Sardegna is an island more than just geographically, but in ways both spiritual and financial, it also seems quite isolated from the boot. Only in the last 75 years has Sardegna been inhabited along its magnificent coastline due to the natural, marshy shores, which harbored malaria. This created a fiercely independent people who lived inland in the mountains and, for centuries, fought off invasion and piracy. Their lives remain similar to what they were a century ago. In the early sixties the Aga Kahn developed the Costa Esmeralda and it became the glorious playground of the chichi jet set. It still is, but only in this far, northeast corner. Driving on the four main roads is slow, at best, and on the peripheral roads, it’s even slower. However, the ancient rhythms and general lifestyle appear almost hypnotic and addictive, so a good visit takes at least a couple of weeks. One tip: fill-up on gas anytime you see a gas station, anytime….
You will arrive by plane to Cagliari, Olbia or Alghero, or by big boat to Porto Cervo. The food is as delicious as it is varied.
Driving west to Sassari, be sure to stop at the Santissima Trinita di Saccargia, a magnificent, former Camaldulian abbey built of black-and-white stone with a beautiful campanile and some gorgeous 13th-century frescos. Sassari is the second biggest town in Sardegna and has two restaurants of exceptional deliciousness.
Down to the nearly Spanish city of Alghero you will find beautiful beaches and a walled port city with a small-town feel and delicious and rare marine biology on the plate.
Sicilian born chef Sabino Cangialosi does a creative twist on classic piatti sardi like favetta, a delicious puree of cooked fava beans as well as culungiones, a potato filled ravioli whose name is based in the Catalan language of the Spanish invaders in 1295.
Il Cenacolo’s variations on raw seafood make a perfect antipasto. Spaghetti with the local arselle clams is supernal and the aragosta (spiny lobster) cooked simply in sea water and served with tomatoes, raw onions and lemon can bring me to tears of joy.
On my most recent trip to Andreni, I started with fried anemones and tiny mussels served with a salad offregola, the Sardegnan variation on couscous. A thin pasta with pecorino and bottarga seemed suspicious, but was perfectly balanced and the bottarga was remarkably softer than the ones we use in New York.