San Sperate has a very ancient history. Recent archaeological excavations have dated the first settlements to the Bronze Age. Following the period of Punic rule in Sardinia, the villages in the San Sperate basin came under Carthaginian rule and four cemeteries from this period have been found. Roman occupation in 238 BC can be documented and the parish church dates to the XVI century. This small village in Sardinia, not far from Cagliari, is known for the “Paese Museo” (Museum Village) and its artistic features. It is a village of murals with more than 300 large wall paintings. Painting the walls of its houses was begun by a local artist, Pinuccio Sciola. In 1968, in the wake of a youth protest movement, Sciola had the idea of turning the village into an open-air “museum village”. The idea was taken up by other artists such as Foiso Fois, Liliana Canu, Primo Pantoli, Giorgio Princivalle, Gaetano Brundu, Nando Pintus, Giovanni Thermes and Franco Putzolu. They came to San Sperate to add their own different styles and techniques. The result ranged from trompe l’oeil windows, balconies and lines of washing hung out to dry to historic scenes and copies of famous works of art.
Sciola is also Sardinia’s best known sculptor and there are examples of his work carved from the local stone. His stone sculptures are the living testimony of the art of San Sperate. Limestones and basalts are the materials mainly used by Sciola. He makes a “kind of wound” in each stone, so that the energy of the stone is taken out. His large sculptures resonate when rubbed by human hands or small rocks. However, you can’t image how amazing it is listening to Sciola’s stones, so instead of imagining, you can hear these stones in a documentary about this fascinating artist and his work by playing the video link below:
The murals depict how life was in San Sperate one hundred years ago. They are creations of a changing farming culture with themes of rural life (work in the fields and scenes from the village) in an urban space made more significant by the display of traditional implements, such as olive oil mills, wheat grinding mills, stone tubs, basins and by rows of orange and lemon trees. A Picasso-esque house wall of colorful images and a wall painted to resemble a space for hanging agricultural tools (painted so realistically with shadows that they look ready to be unhooked and used) are just two of the vivid images depicted in the town. There are also curiosities, like a house which appears to be wrapped in paper with a corner torn off or painted groups of people chatting in front of arcades or abstract patterns. Here are a few photos of the murals:
One artist from the Renaissance period, Piero della Francesca, must have been popular because there are several copies of his most famous paintings scattered throughout the village, including one next to a bakery that has an image of a single oven on its wall.
The murals covering the brick walls of the village houses brought this small village into the limelight, attracting Italian and foreign artists wishing to experiment with mural painting and other forms of art expression. This attraction also created a platform for local artists: in sculpture – Sergio Caddeo, Giuseppe Lasio, Gianfranco Pinna, Romano Porcu, Eva Schirru and Lucio Schirru; in painting – Monica Corda, Erminluca Maccioni and Raffaele Muscas; in miniature art – Ignazio Casti; in ceramics – Giampaolo Mameli; in murals – Angelo Pilloni and in street art – Manu Invisible. (Source: Italy Magazine)
Sardinian food ranges from soups and stews, seafood, freshly baked breads, olives and wine to roasted lamb, sheep’s milk cheeses and pastries.
Bean, Fennel and Potato Soup
- 2/3 pound (300 g) fresh fava beans or dried cannellini beans
- 2 fennel bulbs, fronds (feathery tops) only
- 1/2 pound (250 g) potatoes
- 1/2 pound (225 g) plum tomatoes or canned italian tomatoes
- 1/3 pound (150 g) dry short pasta (ditalini)
- A ham bone
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Freshly grated Pecorino Sardo (in its absence use Pecorino Toscano or a mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano.)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the fennel fronds, pat them dry and chop them. Save the fennel bulbs for another recipe. Peel and dice the potatoes. Blanch, peel, seed, chop and drain the tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a soup pot, sauté the tomatoes for a minute and as soon as they begin to wilt add the beans, fennel, potatoes and ham. Add 2 1/2 quarts (2.5 l) of water, cover, and simmer for at least two hours.
