Monday, May 7, 2012

Italy: Spring 2012: Thursday, May 3: Day 9: Cagliari

Italy: Spring 2012: Thursday, May 3: Day 9: Cagliari 

Another beautiful day....we breakfast outside at the Coco Loco and then drive up to the Castello where the Archaelogy Museum (and a number of other museums) are located.  The district is also the home to the University and has many picturesque narrow streets.

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After a bit of driving around before finding a parking space, we have a short walk to the Cittadella dei Musei, a complex that also includes includes the art museum and the Museum of Siamese Art - behind this impressive entry arch.

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We get in free....speciall consideration for the over-65 set.  The museum is in a modern building and is well lit: the displays are very attractive but there is little English explanation as we make our way from room to room on the various levels.  The museum is organized by digging site, not chronologically.  We especially like the recreation of the "tophet"--a open burial area where the remains of babies were placed in urns.

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the statues called "bronzetti" which are very old statues that are very detailed and expressive;

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especially these wrestlers.

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The star of the museum for us is this stelae from Nora which is the first recorded written evidence of the name Sardegna--dating from about 8000 BC.

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Since we are in an archaelogical mood, we decide to drive about an hour north of Cagliari to see Su Nuraxi.  Sardinia is famous for its "nuraghi"--there are over 7,000 of these stone buildings scattered all over the island that date back to as early as the 13th century BC.  It is generally believed that most of these structures were used for early version of a castle.

Su Nuraxi is the one of the largest and is distinctive for its village of stone houses that are attached to the main building.  The main building was 20 meters high but the top part has been scavenged for other buildings over the years so it is now only 14 meters tall (about 45 feet).

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The visit involved climbing to the top along a modern iron stairway 

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and then making your way down through the middle on more precipitous steep stone stairs.

On ground level inside the building, there is a well and the entrances to surrounding towers that were added on in later years.   The stone construction (no mortar was used) is quite ingenious

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It is possible that there are still many more nuraghi to be discovered.....there are many "hills" that may yet be excavated to uncover more of them.

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We take back roads to and from Su Nuraxi...we are driving through the Campidano plain, a major agricultural area.  The gentle rolling hills are punctuated by rock outcroppings and flocks of sheep.

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fields of wild flowers

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and flocks of sheep.

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(Confession: the three pictures above are not mine.)

We eat dinner at Sa Piola, a stylishly rustic trattoria just up the street from the hotel and a favorite of the people at our hotel.  The menu is written mainly in Sardo so we depend on the owner Claudio for help in ordering.  We share an appetizer of fried meatballs and vegetables that are nicely prepared and delicious.  When we ask about some of the ingredients, he heads to his computers and googles the answer for us.  I have a pasta with a red sauce from the Campidanese (very light and fresh) and Diana has a Sardinian orechiette-like pasta with shrimp and artichoke--both very tasty.   Diana has an apple tart made with Sardinian pane carasau (the crispy bread known as "carta musica") and we drink a local red wine recommended by Claudio.  A very nice meal....

Tomorrow we are off for a drive along the southern coast to the island of Sant'Antioco.....

Jim and Diana

PS I did forget a major event from yesterday's report...we did find a laundromat and now have clean clothes.

Italy: Spring 2012: Wednesday, May 2: Day 8: Cagliari

Italy: Spring 2012: Wednesday, May 2: Day 8: Cagliari 

A bright sunny day but it is a bit too cool to have breakfast outside at the friendly bar next door to the hotel.  Le Suites sul Corso doesn't have a breakfast room but gives coupons underwriting breakfast at neighboring bars.  The staff at Coco Loco are very friendly and one speaks excellent English.

We get in the car and head west from Cagliari along the sea, enroute to Nora, the Phoenician/Punic/Roman city about 30 km from town.  The beginning of the trip passes a lot of factories and shipping facilities.  On the other side of the road is a big lagoon (stagno) where we see some light pink flamingos in the water.  

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The main road to Pula is pretty fast after we escape the suburbs of Cagliari.  Along the road, a few of the towns have decorations along the street and we see some flower petals and greens on the streets.  We are also following the route of the statue of Sant'Efisio to his home church at Nora and it is possible that we may meet up with the procession sometime during the day.

When we drive through Pula (the closest town to Nora), the streets are lined with flowers and banners and there are brightly colored pennants strung over the main we may be able to see still another celebration.

The archaelogical site at Nora is impressively sited at the end of a narrow peninsula with exposure to the water on three sides.  Long, sandy beaches stretch out from the peninsula and people are swimming as the day warms up. 

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There is also a tower at the end of the peninsula...built by the Spanish in the 16th century.

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We ask at the ticket both about when the procession is scheduled to reach Pula and she tells us "around noon, more or less."   So we may be able to make it.

We are in a group with several Italians and a French mother and daughter.  The guide gives us an audio guide in English so we can follow along but we find that we can do pretty well with a combination of Italian, French and occasional questions in English.  The site is now almost all Roman...most traces of the previous inhabitants are gone.  We walk around the Forum, the baths, through the residential districts and past the theater.  There are some impressive columns still standing and some very nice mosaics....and on all sides, the beautiful Mediterranean.

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We hurry back to Pula to find out when the procession will arrive and where it will be.  We find a parking space and I scout out a place to get lunch.  We end up sitting outside at a bar across from the city hall and having a sandwich as the people begin to line the streets in anticipation.   We talk with the old lady at the next table and the owner of the bar while we are waiting.   Finally we hear some explosions from down the street which must signal the arrival of the statue.  Men and women begin to scatter leaves and flower petals on the route.  

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The procession arrives...a smaller version of the one we saw in Cagliari yesterday.  Lots of groups in local costumes,

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 more richly decorated wagons pulled by richly decorated oxen

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people on horseback, 

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the town band, the confraternity in their robes, a church group chanting prayers, local dignitaries and finally, the carriage with the statue of Sant'Efisio pulled by two large oxen. 

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Once the statue has passed, many in the crowd join the the procession.

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A nice counterpoint to the Cagliari festa.....

Before we leave town, we make a quick stop at the small archaelogical museum in Pula and then return to Cagliari driving on back roads...along the water and through some very pretty and very green hills.

I do some scouting around for dinner places and we eat at a very nice restaurant (also just around the corner from the hotel) called Ristorante Flora.  It looks fancier than most places that we frequent and the clientele are mostly very well-dressed older people (some older than us even.)  But the staff is very welcoming and the food is very good....we share an order of delicious fried meatballs (apparently a local specialty).  Diana has a dish of "malfatti"--basically a spinach and cheese filling without the pasta envelopes followed by nice steak with tarragon sauce.  I have a spaghetti with clams and mussels (mussels are also a local specialty) which is great, followed by a whole fish cooked in a sauce with potatoes and tomatoes....also very good.  The local red wine (a Carignano) is easy to drink.   Diana has a seada...the ricotta cheese pastry topped with honey...which is good.  I stop for a very good gelato at the gelateria on the same street...very nice straciatella and fior di latte.

Tomorrow we plan to go to the archaeological museum in Cagliari.

Jim and Diana