For my first night in Sardinia, I stayed at a resort on my own in Golfo Aranci, enjoying the view from my balcony, the resort's pool, an evening thunderstorm, and inevitably some delicious local cuisine.
My view of the gulf
Lunch was surprisingly relaxing and pleasurable that day, as I sat beneath the somewhat permeable canopy of La Spigola's beachfront restaurant, watching huge drops of rain pound the sand and enjoying my fregula pasta (similar to Israeli couscous, and definitely a new favorite of mine!).
Since it was raining that first afternoon, I decided to skip the beach and get a massage. It was a particularly interesting experience because after I chose my service, the masseuse did not offer to leave the room for me to change and lay down. So I went with it, stripped down in front of her, and laid on the bed without so much as a swatch for coverage. Talk about letting go of your pre-vacation baggage!
Basking in the rays of the setting sun, post-massage
Before the half-board dinner at my hotel, Villa Margherita, that night, I took a stroll along the harbor, taking in the picturesque boats, the collections of old men shootin' the shit, and even a young boy, fishing off the dock all by himself, ecstatic at having caught a 5-inch vindication of a fish.
That night, overlooking the pool at dusk, I enjoyed a four-course meal of octopus salad, maccheroni alla norma, steamed sea bass, and finally gelato. I even had my own mini-bottle of vermentino, perhaps Sardinia's most prolific white wine.
Later, I perused through the shops and evening market in the small town, collecting souvenirs and art, as well as one of my favorite acquisitions of the trip, a delicious lemon and arugula liquor. Imagine that!
After a glorious night of sleep, it was time for the hotel's breakfast, and with it my first cappuccino. Not of the day, but ever. Verdict: I'm sticking with my espresso! Those little yellow plums were particularly yummy, but my favorite part of the meal was the adorable lemon tableware!
I decided to try out a beach, Cala Sabina, that was suggested I reach by train. I made my way through the heat to the station, jumped on a two-car regional train, and went one stop.
The only person disembarking at that "station", I found myself on a barren platform surrounded by dust and trees, no sign of the sea, until I walked down through the brush and a beautiful oasis of turquoise waters and white sand appeared. I read, floated on the windy sea, and ate bottarga at the little beach restaurant.
That evening, a driver came to pick me up and take me to Perfugas, where Gavina lives and the wedding festivities would be taking place. The highlight of the drive was when he spotted a tortoise about to cross the road, and decided we needed to save it. He reversed, put the van in park, and we both got out to greet the tortoise and redirect him back into the wilderness. He said that since the animal is native to his land, it's as if he is his own son, and he must protect him. Talk about regionalism! Additionally, he was adamant that the Spanish language and Sardinian dialect have overlapping similarities because the Spanish were influenced by the Sardinians, and not the other way around. Fascinating delusions!
Shawn helped me figure out that the last time we saw Gavina was in 2010, at the beginning of my two-year stint in Italy, when she hosted us in Bologna for a few days. Look at us babies!
And a couple years before that, Shawn and I visited her in Sardinia (her dad is Bolognesi and her mother is Sardinian, so they split time). Amazingly, while there we visited her favorite church, the photo of which I captioned, "This is the church where Gavina will be getting married. I've already been invited. Now she just needs to find a groom."
And low and behold, the time had come. Gavina is now living permanently in Sardinia with her fiance Tino and their two-year-old Teresa, and getting married! How much has changed.
Unfortunately Shawn couldn't join us for the wedding, but he was there in spirit!
Teresa, excited about her Ghiradelli cable car
The first night, out-of-town (and -country!) friends were slowly trickling in, and we all sat around Gavina's kitchen table in some cases catching up, and in others getting to know those who would quickly become like family in the days to come.
At the table, I was explaining how come I could speak Italian and how I was connected to Gavina and Azzurra, and when I said that after Bologna I returned to UCSD, the guy next to me exclaimed, "Hey, my brother studied abroad at UCSD." Turns out I'm friends with his brother, from a completely separate group of Bolognesi who were in International House my senior year of college. One of the most small-world experiences I've had to date, running into a friend's brother at a small-town Sardinian wedding, and it made me feel like I've truly integrated into Italian society!
For the weekend, one of Gavina's relatives graciously let a large group of us take over her whole house. We were eight people, one bathroom. It was only the start of a great sitcom, let me tell you! The room I was in had three twin beds/cots in a row, and most of us had to put our luggage in the hall because there was no floor space left! One of the guys actually had a bed in the common room. The house also had no internet (a welcome relief, honestly), and in Perfugas, we learned by trial and error that the water is shut off between 8pm and 8am. We got pretty intimate pretty fast, and we would just laugh and shrug at these simple encounters with village life.
The next morning was Gavina's (surprise) bachelorette party! We went to Stintino, on the narrow peninsula of northwest Sardinia, and the poor thing was blindfolded most of the way. She was so excited when we revealed the location, as it's one of her favorites, and even more so when she found out we had rented a boat and would be cruising around the islands.
Gavina, looking out towards her future
I became friends with Gavina through Azzurra, my Calabrese "sister" that I lived with my year in Bologna. They and two of the other girls in our party, Monia and Marilyn, met in the economy department that same year (their first of university), and we were also joined by one of Gavina's cousins. Our girls getaway was a much needed break for Gavina, who was being pulled in so many directions the days leading up to her wedding.
Captains Azzurra, Gavina, and me
Once on the boat, we cruised around the protected waters of Asinara Island, stopping periodically to jump off and snorkel, exploring the edges of the uninhabited island. The water was incredibly clear, and we kept trying to put a word to its magical changes in hue. "Turquoise!" "Sapphire!" We could never quite capture it before it would transform again.
I like to imagine this was a dinosaur that
fell asleep in the water and turned to stone
We chatted, we swam, we soaked up the gorgeous sun. But mostly we just relaxed and enjoyed each others company after all this time.
Favorite picture of the day
Cutie Captain Selfie
That evening, we stopped in Alghero on the way home for aperitivo. It was the closest I came to "city" life while in Sardinia, and I enjoyed watching the last moments of sunset over the bay, and walking the bustling streets of the ancient town with shops open late, dividing and conquering to find the perfect basket for wedding favors.
Next up...the wedding!