Getting Cultured in Sardinia

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Getting Cultured in Sardinia

While technically part of Italy, on Sardinia, you can feel like you have entered a whole new world.  The island, surrounded by the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, is home to a distinct, rich culture that you just have to experience to understand.  With their own language, unique music, and distinct culinary traditions, Sardinia can definitely feel like a separate country from Italy.  In fact, the Sardinians are one of the only two groups recognized in Italy as poplo, marking them as “distinct people” with their own heritage beyond Italy.  If you are planning a trip to Sardinia, you’ll want to experience a bit of this unique culture yourself and luckily there are a lot of ways to get a taste.


Italian is spoken throughout the island of Sardinia but in addition, the island is home to a number of other languages and dialects.  The main language, other than Italian, is Sardu or just Sardinian.  This is not just a dialect of Italian but actually represents a unique brand of the Romance language family.  The language is further split, with different dialects of Sardinian spoken around the island including Campidanese, Logudorese, and Gallurese.  Knowing Italian here is your best bet for communicating across the island but why not learn a few phrases or greetings in Sardinian?  It will give you a little glimpse into the culture and help you better connect with local people.


The musically traditions of Sardinia are rich in history and an important part of the local culture.  Cantu a tenore, a local form of folk singing, is thought to be one of the oldest forms of vocal polyphony in the world and in 2005 was declared a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage tradition.  The unique sound of cantu a tenore has also attracted international musicians like  Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel, who came to learn and record the style.  On Sardinian there are also a number of distinct music instruments that are an integral part of their traditions and festivals, especially the three piped launeddas.


The people of Sardinia are known for living long healthy lives, with many Sardinians reached well beyond the age of 100.  A good part of this is thanks to their diets, rich in local vegetables and olive oil, with a healthy side of good proteins in the form of cheese and milk.  Meat, especially red meat, is eaten no more than once or twice a week on average and every meal seems to include a glass of rich, local wine.  As a traveler, the food of Sardinian can seem a bit simple but that is where it’s true beauty lies.  Subtle herbs and spices combine with truly great ingredients to make popular dishes like culurgiones and the national dish, suckling pig which is often cooked over an open fire for large family gatherings and weddings.  Consider signing up for a cooking class on the island and perhaps you can take home some of that ancient knowledge that has lead the people of this island to be some of the longest living in the world.


The best place, as a traveler, to experience a mix of all the above uniquely Sardinian traditions is at one of the island’s many yearly festivals.  The Sardinians are known for being very laid back, relaxed, healthy people but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to have a bit of fun.  Festivals here are time honored traditions, cherished by communities, and attended by everyone from toddlers to teens to grandparents.  The Sardinians are fiercely proud of their traditions and celebrate with all the passion and love they have for their homeland.  Festivals are a great place to see traditional costumes, eat local food, hear old Sardinian songs passed down through the generations, and just experience true Sardinian culture.  Sa Die de Sa Sardigna, or Sardinia Day, is held in April with festivals large and small found throughout the island.  Other popular festivals include the four day long Sant Efisio, which is considered one of the largest religious festivals in the world, and the summer L’Ardia di San Costantino, a large ritual horse race.

Photo Credit: Ogliastra via photopin cc

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