A voyage in Sardinia 2011. Part 1

25/06/2011 19:04:14

A voyage in Sardinia 2011. Part 1

This year we planned our vacation in Sardinia in may. In the two weeks that we stayed on the island we visited the southwest and the west side of the island. In this first article of a series of three the account of our voyage to Sardinia from the Netherlands. In the second article we will tell you about our stay near San Giovanni Suergiu and in the third and last about our stay in the province of Oristano, at Terralba.
We started out from Amsterdam and travelled by train to the airport of Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands. This small airport is a base for Ryanair where flights depart directly for Alghero, the airport of Fertilia in the northerwest of Sardinia. Dutch trains have become the living incarnation of efficient commuting for workers with laptops and lean briefcases. In fact it is impossible to store your luggage anywhere making it for travellers a very inconvenient experience. If you are lucky there is only one place where the seats face each other and where there is enough space to place a suitcase between the seats. I recall with some nostalgia the italian trains, people boarding with heavy suitcases and packages tied together with rope, lifted by perspiring, panting men to shove their burden in the racks above their heads, the heat in the cabin with the smelly seats sticking to your hands and clothes, and then finally a faint warm breath of fresh air when the train started moving. No, the dutch have neatly polished away any romanticism of travelling behind lila seatcovers and synthetic panels and racks where a only a working man's briefcase fits in. Only foreigners with their luggage are still real travellers, filling the compartment with their innocent discourses.
Efficiency has it's advantages if you want to arrive at destination in a short time as possible, for us the voyage is part of the vacation. You may even meet interesting people. In fact we did at Eindhoven. A small-scale airport permits chance encounters with people you know. The flight itself took less than two hours, and we talked with our neighbour, an emigrated Sardinian who had lived most of his life in Holland and now was retired. He told us all about his departure from his home village, his work, his children, his wife. Interesting stories from people you may never meet again. Even if the airport of Alghero is as small-scale as that of Eindhoven you will still eventually loose sight of your companion passengers.

The town of Alghero
The town of Alghero
The first thing I usually do is take an espresso at the bar. There is nothing like drinking an espresso at an Italian bar. Next we went for our car. It happemed that we were last in line and that took in the end more than an hour. Not because the line was long and not because the operators did not speak english, it was the uncertainty of the customers in deciding whether to add an extra insurance which made each reservation take more than ten minutes. Most customers were induced to take the additional insurance frightened of the prospect of an accident, damage or theft of the car, and to have to pay a large sum. I guess most of them never scratched the car as much during their visit in Sardinia. When finally we were given the keys of the car dusk was falling. I had foreseen this and booked a hotel nearby the airport so we would have time to grab a pizza. Even then it took us some time to find the hotel which had just changed name, the sign along the road still flashing the old name as we passed. However in the end the hotel turned out to be perfect for us. In Fertilia, just a mile or so down the road, we found a nice restaurant where we could enjoy a pizza and a beer.
Abandoned house
Abandoned house
That Sunday we would travel south. That would be about 300 km by car so we had plenty of time. Our first concern was to find a supermarket to get some lunch for the road, so we drove to Alghero. Here several shops are open on Sunday, even at the market you could buy fresh vegetables and fish. A visit to any fish or vegetable market in Italy is for me a feast for your eyes. After having bought our lunch and ofcourse water, we strolled downtown and made a few pictures of Alghero. Then we had planned go to Olmedo to visit the archaeological site of Monte Baranta. That turned out to be somewhere in the middle of nowhere, not very well indicated and at some turn we found ourselves at the entrance of a stone quarry. That was the point we decided to regain the road and travel east, via Ittiri and Thiesi. In the month of may the environment is enchanting, all green, everywhere flowers, the artificial lakes, the waterreserves for Sardinia, filled to the rim, and everywhere breathtaking views of the landscape. At Thiesi I saw in a flash a sign for the church of San Pietro di Sorres and turned left to climb up the hill. Usually around these rural churches there is a nice spot to have a picknick. In fact it turned out to be a beautiful church, part of an old monastery. As it was lunchtime the church was closing for an hour so after our picknick we decided to go for a bar to get a coffee and return to visit the church. The village of Borutta, not a particular touristic place, was at less than a kilometer in sight of the church. Once there we saw in a wide side alley the sign of a bar and some people outside so I pulled over the car to park it a little ahead along the road.
San Pietro di Sorres
San Pietro di Sorres
We greeted the men, one of them leaning against his Ape parked in front of the bar, all with a beer in hand. Any uncertainty on our part was immediately swept aside by the men who invited us to enter the bar. We were most welcome. Inside half the space to the left was occupied by the bar, the other half by other men leaning against the wall. Glasses in hand or half empty on the bar next to a plate with cheese. The walls were draped with photographs and manifestoes, behind the bar the endless row of bottles of all kinds of drinks. It was lunchtime and the hard and not or no longer working villagers met at the bar to exchange the news of the day, give their opinion on politics or discuss the last game of football. We ordered our two espresso but before we could take a sip the men interrupted us. Whether we would like to taste the cheese one of them had brought, homemade pecorino, but before we would drink our coffee. We accepted the kind gesture. The piece of cheese with the piadina (a type of flat bread) was delicious. We thanked the men and finished our coffee. When we left one of them asked us about the reception at the site of the church of San Pietro di Sorres, he was interested in learning the opinion of tourists he explained us. We obliged him although we did not have a chance to take a guided tour as we still had to visit the church, but were very impressed by the historical site. And so we returned to the hilltop, an experience in Sardinian hospitality richer.
The church of San Pietro di Sorres stands high on a hilltop. In medieval times it was surrounded by houses, long since abandoned and gone into ruins, leaving only some traces around the church and monsatery. The guided tour would start much later so we decided to visit the church and then head to our destination. In the end we arrived at 6.30 PM in San Giovanni Suergiu at the agritourism just outside the town.

A voyage in Sardinia 2011. Part 1

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