Sardinia beckons with its crystalline blue waters and sun-soaked beaches, dramatic rugged landscapes, eclectic cuisine, and gentle, gracious people. It’s also a mysterious island filled with much to discover reflecting its unique history and geography.
Though the island is now part of Italy, Sardinia produced a culture distinctly its own over the last two millennia. The ancient Nuragic people were its first inhabitants, as far back as 1500 to 460 B.C., and their presence can still be felt in the 7,000 conical “nuraghe” megaliths they left behind.
And the island’s relative isolation has resulted in the development of native vegetation as well as animal species, such as the white donkey of the Asinara.
For those seeking distinctive gastronomic experiences, Sardinian food and wine offer culinary treasures galore. With over 1,100 miles of coastline and an abundant mountain interior, Sardinia features marvelous seafood (what would you expect, given its name!), rustic specialties like roasted pig, and unique breads and pasta preparations, including fregola – a cross between grain and pasta with a nutty flavor and texture all its own.
Moreover, Sardinia is known as one of the five locales in the world with the highest number of centenarians – those living 100 years or more. Why? In truth, there is no definite answer to this question. Some scientists believe that the secret lies in distinctive local DNA; for others, the answer relates to a lifestyle of pastoral simplicity along with Sardinia’s cuisine which epitomizes the healthful Mediterranean diet.
Another thing I especially love are the hundreds of murals, virtual open-air museums, that express Sardinia’s unique cultural identity, customs and traditions, daily life and even political discourse.
Renowned for their poignancy and immediacy, the murals found in the town of Orgosolo, painted in the 60’s, reflect the artistic verve of a group of feuding anarchists.
I hope this whets your appetite for Sardinia as you dream of and begin to plan a post-Omicron sojourn exploring the many cultural and natural glories of the Boot.
Nothing quite surpasses the grandeur of the Eternal City this time of year and it is difficult to recall a single person who has had a greater influence on the look and life of a city than Baroque genius Gian Lorenzo Bernini has had on Rome.
Sculptor, urban planner, architect, master of stagecraft and gesture, Bernini engenders awe in the beholder with his exuberant style.
Connecting the Eternal City to Vatican City is the Pont Sant’ Angelo, one of the most serenely beautiful bridges in the world. Bernini designed it as a “living” Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) to help pilgrims emotionally experience in the suffering of Jesus.
Bernini was able to transcend his preferred medium of marble to achieve visual and emotive effects never before imagined. A visit to the Borghese Gallery for me is always a “must” when in Rome. The astonishing Apollo and Daphne, Rape of Proserpina, and his David were all completed before he was 25 years old!
From 1667 on, pilgrims to St. Peter’s arrive at the grand elliptical piazza with its two burbling fountains and an Egyptian obelisk standing at its center and at the far end the façade of monumental Basilica. The piazza itself is encircled by two colossal Doric colonnades four columns deep with a total of 140 statues of saints lining it’s rooftop. This momentous piece of urban planning and architecture was the product of Bernini’s imagination; figuratively speaking he designed his colonnade to embrace pilgrims with in his words, “the maternal arms of mother church”
Venice seduces us in so many ways–with her watery, curving reflections; her hidden corners shot through with light; her disguises, her artistic creations inspired by centuries of tradition.
Casanova once walked La Serenissima’s calle and drifted down her canals, on the way to a tryst or an adventure. Let these images take you back into your own Venetian memories, your dreams and your desires. You might spy glittering glass beads through a window or sumptuous Fortuny fabrics sailing overhead. You might peer through doorways into other vistas. You might repose within the cool marble walls of a bright white church or duck your head passing beneath an arching bridge.
Venice beckons in the shape of gondoliers, maskers, artists, violinists, welcoming you to explore her secret streets and mirrored canals. Play in the shadows and in the light as it bounces off stone and water. Then meet up with your friends for an Aperol Spritz or a cool raboso. As the light closes out the day, toast to love, to beauty, to history, to Venice, grateful that we get to enjoy her charms.
(Grazie mille to Kathleen Gonzalez, author of Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps and other books celebrating and revealing Venice’s history and my dear friend Frank Yantorno for several of the dazzling evening photos.)