Daily Life in Sardinia

Daily Life in Sardinia

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Fluminimaggiore

The location of my apartment was very unfortunate. It was located along one of the streets that cut the town east – west. Even though it was not the main street, the traffic was pretty heavy. It did not bother me during the day, but the late nights and early evenings were particularly difficult to enjoy. In the late evenings, some youngsters trapped in this city drove their scooters just outside my windows. Over and over again. Luckily, the town acknowledged siesta thus between 1:30 pm and 5:30 pm the silence cut all noises. I guess the level of the noise would be easier to deal with if only I did not normally live in a small and very quiet village.

Apart of the traffic the walls and floors of this old house were exceptionally thin. In the night, I had an impression there were people in my room who were talking, laughing, playing cards and, when the booze finished, they were snoring. This was so loud! This was not a surprise then that I often woke up early and went out of the apartment to hanging around a bit in the early morning.

Murals in Fluminimaggiore, Sardinia, Italy.

Murals in Fluminimaggiore, Sardinia, Italy.

First couple of days I was sleeping better than during the rest of my stay because of being exhausted by the journey and by the heat. Unfortunately, after three days I was struggling with falling asleep every night. I wonder if other travellers and tourists has the same problem.

Morning

My favourite moment of every morning was 7:00 am. At 7:00 am the bell from the church rings loudly announcing the day officially has started. And suddenly, every sound rises its volume: the town wakes racily up. The shop around the corner opens its door with a smash, the trash collector throws glass to his car with a sharp noise and the dog starts barking at everything he sees. The bell continues ringing: a melody of Ave Maria announces that the day has started and that everything that happens today will praise the Lord.

Cleaning of the main square in early morning, Fluminimaggiore, Sardinia, Italy.

Cleaning of the main square in early morning, Fluminimaggiore, Sardinia, Italy.

After 7:00 am the bars are open and flooded with the residents. All of them needs a modest encouragement to start the day. Coffee is one of their daily treats. A quick check of the lottery raises their blood pressure too. Worst case scenario, a glass of cold beer wakes them up. The town in the early morning with trash vehicle collecting glass and scooters driving around makes a curious impression. The poverty, visible at every corner is mixed with a rush of the residents eager to start working before the heat of the day hits them.

There are dogs with no owners hanging around and the cleaning ladies sweeping the streets. When a vehicle collecting glass takes another load, the people in the bar shout like if their team scored in the game. I am not sure where does their enthusiasm come from.

There is a hairdresser just in front of my temporary house. It opens at 7:30 am with a loud greeting by the owner to passing people and opening the sunblind. The frequent customers start coming. The door is open and a conversation sparkles. A loud greeting, a noise made by hairdryer and the scissors cutting hair is mixed into an everyday melody of this town. All windows and door along the street is open: people try to catch some fresh air before the heat come. The bell rings again. It’s 8:45 am and all should be working by now. The sun will silence everyone after the noon. The heat will be unbearable by then. It warms the walls, stairs, roofs and air so the main effort of all resident will focus on keeping their houses cool. They will close the door and the windows, they will keep drinking cold water and eating fruits. They will not rise their voices and before it’s 1:30 pm all will be silent again.

The town wakes up. Fluminimaggiore, Sardinia, Italy.

The town wakes up. Fluminimaggiore, Sardinia, Italy.

A small town routine

Everyone has a small garden here. This is the secret method of flourishing despite the odds. We saw hundreds of small gardens outside the town while driving here and there and they are a prove that all depends on water. If a small field is watered the vegetation is as lush as in the tropical garden but if the water is scarce everything is burnt out. The main task here is therefore watering the garden. In the mornings and early afternoons, the local farmers try to sell their fruits and vegetables in small booths along the main road. Sometimes in the town there are door opened and few fruits are being sold there, directly from the farmers. It strings the process of production and consumption to the minimum. From the garden to the table the distance is really short. So green and eco!

Mural in Fluminimaggiore, Sardinia, Italy.

Mural in Fluminimaggiore, Sardinia, Italy.

People here are nice. We get often questioned about our stay in Fluminimaggiore and almost all locals ask whether we go to the beach today. It was weird at the beginning and I thought we have some beach related objects or dress that would suggest our intention of spending time at the beach. When I heard the same question again I thought there must be a pattern. And there is. The locals are convinced that the beach is the only attraction for tourists and to keep them happy all you need to do is to send them to the beach. Thus, when we declared we have no intention of spending our holiday at the beach they looked at us in a suspicious way. Fortunately, we speak Italian, which always helps.

Celebrations

And so the life goes rather slowly here. It has a certain charm, though, of a tiny place where everybody knows each other. It seems like they all know their limits, which includes even a quantity of bread baked daily. When I go to the bakery after 10:00 am there is very little left. Every day the same people buy the same things and thus a baker has an easy task and does not worry about producing too many focaccia or bread. Also, the other shops offer a scarce number of objects. Shops are closed for a siesta break and some of them do not open in the evenings as people, in most cases, spend it in a pizzeria or in a bar.

The only serious disruption of their habits is feasts and celebrations. It is confusing, though. I am still not sure if a brake of a routine is a long-awaited event or do the local people prefer to stick to their routine. Or maybe rare but regular celebration became sort of routine they appreciate? In any case, Sardinia is a challenge for the tourists. This island will make you following its routine.

Fluminimaggiore

A local celebration of the Ferragosto feast.