Sardinian Stuffed Leg of Lamb
- A boneless leg of lamb, weighing about 4 1/2 pounds (2 k)
- 3/4 pound (110 g) Italian mild sausage, casing removed and crumbled
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup (50 g) dry bread crumbs
- 1 2/3 pounds (750 g) plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped — canned tomatoes will also work
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- A large bunch parsley, minced
- A medium onion, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Butcher’s twine
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan or Dutch oven large enough to contain the leg of lamb and sauté the minced garlic, parsley and onion until the onion is translucent. Remove the mixture from the saucepan to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the pan drippings behind. When the onion mixture has cooled, mix it with the sausage, eggs and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the inside of the leg of lamb. Roll the leg up tightly and tie it with twine.
Reheat the pan drippings in the saucepan and brown the meat, turning it to brown all sides. Add the tomatoes, crumbling them between your fingers, add enough water to reach part-way up the sides of the pot and simmer gently for an hour or until the meat is quite tender.
When the meat is done, remove it from the pot. Remove and discard the string, slice the meat and arrange the pieces on a warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve at once.
Saffron Ring Cake
- 12 ounces (300 g) ricotta
- 2 1/2 cups (300 g) flour
- 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar, plus extra for the top of the cake
- 3 eggs
- The grated zest of an orange
- The grated zest of a lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- A big pinch of saffron
Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F (190 C).
Squeeze the orange, warm the juice slightly and dissolve the saffron in it.
Mash the ricotta with the tines of a fork, mixing until it is creamy in texture and combine it with the sugar, grated orange and lemon zest, eggs and half the orange juice mixed with saffron. Mix well, fold in the flour and baking powder and then pour the batter into a floured ring mold baking pan.
Brush the surface of the cake with the remaining orange juice, sprinkle with sugar and bake until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry, about 40 minutes, but check before then.
- Pinuccio Sciola, Sound Stones (murighingius.com)
- Italian food, wine and typical recipes: a brief introduction to the Sinis’ traditional cuisine. (tipstogo.wordpress.com)
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, characterized by a jagged and rocky coastline, interspersed with stunning beaches of very fine sand. The past fifty years have seen Sardinia become a hotspot for tourism, with La Costa Smeralda in the northern area becoming a favorite retreat of Italian celebrities. The Sardinian coast may be dedicated to tourism, but the interior belongs to native Sardinians who still hold onto their customs, food and unique language (a form of classical Latin that is considered an official language). Sardinia is one of the most ancient lands in Europe, visited by man in the Palaeolithic period but inhabited permanently much later in the Neolithic age, around 6000 B.C. Around 1000 B.C. the Phoenicians began to land on the shores of Sardinia with increasing frequency. Sailing from Lebanon while on trade routes to as far away as Britain, they needed safe anchorage for the night or a retreat from storms. These safe ports of call later became important markets and, after a time, they developed into real towns inhabited by Phoenician families and Nuragic families. As time passed, the Sardinians became united in language and customs yet remained divided politically into various smaller tribal states. Sometimes they banded together, while at other times, they were at war with one another. Tribes lived in villages made up of round thatched stone huts.
In 509 B.C.the Phoenician expansion inland becoming ever more menacing and penetrating, so native Sardinians attacked the coastal cities held by the enemy who, in order to defend themselves, called upon Carthage for help. The Carthaginians, after a number of military campaigns, overcame the Sardinians and conquered the region. For 271 years, the Carthaginian civilization flourished alongside the local Nuragic culture. In 238 B.C. the Carthaginians, defeated by the Romans in the first Punic War, surrendered Sardinia and it became a province of Rome. The Roman domination in Sardinia lasted 694 long years and was often opposed by the Sardinians. The departure of the Romans and the ensuing chaos left Sardinia at the mercy of Vandal raiders, Byzantine occupiers and Arab corsairs. Four giudicati (kingdoms) emerged in the Middle Ages but, by the 13th century, the Pisans and Genoese were battling for control of Sardinia. They were eventually taken over in 1323 by the Catalano-Aragonese from northern Spain who stayed for some 50 years. Eleonora d’Arborea (1340–1404) battled against them heroically and remains revered as Sardinia’s very own “Joan of Arc”. Sardinia became a Spanish territory after the unification of the Spanish kingdoms in 1479 and, still today, there is a Hispanic feel to several towns in the region. In the ensuing centuries, Sardinia suffered as Spain’s power crumbled and, in 1720, the Italian Savoy kingdom took possession of the island. After Italian unity in 1861, Sardinia found itself again under the rule of Rome.
