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Sardinia Scouting with Wild Sage

Buongiorno June 1st! Summer is almost here, and with it comes a very full tour season for me -- my first year as co-boss of Wild Sage!

Both Manu and I have been working long hours at our respective "offices" (me at my home in Florence and Manu in Rome) and finally got out for a joint scouting trip to the island of Sardinia. We're developing new itineraries (hiking, history deep-dive, multi-sport, etc.) so set out to explore from tip to toe in ten days.

It's the second largest island in the Mediterranean, only slightly smaller than Sicily but considerably larger than the French island of Corsica to the north. And it has so many archaeological sites that there's a petition to get the whole island classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Our trip began in Cagliari (pron. "CAL-ya-ree"), the island's capital, where we picked up our rental car. We were told we couldn't drive off-road -- not even on gravel -- since so many people abuse their vehicles trying to get to wild beaches, but we were there to research walking trails so we nodded, winked at each other, and headed out on our adventure. One of our first hikes was the rugged and surreal northwestern tip at Capo Testa, which even features some columns that didn't make the cut to adorn Rome's Pantheon!

The spring sunshine warmed everything up nicely though the crystal-clear water was still cold:

We saw some beautiful wildflowers, like these rock lillies, some fluffy poofs that Manu called "mouse tails" in Italian (code di topo), and some fascinating orchids that masqueraded as bees to lure insects:

Sardinia has a long and fascinating history that goes back millennia, when massive stone structures were built by a people whose history is shrouded in mystery.

These great stone towers were built between 1800-250 BC by the so-called Nuragic people, about whom little is known aside from their art and architectural constructions (they had no written language). There are over 7,000 "nuraghe" scattered around the island, some in rubble but others in multi-room complexes that reveal a rich and complex society.

Their use isn't always clear and they were most likely the standard form of construction, part fortification, part meeting hall, part sacred space. And they would fit right into the Medieval landscape of later centuries!

Our journey continued to the west coast, where we visited the ancient Punic (Carthaginian) settlement of Tharros, later Roman, and eventually capped by a Spanish watch-tower. It was an extremely windy day so we walked a bit but then took refuge in the car.

That coast is known for its unusual beaches, which shine gold & pink from grains of quartz in the sand:

We stopped to check out some marvelous hotels along the way...

We saw some cool murals, which have become common in lots of Sardinian towns now. They usually represent local traditions, like the granny shooting off her rifle to celebrate Easter (as you do 😁), a grandmother and her granddaughter, and a "Robin Hood"-style brigand who was beloved by the local villagers.

And of course we sampled lots of local food, like the delicious fried pastry called seadas. They're stuffed with cheese then fried and topped with honey. And Manu loves them!

Among the other things we ate are: fregola pasta (sort of like a big couscous), culurgiones (potato-stuffed pasta with tomato sauce), and this amazing platter that went past us but did not go unnoticed!

Lots of home-brews too, with cool labels:

That label references one of the amazing bronze statuettes found in tombs around the island. Below: a warrior who is so fierce he has 4 eyes and 4 arms; a "Tribal Chief" who holds a broad sword and has a dagger strapped across his chest; and the touching "mother with wounded warrior."

They're also from the Nuragic period, and this one is amazing in its detail as you can see that one wrestler has pinned his opponent to the ground face-down: you see the chest-dagger on the front of the kneeling figure and the back-sash along the back of the pinned figure, whose arms are being held back.

At the Archaeological Museum in Cagliari you can see those figures and even older ones, like these gorgeous images of female figures, or the Mother Earth Goddess, from Neolithic times (you know I love a good museum, and can see all of my museum posts here!:

Our scouting continued though the weather got worse, and eventually we donned our ponchos and slickers and went to find trails through fields of prickly thistles. The only way to find out if a trail works is to HIKE IT, so off we went.

