Wednesday 31 August 2016

Discovering Cagliari

We have discovered that even though Sardinia's main source of revenue is tourism, Cagliari is not a tourist town. There is one open top bus and one or two souvenir shops, little else. The huge number of restaurants must depend on seasonal trade and I think that many of these people spend their days at the beach or shopping.

We took the one hour orientation trip in the open top bus and it was extremely worthwhile as it took us to the outer areas of the city. We drove along the Poetta beach road and by the salt pan wetland that is home to 11,000 pink flamingos. We saw some but they were quite a distance away and were all busy fishing with their heads in the water.

We then went up to the highest point in the urban park where we could see the city from one side and the wetland nature reserve and the coast from the other.

After seeing several other major points outside the inner city walls we transferred to foot transport and explored the historic quarter of Castello. The Bastion St. Remy is the main entrance by foot. Inside there is a whole village more or less suspended above the rest of the city.

This is the Torre dell' Elefante or Elephants Tower, so named because of the marble elephant on the external wall. The tower was built in 1207 for defensive purposes. The impressive portcullises are original.

This shrine above an arched gate was restored by the local Lions Club. We have also seen works restored by Rotary Clubs.

The Lions Gate was our exit point from the Bastion. These cheeky fellows are on the external walls of the gate.

In the late afternoon we moved on to the Quarter of Villanova. I was amused to see that it was the newest quarter but was founded in the 1300s. We enjoyed this area although they do seem to have introduced a lot of walking only areas and many lack any character. Big name Italian designers are well represented in these shopping boulevards.

The pictures below show the domestic section rather than the commercial part.

We had drinks at a bar that dated from 1855 and the freebies with the Aperol Spritz almost constituted a meal. However we had set our hearts on seafood so sought out a place we had noticed the night before. My mixed seafood plate was amazing - two different whole fish, two fresh sardines, calamari and so many shrips that Kel feared I'd turn pink like the flamingos!

Tuesday 30 August 2016

We are in Sardinia, or Sardegna if you are Italian

Most of Monday was taken up with travel even though we were only travelling from Rome to Cagliari, which is a one hour and five minute flight. However by 3.30 pm we were ready to get out into the heat and explore Cagliari which is the capital city of the island of Sardinia. 

Sardinia, known as Sardegna by the italians, is a Mediterranean island with a population of 1.66 million people. It has 2,000 kms of coast line and is best known for its excellent beaches. The interior is rugged mountains. Over the centuries Sardinia has been invaded by and ruled over by many peoples, the Pisans and the Spanish, to name but two. The architecture is strongly influenced by the many groups who have held power here.

Cagliari is situated on the coast in the south of the island. It has a population of about 155,000 people and is the major city of the island. It is strategically placed hence its rocky past with invasions. These days it can be invaded by cruise ships.

The architecture and the huge number of palatial buildings in the Marina area was my first impression. As evening drew near the area turned into one massive outdoor restaurant. 
I didn't take any photos but after seven weeks of eating entirely Italian food we took the opportunity to enjoy some of the diversity of Cagliari. We considered Eritrean food but chose Indian for their location. We may return!

The detail on the buildings is wonderful. This window gives an example with cherubs above the windows on the first floor and the row above had ladies faces.

The church of San Sepolcro had an excellent collection of ikons and associated paraphernalia on show. With its art baroque decoration and the exhibition it was all too much to take in.

The Bastion of Saint Remy is the major entrance to the historic quarter of Castello.

With the hot day and a lot of walking the local beer was our drink of choice.

More importantly,  the first gelateria we came to had amazing flavours to choose from; Messico, with pineapple, coconut and lime, and Ellusu, with yoghurt, orange & toffee chips. Some ingredients may have been lost in translation!

Monday 29 August 2016

Rione Monti in Rome

We are in Rome this evening, in preparation for our flight to Sardinia tomorrow.

In previous posts I have mentioned contrade, rioni, terzieri and quartieri, all of these being a collective for districts or neighbourhoods in villages, towns and cities. For example, Siena has contrade, Panicale and Rome have rioni and Cittâ della Pieve has terzieri. These districts are territorial subdivisions, very competitive and based on where you were born. They are historic and traditional communities that really come to the fore at Palio time.

Rome has twenty two rioni and today we explored rione 1, the area of Monti. Its name comes from the fact that several of the hills of Rome were originally in this district. Monti is full of archaelogical sites including the colosseum and baths and market of Trajan.

These days Monti is a very desirable place to live, it retains some of its village feel yet is bohemian and has coffee shops and bars, street food and fashion. Locals still enjoy the traditional lifestyle in Monti.

It was rather quiet when we were there, probably due to it being a Sunday afternoon in the holiday season, but there are some bonuses in this situation.

We weren't the only ones looking around in Monti.

There was diversity in the churches as well, a Ukrainian Catholic, a Chinese Christian Church, an Ordinariate for the Military and one of Rome's major churches, San Pietro in Vincoli ( St. Peter in Chains ). Michelangelo's amazing sculpture of Moses can be seen there.

On the outside wall of Santa Maria ai Monti was this beautiful mosaic. Sadly the large garbage bins were full to overflowing right beneath the B.V.M and up close she had an expression which seemed to express her displeasure.

Of course every hot day out deserves a gelato and with one of Rome's best in Monti we had to visit. Fatamorgana has a wonderful range of unusual flavours and we had (in English) grape and nuts, green tea, coconut cream and my favourite, fennel, honey and licorice.

We will have to come back to Monti in the evening some time soon.

Friday 26 August 2016

Ferro Battuto or Wrought Iron

Ferro battuto or wrought iron was one of the earliest forms of metal available for use. It was easy to form into shapes yet strong enough to be useful.
Wrought iron can be seen everywhere in Italy, from ancient horse tethering points and candle holders along the streets to balconies on palazzi to modern furniture and home fittings.
Traditional designs are still being produced by artisan tradesmen.

Some examples of new or reproduction wrought iron work.

Today we drove over to Sarteano in Tuscany ( o.k, so we drove 27 kilometres in search of different flavours of gelati! ) and I decided that I had been collecting wrought iron photos for long enough and this door knocker could finish off this post. I think I have done a door knocker collection previously but this very individual one looked just perfect to conclude my post on the ancient art of ferro battuto.

P.S. Today's new gelati flavours were whisky cream and cheesecake, and the total for this year, so far, is 48.