Places to Visit in Sardinia
Cagliari is the main harbor and one of the gateways to Sardinia. Cagliari is situated among salt marshes and fish-rich ponds at the center of the broad southern gulf that extends from Cape Spartivento to Cape Carbonara. The French author Auguste Bouillier, who visited it in 1864, wrote movingly of the view, with “cupolas glittering in the setting sun”, the “castle with its belt of grey walls” and the “spectral towers”. Dotted with Pisan towers and a Spanish castle, Cagliari has other Spanish touches, such as its flower-lined patios decorated with ceramics, not unlike Portugal’s famed azulejos. Travelers interested in Sardinia’s mysterious past should visit the Museo Nazionale Archeologico, which houses an unequaled collection of ancient Sardinian, Phoenician, Minoan and Roman artifacts.
La Costa Smeralda or “the Emerald Coast” is a new feature of Sardinia, created nearly forty years ago to transform a formerly wild and isolated coast into a world-class tourist destination. La Costa Smeralda occupies the northeast corner of Sardinia from Olbia to Santa Teresa Gallura and follows the dramatic coastline of inlets and gulfs. Besides the fashionable resorts with its trendy beaches and yachts, La Costa Smeralda also has unbelievable natural beauty, with some of the clearest waters in the entire Mediterranean. Away from the coast, the road travels into the ancient lands of the Nuraghi, with ruins of their distinctive structures as well as even older prehistoric dolmens known as the Tomb of the Giants.
Alghero was once a bastion of the Spanish Viceroy and even today is nicknamed “Barcelonetta” (little Barcelona) because of a dialect of Catalan that is still spoken. At the bottom of Via Umberto stands the sixteenth-century Cattedrale, where Spanish viceroys stopped to take a preliminary oath before taking office in Cagliari. A walk around the old town should take in the series of seven defensive towers which dominate Alghero’s center and its surrounding walls. Outside the old quarter, most of the tourist activity takes place around the port, its wide quay nudged by rows of colorful fishing boats and bordered by bars. Short trips outside Alghero lead to the impressive ruins of the Palmavera Nurag, as well, the excellent beaches at Porto Conte.
The Foods of Sardinia
Typical Sardinian cooking makes use of all kinds of beans: fava, white beans, lupine, chickpeas, and lentils. Parsley, leeks, and especially cabbage were grown and used in soups and minestrone. Onions, chicory, spinach, and beets were also commonplace on the Sardinian table. The most common fruit was citron. A pasta favorite is called fregola and was probably inspired by the Arab couscous.
Originally, Sardinian bread was made of hard wheat and barley. Today there are a variety of traditional breads, some made with white flour, others with semolina (hard wheat), breads with bran or sprouts or bread as flat as a sheet of music called Carta di Musica in Italian or Pani Carasau in Sardinian. In Sardinian cities, public ovens were used to bake traditional breads and dishes such as panade, a rustic torta, made of bread dough stuffed with small pieces of stewed lamb or eel seasoned with vegetables. Today, panade is still a popular dish. Sardinia is a major exporter of cheese and the main exports are cavallo cheese (a type of caciocavallo) and salso cheese (a salted sheep’s cheese like pecorino cheese). Locally, fresh white cheeses are made for seasoning soups and casu e’ filixu, another fresh cheese, is layered with fern leaves in the center and often served on Carta di Musica. Cheese is used abundantly in Sardinian cuisine: in soups, stews, small ravioli and in famous desserts, such as, sebádas, a semolina, egg and cheese fritter flavored with sugar, lemon and honey or the pardule, baked buns of semolina stuffed with saffron and orange zest flavored fresh ricotta cheese.
