Oh Federico! Where Art Thou?

Oh Federico, Where Art Thou?

Federico met us our first night in Cagliari, whisking us away to his family’s home for dinner with his mother, sister, brother and grandparents. The broken Italian-English conversation was a blast and for dinner, lasagna was served. It was so good and so filling. And THEN came the beef and the artichoke frittata, and THEN the homemade ice cream with pastries.

Federico (next to me) and his family at dinner in Cagliari

The next day Federico was off to the mainland for a university entrance exam and would be back to show off his city later. In the meantime, we explored Cagliari, made the trip to Nora mentioned in this blog’s special edition’s first installment, made a trip to the beach and took in the May 1 parade celebrating St. Efisio. The two-hour parade consisted of a 1.5-hour procession of Sardinians in authentic costume representing every hamlet of the island, followed by 30 minutes of Sardinians in authentic costume representing every hamlet of the island… but this time on horses! No politicians, no flatbed trucks from which people threw candy to kids… just a parade celebrating the island and the Saint. It was really nice.

An authentic Sardinian in authentic
Sardinian dress during St. Efisio parade

I forgot to mention they had two enormous bulls along with horses!

May 2 is upon us but where is Federico? He’s still on the mainland tending to the entrance exams! So we entertain ourselves with shopping and prepare to move north the next day. Federico promised to join us along the way.

Earlier in the spring, we met Attilio Cauli in Boise. Attilio’s an enthusiastic but mild-mannered Sardinian from Lotzorai – a small town on the east coast of the island. The map shows Lotzorai should be a relatively short drive – just over some mountains. If we’re learned anything on the trip so far it’s this: The Sardinians are masters at building roads that curve, twist and wind up and down mountains, and they’ve taken every opportunity to show off their skills. The rare straight stretches of road were simply cruel Sardinian jokes played on us during the nearly five hours we spent navigating the roads. Still, the views were absolutely amazing.

Attilio played host, putting us up in his family’s bed and breakfast and showing off his home turf.  First stop? A hike! To get to the hike, we drove up the obligatory curving road to the mountainside town of Baunei. From there the road takes eight vertigo-inducing switchbacks to gain the plateau; many American cars would be unable to navigate the turns. The hike? It was really fine. Three kilometers long with 500 meters of elevation difference down and then back up a canyon to a small beach with giant waves. You know what was more fine? The beer we enjoyed at the topside café! The trip down took 1.5 hours with many stops for photo opps; the trip back up took 1.25 hours, one foot in front of the other, with Natalie stopping only a few times to self-administer CPR.

Cool azure waters are the payoff from the hike. The payup
was the hike back to the top! Oh, and we saw a
wild pig along the way!
Back in Lotzorai, Attilio took us to his friend Vincenzo’s winery for a private wine tasting and to his cousin Carlo’s farm to see cheesemaking first hand. We came away from these experiences with two bottles of superior wine and the best, freshest ricotta ever! Oh, and then there were the oranges Attilio picked off his sister’s tree for us!

Attilio watches cousin Carlo dish
up FRESH ricotta. And we loved it!

With Attilio’s guidance to avoid most of the twisting roads, we leave Lotzorai heading north for Nuoro where our main goal is a cultural museum. The museum turns out to be a bust. We’re not sure if it was actually open or if the kind gentleman accepted our money just to be nice.  Oh well. But before we leave town we need cash! After trips to ATMs at three different banks, trying three credit cards at each, we finally succeed in obtaining Euros. As it turns out, American credit cards have yet to include chips embedded in the cards while it is now mandated in Europe to help reduce fraud. Thus, our cards rarely work in ATMs and the bank tellers don’t have card swipers to make the transaction in person. On the other hand, our card companies tell us there should be no problem. Our cards should work sans chip. And if they don’t work, just get a bank teller to do it for us! Yes indeed, denial is not just a river in Egypt… Our morning in Nuoro is a downer.

When we arrive in the small town of San Pantaleo, it’s like we’ve arrived in a wonderland. Gone is the trash that graces most towns and gone is the graffiti endemic to Italy. It’s like a place that people actually take care of. With panoramic views of granite spires from our hotel room, we dine in tonight. Tomorrow we make the quick trip to Santa Teresa di Gallura where we’ll catch the ferry back to Bonifacio, Corsica.

Most but not all graffiti is without merit - as seen here
along the road from Nuoro to San Pantaleo
Our view from the hotel in San Pantaleo

The one thing to expect about expectations is that they should not be trusted. Roads will twist and curve and credit cards might not work. A downer in one town in the morning can end with an upper in another town in the afternoon. And Federico?

Oh Federico, Where Art Thou?

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