Italy & Tunisia 2005 >

We flew on RyanAir from Rome's second largest airport to Sardinia's second largest town, Alghero, and spent five days driving all over the island. Sardinia, not far off the coast of Italy, has traditional connections to the Catalan empire in Spain, and the Carthaginian empire in Tunisia.
The flag of Sardinia. The figures represent four Moorish kings defeated in combat with the Aragonese in the 11th century. Some versions have blindfolds instead of headbands. More flag references...
Pottu Codinu, this little site of prehistoric tombs, caught our eye as we drove past, so we stopped and checked it out. Nine or so tombs are carved into the rock.
The carving on the ceiling in this chamber suggests a wooden roof.
The Punic/Phoenician/Roman ruins at Tharros. The site wasn't very well curated, and it was somewhat hard to decipher. Maybe the experts don't have much of an idea -- this was called the "Two Columns Area".
There was an archaeologist and a team of workers on site bringing up dirt and sifting through it for artifacts.
"Strawberry trees", related to the madrones and manzanitas that grow all over where we live. These were very cute in having two colors of fruit and flowers at the same time.
The Tophet in what is now the island town of San Antioco, connected by a modern causeway that is said to parallel one built by the Romans. This site is said to have been built by the Carthaginian empire. It has been supposed that child sacrifices took place here, but more modern interpretations are that it is simply a children's cemetery. There were a few fragments of stela (gravestones) and terra cotta pots said to be funerary urns lying around -- as usual, the best examples of them were taken to the National Archeologial Museum in Cagliari.
The town of Carbonia (which always makes me think of Elbonia). It was built by Mussolini for the workers in the adjacent mine. We expected to see more austere housing and Fasicst monuments, but it didn't look that cut and dried.
A mine worker's monument in Carbonia. Considerably more the fascist ideal. A few more photos from Carbonia...
Our Fodor's Italy 2005 guidebook pointed us to this cave, suggesting that we could drive through it. There was indeed a road through it, but it seemed pretty apparent that it had been open only to pedestrians for a few years.
One of the most interesting formations in the cave.
The green hillside we noticed when we got to the other end. A large number of pigeons live in the cave, and at this point the road smells very bad.
A guy climbing on a pinnacle just outside the cave entrance.
We didn't get to spend much time in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia -- we had two dinners and went to two museums. The National Archeological Museum was fascinating. It was loaded with artifacts taken from many places we'd seen the previous two days (and were to see the next two). Most fascinating were the bronzetti, small bronze funerary statues from Sardinia's ancient Nuragic culture. These aren't Bronzetti. This is the menu at S'apposentu.
S'apposentu was the only restaurant we booked from the US before leaving. It's a very stylish modern restaurant which makes creative food using locally available ingredients. The meal at S'apposentu...
Nora, another Roman ruin near where we stayed.
The mosaic floors seemed distinctly wavy.
Looking carefully, we discovered that the waviness was caused by bad caretaking. The mosaics had been meticulously reassembled onto reinforced concrete slabs. Over a period of years, the concrete had crumbled, and the rebar had rusted, and the waves showed where the rebar was located.
They didn't take very good care of their explanatory signs, either. I have seen this mode of deterioration on bus station ads in San Francisco, too. It's quite attractive.
Several towns in Sardinia seemed to be competing against each other for the number of interesting murals they could paint on their streets. I particularly liked this chess game pitting the industrialist and his factories against the farmer and his lambs. More murals and decoration...
The pre-eminent Sardinian archaeological site is Su Nuraxi. Dating from around 1500 BC, it is representative of the Nuragic culture found nowhere in the world outside Sardinia.
There's a central tower connected to four side towers (we're looking up one of them).
A hallway to one of the side towers.
Outside the fortification is ruins of a village -- most of the structures appeared to be round, and are thought to have had tepee-like roofs.
We spent day in Olbia, a small city located near the Costa Smeralda, a major Sardinian resort area. Olbia didn't appear to have many attractions, and we used the day to relax and catch up on laundry and postcards and the Internet. This is the aptly named Church of San Simplicio.
The walk to the church took us by Ristorante Gallura, which we discovered had suddenly reopened. We had one of the most memorable meals there of the entire trip. These shelves in the center of the room held many of the dinner offerings. There might have been menus, but no one seemed to be using them -- the waiters brought us appetizers for awhile, then described a few pasta and main dish choices. A peek into the serving bowls...
The bread is called carta musica (music paper). The chef spent all her time in the dining room talking to customers...
... and preparing food. Our meal at Ristorante Gallura...
At the north end of the island, Capo Testa is a beautiful outcropping of rocks.
Apparently many lizards run around the rocks, or ran. More photos of the rocks...
This formation is called "Elephant Rock" for some reason.
There were tombs inside the rock, with these striking carvings in the chambers.
Beneath the rock, the road disappears into a tunnel.
Castelsardo, on a mountain right on the sea.
We had most of a Sunday to spend walking around the old town of Alghero. Several shops were open -- Ray bought a little dictionary to translate between Italian and the Algherese dialect of the Sardinian language to add to a collection of obscure and not critically important dictionaries. Others in the collection include a Burmese-Pali-English dictionary and one that takes you from Dai Lu to Chinese and another language I have yet to identify. We bought some cheese for the road trips ahead. Mostly, we walked around and watched people walking around, and had a really good lunch.
Kids playing video games.
A colorful dome. More around Alghero...
This door, to a storage room for Ristorante Andreini where we ate lunch, was decorated with wine crates. Lunch at Andreini...
Sunset colors on the wing as we leave Sardinia.
On to To Pisa, and Onward

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