The traditional cuisine of Sardinia was in some ways a contradiction: an island civilization that did not utilize seafood in its diet. Since Sardinia’s coast has always been victim to invasion, the Sardinian people found refuge in the mountains. Therefore, the traditional foods of Sardinia were always more influenced by the land than the sea. Today, much has changed and now seafood has been embraced by Sardinians, no longer having to fear invaders or pirates. Spicy fish soups called Burrida and Cassola, along with lobsters, crabs, anchovies, squid, clams and fresh sardines with Sardinians. Favorite Sardinian pasta dishes include: Spaghetti con Bottarga made with dried gray mullet roe shaved on top, Malloreddus is a gnocchi style pasta flavored with saffron and served with a tomato sauce. Culingiones are round ravioli stuffed with spinach and cheese. The Sardinian interior produces some of the best lamb in all of Italy and it is known for being very lean. Sardinians enjoy their meats roasted and suckling pig or kidis a favorite roasted outdoors over aromatic woods. Abbamele is a honey-based product made in Sardinia. It is also sometimes called “abbattu”, “abazu” or “honey sapa”. Selected honeycombs are pressed to extract all honey and pollen which is then reduced in copper pots. The honey can be flavored with lemon or orange rinds. Abbamele is dark like molasses with a complex flavor that has hints of coffee and caramel. Abbamele is also similar to molasses in appearance but tastes like honey and is usually eaten with cheese and fresh fruit or even drizzled over pasta or vegetables. Sardinian wines have been influenced by the successive waves of invaders, with the Spanish leaving the most indelible mark. The full-bodied red Cannonau is the wine of choice when serving Sardinian lamb. Monica di Cagliari (DOC) can be found in dry well-aged varieties, as well as, a sweet dessert wine, known as, Liquoroso Dolce. Two well-known Sardinian white wines are Vernaccia di Oristano (DOC), a golden dry wine that is drunk with local fish and lobster and Vermentino di Gallura (DOCG), also good with seafood. Spirits include the aperitivo, Liquoroso Secco (made from the Monica grape) and the Myrtle flavored, Mirto. There are also various types of Grappa and Fil’e Ferru, a Sardinian Aquavitae, and other aperitifs with infusions of citrus fruits such as Limoncino and Arangiu.
Make Some Sardinian Inspired Recipes At Home
Pane Carasau or Carta da Musica is a Sardinian bread, shaped into thin disks and stacked up in piles. Dry and crisp, the name Carta da Musica (music paper) is attributed to the noise produced when they are chewed. It is said to have been first made by the shepherds in Sardinia, who took it with them into the pastures as it keeps well. Pane Carasau is sometimes bathed in a sauce before it is eaten, and is an excellent accompaniment to cheese or meats. A typical dish made with pane carasau is pane frattau which is prepared by layering pane carasau with sauce, tomato, cheese and topped with poached eggs.
Pane Carasau (Sardinian Flatbread)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semolina flour, fine grind
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of mixer and mix until it comes together and becomes elastic. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it a few times. Set it on the counter and cover it with the mixing bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and place a baking stone on the rack. If you don’t have a stone you can use several parchment lined sheet tray. After the dough has rested divide the dough into 7 pieces and roll them under the palm of your hand until the becomes smooth balls of dough. Sprinkle the counter lightly with flour and then dip one of the balls of dough into the flour and shake off the excess. Using the palm of your hand flatten the dough out and then start rolling it out. Turn it 180 degrees between each roll so it becomes a long oval. Roll it as thin as you can. Using a fork dock the dough. Gently lift the dough and place it onto the stone and bake it for 5 minutes flipping it after 2 1/2 minutes. While it is baking roll out the next flatbread. Remove from the oven and continue baking the remaining 5 flatbreads.