There are some places in this world where tourists enjoy a considerable freedom of whether they prefer to follow their own habits or not. In many cases, you are free to eat pizza in Australia, hamburger in Italy and würstel in the US even though it is not recommended. Try to eat pasta in New Zealand and you will know why. Sardinia, on the contrary, will leave you nothing to decide upon. Either you appreciate the Sardinian way of life or you will find yourself in a hell here. And I’m saying it as a great fan of this style and as a follower to this lifestyle to the very last.

I love waking up early to use the freshness of the day, just like I take a nap after a simple lunch even if this is not my habit. I adore staying up late and enjoying local music and feasts and the only thing I find hard to manage is the heat. But all the habits of this island keep me safe and sound with no real issues caused by the heat. Just like the locals, I try to avoid the heat by all means.

Read the next episode soon.

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Tempio di Antas, a concert of classical music.

About the author

I get easily fascinated with people and places. I am passionately curious. I get often seduced with the beauty of nature. Blue sky, pure water, white snow and endless horizon seams to be enough to make me happy.

View all articles by Agata Mleczko
  • Lionel

    Thanks for sharing your travel experience. I always thought that Sardinia is about beach and luxury hotels. It’s really nice to see that there are also places more authentic and calm. I’m might visit it one day :)))

    • Oh, you should and I hope you will! Sardinia is an amazing mix of many super interesting things. Plus it’s very close to the European capitals so the flight will not take long.

  • Maria

    I also think that Sardinia is not about Costa Smeralda and that it is truly challenging! I read an article some time ago about poverty in that region (http://www.west-info.eu/poverty-in-sardinia-poor-families-economic-hardship-social-exclusion-financial-crisis/comunicato-csv-sardegna-solidale-poverta-famiglie-povere-crisi-economica-esclusione-sociale/ ) and I was in shock. We are talking about a part of Western Europe. I’m curious if you can elaborate more your experience about that social aspect.

    Thanks,
    Maria

    • Cesare Brizio

      As I said in my separate reply to Agata, I tend to react negatively to the word “poverty”, that I still deem inappropriate for the situation in Fluminimaggiore and in Sardinia in general.

      Foreign visitors in Sardinia are puzzled by two facts:

      1) one of the most beautiful places on earth isn’t still completely exploited in terms of tourism, with particular reference to the Costa Verde (south-western coast) that Agata visited;

      2) one of the richest Italian regions in natural resources (minerals, agriculture, water, wind) does not (or doesn’t anymore) harbor a thriving industry.

      There are historical reasons why Sardinia – since the times of Ancient Rome and even before – was stripped of its resources by external cultures. Oversimplifying a little, and with notable exceptions, Sardinians have a tradition as breeders and farmers. The XIX and XX century boom of the mining industries provided an opportunity for change. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long and took an heavy toll on the environment as well as on the people. Not a farmer anymore, not a miner anymore – not much different to what happened in the coal districts in northern europe.

      Currently there is heavy underemployment, there is a continuing history of migration towards continental Italy, and those who remain make their living in agriculture, commerce and tourism.

      In that respect, I can’t see an actual “lack of wealth” (the most widely accepted meaning of “poverty”) because most people I know here have a way of life that I would gladly change with mine. Life here costs less.

      A wonderful climate (a little hot in august, I agree…), almost everybody has a vegetable garden or has a neighbour selling zero food miles products, attitude is relaxed, there is the same range of social diversity as in the rest of Italy (Mercedes as well as Fiat, villas as well as small apartments). Some people prefer to keep the façade of their houses unplastered, and this makes an ugly sight. Decrepit or dilapidated houses are side by side with more recent or brand new houses… In short, mixed emotions, lack of urban refinements. And yes, lack of employment, migration. But as far as I can see poverty is not a defining trait of Sardinian society.

  • Cesare Brizio

    As the person who guided Agata in his Sardinian experience, I respectfully dissent from two passages: I wouldn’t say that poverty is at every corner, but rather that many Sardinians live a simpler lifestyle than other Italians (it’s true that in terms of Gross Domestic Product, Sardinia is relatively poor and unemployment is a big problem, but I wouldn’t say that you get a general impression of poverty; on the other side one can’t deny that infrastructures are underdeveloped and that big industry escaped from the island after grabbing most of the resources). Secondly, it seems to me that the comparison with hell that Agata makes is a little too harsh: fortunately, she succeeded in taking the pace of the Sardinian way of life! On my part, I always found my stays enjoyable even in the Barbagia, where some specific etiquette is needed not to hurt the sensitivity of people, and even more enjoyable in Fluminimaggiore and in the Campidano, where the attitude is unconditionally welcoming.

    My last observations: if you read Agata’s post too quick, it may seem that Sardinia has an extremely hot climate throughout the year, but this is not the case (winter and spring are cool as in all southern Europe, autumn is fresher than summer). Even in summer, most Italians from the Padan plain, including me, find the heat of Sardinia (much more dry and often mitigated by the wind) much more pleasing than the wet and suffocating summers of the Po valley.

    A final note of caution: Agata is carefully describing many facets of her stay in a single small town in Sardinia. But you already got the point: Sardinia is diverse, it has been aptly defined “a small continent”, with an infinite variety of landscapes and traditions (and soon Agata will let us know something about local culture!). So, all one can do is talk about a “tile” in a much bigger “mosaic” of geography and culture. Personally, I think that even the most skilled and experienced traveller couldn’t grasp the whole big picture of Sardinia. On my side, I didn’t get it in 30+ years…