Sardinia (2014)

Lene and I flew to Olbia in northern Sardinia for a week’s holiday in 2014. We hired a car and drove beyond the Costa Smeralda where the filthy rich with the young and beautiful hang out for debauched summers, almost to the northern tip of the island, to a town called Santa Teresa di Gallura. We rented rooms in a country cottage through an organisation called Agriturismo. There was a panoramic view towards the sea from the garden at the cottage, there were bougainvillea and cacti and there was a family of cats and kittens springing around. We walked along the beaches and around the extraordinary rock formations that dominate the coast.

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Although it was early October, the weather was warm and there were several small towns where we could get good meals: pizza and pasta and ice cream of course. We didn’t have to drive far to get to impressive scenery. It was fun to just hang out and watch the locals too!

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One day we took the ferry from a town called Palau to the nearby island of La Maddalena, which had been a major NATO navel base. But the sailors have moved on and the base has been closed, so the island is trying to re-invent itself as a tourist destination. The big attraction on these islands is a house and farm where Giuseppe Garibaldi, the hero of Italian unification, was based from the 1850s until his death in 1882. Returning from exile in Latin America he was involved in a series of military campaigns against the various powers that ruled different regions of what became Italy, culminating in the defeat of the Bourbon rulers of Naples and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Garibaldi was a contradictory character it seems, combining skills as a soldier and as an inspiring leader, with views that were ahead of his time such as support for women’s emancipation and racial equality. He was also a vegetarian and teetotaller.[1] There’s a statue of the great man sitting on a bench on a piazza in La Maddalena’s main town; I sat next to him while Lene took some ‘photos.

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[1] The Risorgimento (revolution) and Garibaldi’s life and works are summarised in a useful survey called the “Pursuit of Italy” by David Gilmour (Allen Lane, 2011).

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