Why I Visited Sardinia in Cold, Rainy Off-Season
Lorella and Gianni thought I was crazy. “Come back in the spring,” they begged, “Everything is beautiful then!”
They felt bad that most of the tourist attractions were closed in Western Sardinia, and that it had rained incessantly on my trip. But I was as happy as a pig in mud — like the pigs on the agriturismo (farm) where I was staying.
The Antidote to the Turkey Coma
I had a week to travel for Thanksgiving. I detest the holiday; my family never had a big tradition around it, and now that I’m free from the obligation of having to attend in-law dinners for the holiday, I love to travel in November. I had American Airlines points enough to go to Europe. I didn’t want anywhere too cold. I love Italy, but wanted something a little different. While Sardinia is part of Italy, it’s an island and has its own culture (and dialect).
In the summer, Sardinia is the it spot for the rich and elite. I am neither. So I went off-season when I knew the place wouldn’t be swarming with Kardashian lovers. I also chose to stay on an agriturismo rather than in a hotel. Why? I figured an agriturismo would give me more of a real-world experience. Yeah, sure, I had visions of milking cows and harvesting olives in my head, though the most farmy thing I did was visit the nameless pigs who might soon become prosciutto.
A Slice of Italian Life
Another reason I chose an agriturismo — specifically Agriturismo Sirimagus near the village of Tratalias — was because of the reviews on the website. Each one spouted how amazing and welcoming Lorella and Gianni were, and I really wanted that warm experience where they wouldn’t default to English and treat me like a distant hotel guest.
I could not have anticipated just how warm a welcome I would receive. And this in spite of the fact that the very first thing I did was run into their brick arch!
Each evening, the three of us sat down to dinner. While the agriturismo can accommodate maybe 12 or more people, I was the only guest. Off-season, remember? Lorella cooked half the day (she loves it), and we enjoyed homemade pastas, seafood fresh from il mare, chicken, fruit from the garden, and a lemon cake. Gianni is a sommelier, so the wine was always top-notch. And once they introduced me to a couple of digestivos — mirto, which looks like blueberries and is turned into a kind of grappa and crema di limoncello — those became my nightcaps.
All Alone and Loving It
One of my goals with taking this trip to Sardinia was to have my first fully-solo trip. I’d had a day here or there on previous trips on my own in between meeting friends, but this was to be all Susan all the time. Surprisingly, I ended up a lot less alone than expected when I met a charming Italian man on the plane headed to Italy, who I then chatted with (and continue to talk to!) throughout my trip!
But I did drive for hours all over the region known as Carbonia. Sometimes I was trying to go to a tourist attraction like one of its many grottoes (underground caves), but inevitably they were closed. So I drove on winding roads at the cliff’s edge, the water just below. I veered around gentle giants of mountains in the mist. I listened to a lot of Italian radio. I stopped in the rain to take photos of the wet beach. I thought about possibilities with The Italian.
I ate a few meals by myself, something that has never come naturally to me. But you know, it was okay. It made me push out of my comfort zone and talk to people. I told a man in a bar that the delicious cappuccino he’d put in front of me (costing about $1.50) would cost about $5 in the US. That blew his mind. We chatted more. People were curious about me, an American who spoke maybe more Italian than they expected, here, alone, when no other tourists were around. I rather reveled in the attention.
Best Language Immersion Experience
I am amazed at how much my Italian improved in just a week, thanks to two-hour dinners completely in Italian, listening to the radio, and learning how to whisper sweet nothings in a language not my own. Whenever someone spoke to me in English, probably out of courtesy, I politely forged on in my babyitalian. I’m not fluent by any means, but I can’t believe the high-level conversations I had. I talked politics. Culture. Religion. All in my fourth language, and one I’ve only studied a few years. But when the passion is there, the language flows.
When I left the agriturismo, I left a few items of clothing I didn’t want and didn’t have room for, along with a note for Lorella, instructing her to give them away. She texted me later: I washed your clothes and will keep them for you so that you come back.
And you know what? With such warm, caring people waiting for me, I just might go back.