Roberto Benetello, this week’s guest blogger, recently had the chance to spend a few days in Sardinia at the invitation of the local tourist board. Here he shares his experiences on Sardinia, its people and its suitability as a wedding destination.
Image Courtesy of Best Wedding Away
The island of Sardinia
After Sicily, Sardinia is the largest island in the Mediterranean and lies only hundred and sixteen miles to the west of Italy’s mainland. It’s more closely linked to Corsica in France, a similar but smaller island lying only ten miles to the north of Sardinia. Sardinia is many things rolled into one: white sandy beaches with a sea more crystal clear than the Caribbean; an open-air history museum with sites, artefacts, and architecture ranging from prehistory to modern times; a culinary tradition that delivers sublime sensations to the palate; a diverse landscape of mountainous countryside, green plains, deserted areas and of course rocky, sandy coastlines. Last but not least, Sardinia is the homeland of Sardinians: a one-of-a-kind, very proud and tradition-rich people with one of the highest percentage of centenarians in the world. What’s their secret? Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are working hard to find that out!
Image courtesy of Best Wedding Away
An island with a rich history
Sardinia’s rich historical heritage allows tourists to go back in time to almost 2000 BC, something which can be experienced when you visit the Nuraghes, a type of ancient megalithic edifice only found in Sardinia. During my trip I visited the Nuraghe di Palmavera near Alghero in the north-eastern part of the island. To date, it is still unclear what the exact function of the Nuraghes was. Many say that they were temples, others believe they were military strong holds. Many people believe they were used to carry out magical rituals, propitiations or religious ceremonies, related to a possible antique cult of celestial bodies. Entering these sites certainly triggers a wide variety of emotions.
World-famous Italian food
In Italy when somebody wants to impress you and convince you of the beauty of their territory they very often use food. In my four-day stay in Sardinia, it was as if I had attended eight, four-course wedding receptions. For those who are not great at maths, we are talking about thirty two courses in roughly seventy two hours, taking away air travel time.
Several areas across the island have their own typical bread. The pane carasau is a very thin, crunchy bread made with durum wheat, corn flour, baking powder and water and baked inside a bell-shaped brick oven. Pane carasau is eaten warm with olive oil and salt or together with a variety of typical Sardinian cheeses and cold cuts. A glass of red Cannonau or white Vermentino may complete a satisfying Sardinian aperitif.
Sardinians are very fond of meat which seems to be preferred to fish even though the proximity to the sea might suggest the contrary. I recommend trying the porceddu: suckling pig roasted on a spit on a myrtle- wood fire.
I spent a very entertaining night at the restaurant Sa Festa in the little village of Maracalagonis near Cagliari. While about twenty suckling pigs were roasting on the fire, we were entertained by a group of men and women dressed in typical Sardinian costumes.
Some of the women were making handmade ravioli filled with ricotta cheese, saffron and lemon zest which we were served as a first course in the evening. Some were playing the zufolo, a sort of flute which makes a sound similar to the bagpipes. Some were singing in the local dialect (incomprehensible to non-Sardinians) and others were dancing. The night ended with all the staff and clients dancing and singing together in a genuine, and not too alcohol-driven, joyful atmosphere.
My trip around Sardinia was totally biased by my professional interest towards wedding and honeymoon destinations. In fact, my looking around and talking to locals was aimed at discovering new and exciting wedding and honeymoon locations.
Four venues caught my imagination during this trip and I want to give you a little taste of them.
Faro Capo Spartivento
The first is the oldest and still functioning lighthouse in Sardinia, recently converted into a five-star, six-suite, boutique hotel. It is located on the southern coast, roughly an hour’s drive west of Cagliari and it is called Faro Capo Spartivento. The lighthouse is located on a cliff-top overlooking a coast line with amazing turquoise waters and small sandy beaches interspersed with steep rock faces that plunge into the sea. Symbolic wedding ceremonies can be organized in the areas around the lighthouse including on a nearby beach.
The backdrop of the second venue is in the Barbagia region in the heart of Sardinia, in the Supramonte district. They call it an Experience Hotel, its name is Su Gologone, a, rough diamond set in the midst of a breathtaking natural environment. There is something mystical and spiritual about this place. It is the perfect setting for those couples who need an authentic and sacred natural beauty spot to exchange their wedding vows. And yet, just 20 minutes’ drive away, lies the beach of Cala Cartoe with its rocks, fine sand and crystal-clear sea.
Hotel El Faro
The third location is the old Catalan town centre of Alghero, in the province of Sassari in north-western Sardinia. It is the only place in Italy with Italian and Catalan as official languages. This is a heritage dating back to the fourteenth century when Catalan settlers arrived in Alghero. It is also known as Barceloneta or ‘little Barcelona’. In fact, its historical centre resembles the Catalan capital on a much smaller scale. The historical town hall palace, with its beautiful function room, is the perfect location for a wedding ceremony. Aperitifs can be organized in a picturesque bar nearby and following a stroll through the old fortress bastions, the wedding party can reach the bay of Porto Conte by boat and continue the celebration at the Hotel El Faro.
Carloforte village square
Carloforte is a fishing village on the island of San Pietro, approximately four miles off the south western coast of Sardinia. This village was founded in the eighteenth century by 30 families of coral fishers from Genoa in Liguria. The population still speaks a variant of the Ligurian language, which is completely different from Italian and Sardinian, and is used even by most children and taught in the schools on the island. This is crazy but this is Italy!
Last summer a couple from London decided to have their big day in Carloforte. Somehow the couple managed to involve the locals in the organization of their wedding to the point that the wedding reception for 50 people was held in the main square of the town that was sealed off from car traffic for the day. The wedding day became a big town festival. The local band played local music and dancers danced the typical su ballu sardu. A wedding day like this is precious food for the heart, not just for the wedding couple but for everybody experiencing it – priceless memories to cherish forever. And to make something like this happen it is not just a matter of money. It takes love all around.
Roberto Benetello is the Managing Director of Best Wedding Away. With over four years experience and over 100 weddings of foreign couples organised throughout Italy – Roberto has acquired a wealth of experience in wedding tourism.
Best Wedding Away are experts in weddings abroad and would love to provide you with further information on your dream wedding abroad, perhaps in Sardinia. Contact them for a free consultation or read about wedding abroad on Best Wedding Away.
Sardinia can be easily reached from all major UK airports flying to Olbia, Cagliari and Alghero with several companies including low cost Easyjet and Ryanair.