By Corey Sandler, Silversea Destination Consultant
“Sardinia, which is like nowhere. Sardinia, which has no history, no date, no race, no offering.
“They say neither Romans nor Phoenicians, Greeks nor Arabs ever subdued Sardinia. It lies outside; outside the circuit of civilization.”
Those were the words of D. H. Lawrence in his book, Sea and Sardinia.
Not fully true, although it certainly is an unusual place.
Sardinia is part of Italy, while its neighbor Corsica is part of France.
Although: French Corsica is closer to Italy than France. While Italian Sardinia is closer to France (at Corsica) or Tunisia than it is to Italy.
Preparing for Holy Week in Alghero. Photo by Corey Sandler
Much of the architecture and a bit of the culture is still heavily influenced by the Spanish and the Habsburgs who ruled here for many centuries.
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean. Only Sicily is larger.
Scattered around Sardinia are thousands of megalithic ruins known as nuraghes in Sardinian or nuraghi in Italian. The name is believed to come from an old word meaning heap of stones, or confusingly, a cavity in the earth.
In any case, they are usually located in panoramic or strategic locations; about eight thousand have been cataloged, but perhaps 30,000 once stood.
The Nurgaghes at Primavera. We know very little about the people who built them, or their purpose. Somehow, though, thousands of them have remained standing, without benefit of cement or mortar. Photos by Corey Sandler
They date from the middle of the Bronze Age (18th-15th centuries BC). Many were in continuous use when Rome entered in the 2nd century BC.
We don’t know much more. They may been used for religious purposes or as military posts, or both. And we know little about what are known as the Nuragic people.
Outside of Alghero is the fortified town of Castelsardo, founded in the 12th century by the Doria family.
The original castle is still there, although modern structures crowd around the base of the hill.
About 20 minutes by car is the limestone headland of Capo Caccia.
The name literally translates as “head hunting”; in context, it’s the hunting lands at the cape.
At its base is one of the local sights-to-see near Alghero, at least for the tourists. Neptune’s Grotto: the Grotta di Nettuno.
The cave was discovered by local fishermen in the 18th century, and named for the Roman god of the sea. Somewhat like the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri, the entrance to Neputne’s Grotto lies only around a meter or three feet above sea level at the foot of the Capo Caccia cliffs.
And for those of you who are fans of bad horror movies, you might want to make a pilgrimage to Neptune’s Grotto to honor a renowned work of cinema.
Above Neptune’s Grotto at Capo Caccio. Photo by Corey Sandler
In the summer of 1978, the decidedly unclassic film Island of Mutations, was filmed there. The Italian title for the movie was L’isola degli uomini pesce. The Island of the Fish Men. A combination of a horror film, a Western, and a wet t-shirt contest.
The movie’s stars included the American actress Barbara Bach, whose first claim to fame was being the Bond girl in the 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me.
But her other, enduring claim to fame is her marriage to former Beatle Ringo Starr, at last report still ongoing after 33 years.