The plot thickened as we passed a flock of sheep who were guarded by several large and intimidating Maremma sheep dogs. We steered clear and continued uphill on a steep path until I felt a twinge of pain in a bad knee. Afraid to do more damage, I opted to turn around while Manu continued to the summit -- and all the while dark clouds amassed on the horizon.

"We'll stay in touch!" she said as we separated, "I just hope I don't run into more dogs by myself!" I agreed and started on my slow descent. I passed the same Maremma guard dogs on the way down and four of them started towards me, barking loudly. I took a high road through some brush and eventually left them behind, and reached the car just as the first drops of rain began to fall. Without minutes, however, I heard a bellowing outside and saw a herd of cattle moving towards me, with a bull letting out repeated territorial claims.

Eventually I heard barking from up the hill, which meant that Manu was on her way back down and had run into the dogs. She sent a message that she was skirting around them in the woods, and I texted back "Okay, but watch out for the BULL!" 😬

Manu with some of the friendlier animals we met :-)

Scouting is often one of the most fun parts of the job as we're out seeing new places and don't have to worry about anyone but ourselves, but it can also be exhausting, frustrating, or a total waste of time. How many times have we gone to explore a new hike that leads into a dead end or a wild goose chase?!? We've battled rainy days, blasting wind, cheap hotels without any windows, damaged ankles and knees, and a meal that consisted only of lettuce and corn because the bar owner didn't have any other food! Lunch is often a sandwich in the car and dinner might be a salad next to our computers:

By the end of the day our heads were spinning from over-stimulation, with a mishmash of place names in our heads... (here below: Bosa, Alghero, and someplace I've already forgotten 🙃)

And I tried to remember which archaeological sites belonged to which historical time frame, like this amazing ziggurat-style temple that goes back to 4000 BCE! Could it have been influenced by cultures in Mesopotamia?? Anything's possible!

It even had a massive stone menhir (standing stone) as well as this dolmen (flat stone) that was used for animal sacrifice and had drainage holes for the blood to run off...

Or this Domus de Janas ("house of the faeries), or underground tomb, built to simulate an actual wood-beamed house. Was this 1000 BCE? Too much swirling around in my head!

It was beautiful how the daylight shone in and illuminated a circular patch on the ground, perhaps the gateway to the afterlife??

Or the magical circle of standing stones that tempted me to step through them and time-travel, or the thatched hut where our ancestors would have gathered for meetings or around a fire, or the well that drew you back into the water like a return to the womb...

What would our distant ancestors make of our world today? What would we have to say to these faces, imploring the gods to help relieve their headache, stomach ache, or erectile dysfunction??

What would they think of us now, where we can have a self-driving car deliver our 3-D printed fish-sticks?? (two stories I heard in the news this morning) 😮

I know my trip to Sardinia in two weeks will be full of sunshine and laughter and days out on the water, but this scouting trip was like a deep immersion into the distant past and I woke up every morning from crazy dreams full of noise and people and mayhem. But on the last morning, just before my alarm was set to go off, I heard Manu's voice say "Hey look, what's over there?" and my eyes instinctively followed her outstretched finger to see what was on the horizon...

Thanks for joining me on this adventure, and let me know if you're interested in our Sept 16th tour (with Manu) or if you'd like us to organize something for 2024! My work email is or subscribe at to receive our newsletters (short and infrequent 😎).


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4 comentários

Marc Shapiro
Marc Shapiro
03 de jun. de 2023

Thanks for the continuing journey of discovery ... lots to see!

Claire Duiker
Claire Duiker
03 de jun. de 2023
Respondendo a

Thanks! There sure is a lot to see, and I want to see it all!!


Janet Schilling Mowery
Janet Schilling Mowery
03 de jun. de 2023

So interesting! I love your informative, fun, and beautifully written blog posts. Thanks!

Claire Duiker
Claire Duiker
03 de jun. de 2023
Respondendo a

Glad you liked it Janet!! 😊

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