Tomato-Poached Eggs with Sardinian Music Bread
4 servings Ingredients:
Risotto-Style Fregula with Mushrooms, Abbamele and Goat Cheese
Fregula is a small, toasted semolina pasta. Israeli couscous is a more readily available stand-in; you can also substitute a dark-colored honey for abbamele. 6 servings Ingredients:
- 2 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces wild mushrooms
- 1/3 cup chopped shallots
- 1 1/4 cups uncooked fregula
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese or feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon abbamele or honey, divided
- 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
Directions: Combine broth and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes or until moisture evaporates. Add shallots; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add fregula and salt; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 30 seconds or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Set aside 1/4 cup broth mixture; cover and keep warm. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 15 minutes total). Remove from heat. Stir in reserved 1/4 cup broth mixture, chives, goat cheese and 1 1/2 teaspoons abbamele. Sprinkle with walnuts. Drizzle each serving with 1/4 teaspoon abbamele. Serve immediately.
Makes about 1 pound These tiny Sardinian dumplings resemble cavatelli and are often called gnocchetti sardi. Malloreddus are usually served with butter and Pecorino cheese, a simple tomato sauce or a rich lamb ragù. Ingredients:
- Fine sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups semolina flour
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- a gnocchi board or table fork
Directions: Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 3/4 cup warm water. In a large bowl whisk together semolina and all-purpose flours; mound and form a well in the center. Add water mixture and 2 teaspoons oil to the well. Using your hand or a fork, slowly incorporate flour from inside rim of well. Continue until liquid is absorbed, then knead in the bowl until dough forms a ball (dough will be slightly sticky). Transfer dough to a well-floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, dusting with a bit more flour as needed just to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. Break off about 1/8 of the pasta dough; tightly re-wrap the remaining dough. Roll dough into a 1/4-inch cylinder and cut it into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Pressing with your thumb, roll each piece on a gnocchi board or down the back of a fork to give it the characteristic ridges and put on a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. To cook the fresh malloreddus, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 6 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Drain, transfer to a large serving bowl and immediately toss with sauce and serve.
Sauces for Malloreddus
Servings 4 Ingredients:
- 1 lb malloreddus pasta
- 7 oz fresh tuna, cut into small cubes
- 4 oz onion, sliced thin
- 3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 oz capers
- 3 ½ oz fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 oz fennel fronds
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3/4 oz anchovies, chopped
- 1/2 cup fish stock, see post for recipe: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/01/10/hearty-healthy-winter-soups/
Directions: In a large pan heat oil and brown the onion and the tuna. Stirring constantly, add the capers. Pour the white wine over all and allow to evaporate. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the fish stock onto the tuna, add the fresh tomato and half the fennel fronds. Meanwhile, cook the “malloreddus” in salted water. Drain the “malloreddus” and put them into the pan containing the sauce and toss. Allow to cook for another minute with the remaining fennel and then sprinkle the chopped anchovies over the top. Arrange in a serving dish, decorating with small sprigs of fennel.
Lamb Chops and Ragù with Malloreddus
Serves: 4 – 6 Ingredients:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 pound ground lamb
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 thyme sprigs, plus 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- 1 rosemary sprig, plus 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups prepared tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil
- 8 lamb rib chops, about 1/2 inch thick
- 1 pound malloreddus pasta, gnochetti or cavatelli
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
Directions: In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the ground lamb, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring to break up the meat until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the shallots, thyme and rosemary sprigs, bay leaf and the chopped onion. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots and onion are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the red wine and boil over high heat until reduced by three-quarters, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and tomato sauce and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. Discard the thyme, rosemary sprigs and the bay leaf and keep the sauce hot. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper and pat the chopped thyme and rosemary onto the meat. Add the chops to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until well browned outside and medium-rare within, about 3 minutes per side. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the malloreddus pasta until al dente. Drain and return it to the pot. Add the lamb ragù and stir well. Add the pecorino cheese and stir again. Transfer the pasta to plates and top with the lamb chops. MAKE AHEAD The lamb ragù can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Rewarm before serving.
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique Sardinia (laavventura.wordpress.com)
- The road to heaven: The wheel way to enjoy Sardinia (mirror.co.uk)
- My Sardinian Life’s Top 12 Posts of 2012 (laavventura.wordpress.com)
- Tour sardinia 2012 (slideshare.net)
- Coppa Italia 2012-2013 Thread (bigsoccer.com)
- A Year in Review – Top 12 Photos of 2012 | Sardinia, Italy (laavventura.wordpress.com)