Tag Archives: National Geographic

Authentic Sardinia

An interesting article from National Geographic about the centenaries in Sardinia and the inner areas of Sardinia.

While most guidebook authors head to a destination for several months and pen some notes, writer Eliot Stein immersed himself in Sardinian culture by living there for nearly three years. His recently published guidebook to Sardinia is not only one of the most authoritative guides to the island, but it also promotes responsible travel from a true insiders’ perspective. The following are his recommendations of ways tourists can help preserve Sardinia’s unique culture.

20141028_national_geographic_2Save a Shepherd
It’s no wonder that an island boasting nearly three sheep to every person is a destination for cheese connoisseurs. In fact, 80% of Italy’s pecorino hail from Sardinia (the name of the cheese, in fact, is derived from the word pecora, or sheep). Yet, the island’s shepherds–the enduring symbol of Sardinia’s bucolic traditions–are losing their land to developers eager to turn their pastures into profit. So what’s a tourist to do? For starters, help a shepherd by helping yourself to one of the island’s three DOP pecorino varieties (I especially like fiore sardo). Adventurous travelers can check in to central Sardinia’s classiest hotel, Su Gologone, and sign up to spend the day working with a shepherd while learning about his way of life. See Su Gologone for more info.

Dive In!
As stunning as Sardinia’s craggy creases and shimmering shorelines are, some of its most memorable sights are found underwater. Let local guides lead you through Roman shipwrecks, colorful coral and–my favorite–the largest underwater cave in the Mediterranean, Nereo. A great resource is ScubaTravel.

Unwind at an Agriturismo
A far cry from the siren call of the upscale Costa Smeralda, there is no lodging option truer to the spirit of Sardinia than spending a night in an agriturismo. These working farm inns are part petting zoo, part ethnographic museum, where your owner is always a local and willing to offer you the kind of rural hospitality that has made Sardinia famous throughout Italy.

Most agriturismi are modest affairs. What they lack in, say, satellite TV, they more than make up for in free-range animals lying around. The meals served are almost always made entirely on the farm, so you never have to worry about its freshness. Be warned: come prepared to loosen your belt and put on a few pounds. Sardinia Farm Holidays is a good resource.

Gen-Up on Local Culture
Whip out the notebook and sign up for a crash course in local culture: Motus offers lots of guided nature walks; Stroll and Speak is a great way to learn Italian while burning calories strolling through Alghero’s cobblestone corsi; and Food Wine and Culture will allow you to return home with lots of local recipes to impress your friends.

20141028_national_geographic_3Marvel at Sardinia’s Mysterious Past
“Fairies houses,” “giants tombs” and “human-like stones.” The prehistoric relics that dot Sardinia’s landscape may remind you of a bad acid trip, but touring the island’s many archaeological sites offers a fascinating glimpse into its mysterious origins. The most intriguing of all the historical remnants found are Sardinia’s more than 7,000 stone nuraghi towers. Built between 1600-1100 A.D., this is the only place on Earth to see these Bronze Age castles. Nuraghe Santu Antine is a must.

Change Gears
Sardinia’s moody topography doesn’t exactly mean you’ll be downshifting into a leisurely pedal while biking. Yet, for the non-faint of heart, cycling through Sardinia is one of the most rewarding ways to experience the island’s natural beauty. I highly recommend Dolce Vita Bike Tours, run by four enthusiastic Sardinians.

Haggle for Handicrafts
Sardinia is a hub for handicrafts, making it a souvenir shopper’s paradise. Look for wooden carnival masks, handmade lace, filigree jewelry, cork, and world famous handmade knives. Ensure your travelers’ checks aren’t being wired to foreign faux designers by looking for signs advertising “Prodotti Tipici Sardi,” or the island-sponsored I.S.O.L.A. co-op stores.

Photos by Eliot Stein

Original post on National Geographic: click here.

The Blue Zones: Sardinia’s secrets of long life

An interesting article from National Geographic about the centenaries in Sardinia and the so-called Blue Zones:

Sardinian men
In a cluster of villages in the mountains of central Sardinia, residents enjoy extraordinary longevity, particularly among males. Have genetics and lifestyle played a central role? Dan Buettner traveled to the Italian island to learn what makes Sardinians—especially those in the central region of Barbagia—some of the longest-lived people in the world.

Here, men pass a mural depicting a village procession. By keeping active, many men stay healthy longer. The unique geographic properties of central Sardinia—rocky, sun-beaten terrain not suited for large-scale farming—meant that over the centuries, shepherding offered the best profession. Walking five miles or more a day as Sardinian shepherds do provides cardiovascular benefits and has a positive effect on muscle and bone metabolism without the joint-pounding of running marathons or triathlons.

Mountain Village

The isolation of Sardinia’s mountain villages has helped preserve a traditional Sardinian way of life in which family comes first, food is locally grown, and physical activity is a part of each day—all elements that promote longevity. Isolation also turned native Sardinians into genetic incubators, amplifying certain traits over generations. Their genetic mix may contain a combination that favors longevity.

Pecorino Cheese and Goat’s Milk
Shepherd Giovanni Atzeri pours the milk he has hand-drawn from his sheep. He’ll use the milk to make cheese. Pecorino cheese made from grass-fed sheep—a traditional part of the Sardinian diet—is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Goat’s milk, another staple, contains components that might help protect against inflammatory diseases of aging such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Traditional Diet
Sardinians share a meal outdoors after a hike. The classic Sardinian diet consists of whole-grain bread (the traditional flatbread is called carta da musica, or sheet music), beans, garden vegetables, fruits, and, in some parts of the island, mastic oil. Meat is largely reserved for Sundays and special occasions. Moderate consumption of locally made Cannonau wine, which has two to three times the level of artery-scrubbing flavonoids as other wines, may help explain the lower levels of stress among men.

Women gather at a church during a festival. In Sardinia, elders are celebrated and family is revered. Grandparents can provide love, child care, financial help, wisdom, and expectations and motivation to perpetuate traditions and push children to succeed in their lives. By turn, elders feel a sense of belonging in their families and communities. They live at home, where they’re likely to receive better care and remain more engaged than they would in a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

Young and old pass a traditional flatbread bakery in Sardinia. Men in this Blue Zone, famous for their sardonic sense of humor, gather in the street each afternoon to laugh with and at each other. Laughter reduces stress, which can lower one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Do not miss to read the original article and associated photo gallery from the National Geographic website.

Text adapted from the National Geographic book Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest