Ciao chicos, here is my diary from a weekend in SARDINIA that blew my mind. You probably know but it’s an island off the coast of Italy (I didn’t know until a month ago) and they had a traditional carnival over the weekend so I went to check it out…If you are ever going to read one of my diaries, this one is short and pretty damn sweet!
I met a Sardinian boy with dark locks and a stretch earring on the plane over, and we joked at 8am on a Friday morning about the importance of living hard and dying young. He had hardly slept in two nights. In his weary state, I coerced him to give me a lift to the main town of Alghero, and I waved at his beaming mother and helped put the bags in the tiny matchbox white car and jumped in. She laughed through her cherry lipstick the whole way to town, translating through her son hints and tips on the best beaches and why not to hitchhike. I waved them goodbye and walked within the old walls of the city, a rush of familiarity shooting through my veins. Those complimentary pastel coloured houses, fading with grace. Moss covered cobblestones that unbalance your feet, the wafting smell of melting mozarella sweeping through the alleyways, rusting blue bikes thrown by the side of a house like an intricately designed film set. I sat down to a coffee and met Katrin. She’s a Lithuanian/Russian/kazakstani living in Milan and has her own tour guide business for Russians wanting to see Italy. We met each other through the couch surfing website and decided to travel together since we are both lone females in a crazy world. Two roasted eggplant and mozarellla paninis and a stroll under the rays later, we jumped on a bus to Bosa 40 minutes south. The ride was jaw dropping, camera fumbling, must cross off the bucket list type good. Cliffs spilling into the ocean like dominos as far as the eye could see. I tried to remember if the ocean normally sparkled like this one, and was as clear and inviting all along the Mediterranean. The closest country is Tunisia 30 minutes flight to the south, and Europe is a scoop of ocean away on all other sides. They call Sardinia the bellybutton of the universe, and the name fits perfectly.
We got to bosa and waited beside a yellow- flower filled paddock just outside the small town with a big castle for our Couchsurfing host Eugenio. He’s a lawyer from the other side of the island, and arrived in fresh jeans and jumper and moisturised skin to take us up to his mountain retreat. We wound past the ocean into the mountains, past cosy pizzerias, a nightclub and lots of holiday houses locked up for the cooler months. Driving through the mighty cobblestone hedges, we arrived at the house and I pinched myself and had flashbacks to that Julia Roberts movie under the Tuscan sun. The simple white house is tucked away amidst eucalypts on a ridge line that gives a great view of the untamed mountainscape. Eugenio opened the doors for the first time since September and we wiped away the dust and let the sun in, lit the fire and touched all of the trinkets and ancient photographs in his parents holiday house. We spent the afternoon wandering the lively streets of bosa- confetti the only sign that we are here in the festival season. The real party was due to start the next day. After sunset we collected everything to make an antipasto of local smoked cheese, ricotta and rich salami and sat in the beach house getting to know each other over red wine and Italian tunes. The next day Eugenio took us to all of his favourite places on the coast, and we trekked to castles, rock climbed volcanic surfaces, chilled in caves and even went swimming in the late winter water. I guess Aussie water is pretty cold anyway and it was not such a big deal for me, but Eugenio was jumping up and down shouting how proud he was of himself. A new record in February!
We lunched at an empty restaurant with a complete coastal cliff view, and I ordered pizza but couldn’t taste a thing because of my cold. But things could be worse. I leaned back and soaked up the sunshine while the other two chatted in Italian. I am surprised how much I can understand just because I am learning Spanish.
In the late afternoon we met the most active Couchsurfing host on the island, Matteo. He has hosted over four hundred people in his house over a three year period, and was here to stay with us for the night. We walked some more strange rock formations together and then got ready to party. I put on my warmest clothes to prepare for the night chill, and a black Afro wig and some charcoal on my face because it’s the tradition. Eugenio put on a brown priest robe and Matteo a red feather boa and I was starting to wonder what I was in for. In town the people were dressed insanely, in leaves like Tarzan and Jane, in fluffy caveman suits, men completely decked out as women and vice versa, people with masks and tables on their heads, rubber bums on shorts, muscle suits and the Mario brothers. The night was a blur of going into decorated open houses that resembled caves and drinking with Julius Cesar and then boogieing in the street with a sumo wrestler, feasting on chocolate brownies with toothless jail birds, finding a fellow Australian and deciding we must be the only foreigners on the island for this crazy festival. He fell in love with one of the gorgeous Sardinian girls and has been living here in utopia for five months. We chatted tony Abbott and Aussie slang and then danced the night away with the whole town of Bosa. It is supposed to be a tradition where the poor could make fun of the rich, but it has transformed into a pointless Italian fiesta, and I loved it.
The Australian boy and the Sardinian girl and the Lithuanian/Russian/kazakstani and the active couchsurfer and the lawyer Eugenio and I all woke in the packed beach house and shared breakfast and laughs for a few hours before driving south to oristano. Katrin and I jumped out and said farewell to the others, then set off to find the next carnival. I heard it had something to do with horses but wasn’t prepared for what we saw. The whole town plus more gather on a sand filled and side-blockaded street to watch decorated horses canter the street in threes while masked men perform acrobatics standing on their saddles. The crowd screamed with joy in the rain, and I couldn’t help but cheer on the adrenaline junkies masked under the guise of tradition. We munched on sausage sandwiches and hung over the side in awe, then walked around the busy streets laden with local produce and market goods, stalls of nougat and sugary local donut rounds. The sound of horse shoes tap dancing in the streets and the farmy smell of horse poo followed us in the dark as we walked to the train station. We parted ways and I caught a ride up to sassari in the north. A few weeks ago while travelling in morocco I met a wonderful polish girl who is now studying in Madrid. We caught up for breakfast the other day and I mentioned Sardinia. She said that her friend has a friend in Sardinia and I got the contact. I found some wifi in a drink fuelled cafe in oristano and sent a message to Giovanni Marco, who coincidentally comes from Sassari and just happened to have a place for me to sleep that night. He and his doctor friends picked me up from the train station and we went for a late dinner and had a truly great time.
I am sitting on the plane home now, and have just finished chatting with an American and an Italian woman who I saw on the plane here, at the bosa festival and to finish the cycle, we are heading home together.
What a journey for a long weekend. Fifty euros for the plane ticket and just fifty euros for three days travelling the Sardinian coast! Strangers opening their homes to me every night, complimentary wines from a goateed man in his small cave in bosa, neon orange sea urchin meat offered by a Sardinian couple collecting them on the rocky coastline, local marchivosa wine on tap at the carnival festival, food spreads in every open house party with chilli and garlic fava beans, pizza and beer followed by creme brûlée on the house with my sassari hosts, coffee and chocolate crossoints for breaky and most gracious of all were the huge smiles and heart warming hospitality that I received from every single person along the way. Grazi Sardinia, I will pay the favours back to the world!