the outside out, but proved quite adept at keeping those inside in. One would think that the Foot clan, being from Canada, would know how to navigate screen doors, but apparently genetics run true as every Foot (with the exception of Stella) managed to put on a humorous display of dismantling the screen from its runner/hinge as they stumbled out entangled in it.
The beaches were amazing. Having ‘map-loving’ Grandad with us, we charted out sandy possibilities close to Orosei in search of perfection, and we found it several times over. The water colours varied from aquamarine to jade, sand consistency from small pebbles to silt. Some beaches had rock climbing perks where others had the perfect assortment of shells to collect. A great variation in entertainment for Oscar and Stella.
Although discovering a great restaurant in town (which filled our need for pizza and other Italian dishes) we cooked most of our meals at home. Rotating turns each night we dabbled in Italian cuisine and perfected the Penne All’Arrabiatta, Penne Pesto All Genovese and Butter and Sage Sauce. Italian cooking is our speed – very few ingredients, focusing on freshness not complexity.
Lost and Found
At the end of our stay here we lost Nanny and Grandad as they returned back to Canada, but we very nearly lost them before we even made it to Orosei.
Though we all took the ferry over together, we made our way to the lodge separately as we had already rented a car in Florence, while Gail and Chris had to pick up theirs after disembarking in Sardinia. Our drive down was uneventful, meeting the contact to take us out to the property right on time and without incident. But when another hour and a half went by with no Nanny and Grandad, we began to suspect what we half-expected might happen before we parted at the ferry — they’d gotten lost.
Time was getting on, so Stella and I headed into town to get some groceries for dinner. We were still on the long dirt road of the property when we caught a glimpse of Nanny and Grandad driving the other direction toward the lodge. I saw a brief image of a wildly excited Gail through the car window, waving frantically, and I thought, “Wow, she’s pretty excited to see us again!”…. but, wait…. was that a police car in front of them? Stella assured me that it couldn’t be the police: “Nanny and Grandad are good!”
Meanwhile, back at the lodge, Mart on the veranda with Oscar and Pru began to hear the sound of voices down below. Correctly surmising that his mom and dad had finally arrived, he was nevertheless surprised at the scene laid out before him as he got up to greet their arrival. Rather than seeing their black Peugeot hatchback, he saw a black Alfa Romeo with “Carabinieri” emblazoned on the side in white block letters. A shell-shocked policeman was sandwiched to the side of the car by the overwhelming embrace of Mart’s mom, her all the while repeating, “gracias, gracias” (no, not the Italian ‘grazie’, but the Spanish ‘gracias’). An equally stunned second policemen stood beside the first, recipient of a vigorous and lengthy hand shake from Mart’s Dad.
Although well prepared with turn-by-turn maps pre-navigated on an iPhone tracking their intended route as they drove, they had veered off course straight away, inadvertently taking the longer ‘scenic’ route. Nevertheless, they had successfully made it to the pin on the map, where the final instruction was to turn onto the dirt road, the only dirt road, and the only place you could turn, toward the lodge. Instead, fear stricken as they continued to drive away from the pin, they careened off the road upon sight of the local authorities setting up a speed trap. Somehow, miraculously, they badgered the unsuspecting, uncomprehending officers into providing a police escort to our premises. Though the officers spoke no English, the fact that Gail and Chris had the email with the name Guiso-Gallilei on it, and the Guiso family has owned the land in the surrounding area for centuries, some good police intuition made light work of the problem, and they could have been only too happy to escort the crazy tourists to the property and close the case. I imagine they are telling a similarly grand story to their friends and relatives too! And if we regretted not getting a photo of Santina in Arezzo, then we regret even more not photographing Gail as she smothered the Italian officers in hugs of relief as she arrived. Very funny indeed.
We sure are glad they made it, though, and the two weeks we had with them in Italy are bound to be the favorites of the trip for Oscar, Stella and Pru.