What would a tourist do in little Milis, a town of barely 2000 souls on the Campidano plain in the Oristano province of Sardinia?

Ok, let’s face it, the interior of Sardinia has been shunned by nearly everyone. It’s the edges of this island people want to explore. Warm, sandy beaches, ten euro beer at the bar, nut brown bodies, some of the women topless.

Ok, there’s a lot to be said about the rim of Sardinia. Except for the price of beer. But I am not a beach person. I always head for the interior. Life is interesting there. And lots of things have changed since the time I spent excavating Nuraghe Santa Barbara in Balaudu, a short drive (or long walk) away from Milis.

piazza dei martiri milis
View of Piazza dei Martiri. Boyl Palace, a 1700s building is on the lower right.

We just had to have a little glass of something in the main piazza of Milis, the piazza of the Martyrs. The view we had is shown in the picture above, which features the bell tower and dome of the San Sabastian church as well as the Pallazo Boyl, which houses the interesting Museum of Sardinian Jewellery and Folk Costumes (you’ll have to make arrangements to visit). Soon after sitting, we were motioned over to a table of a couple of regulars.

Despite the shrinking Italian economy, Milis is doing fine, the boys at the bar told us as they poured some Vernaccia from their pitcher into the traditional tiny glasses the waitress had set in front of us. The reason? Some of Italy’s finest and most sought-after oranges. If you go there at the right time, they’re stacked on the sidewalk so you can taste what the fuss is all about.

milis oranges
The Oranges of Milis

You can stroll the garden, called S’Ortu de is Paras.

milis orange garden
S'Ortu de is Paras

Milis is near legendary Vernaccia di Oristano wine country. The white wine is nothing like the Vernaccia of San Gimignano, so you should try it.

The folks of Milis are known to be fine woodcarvers. They even take their sharp tools to their garage doors:

milis woodwork
Milis Woodwork

12th century Romanesque church with interesting cemetery? Check.

milis church st paul
The 12th Century Church of St. Paul.

There is also bread and fresh pasta in abundance in the shops; Milis is locally known for excellence in producing both.

milis bread
Milis Bread Rolls

Festivals and Saint’s days? Check:

  • St. Anthony of Padua – June 13th
  • St. John the Baptist – June 24th
  • Saints Peter and Paul – June 29th
  • Our Lady of Buoncammin – Second Sunday in July

But the big festival is the New Wine festival: Rassegna dei vini novelli held in November.

Small town Sardinia? You can learn some quick Italian in town. The availability of local food and wine for folks who like to cook makes this a great place to rent an apartment or stay in an agriturismo. Unlike 30 years ago when I first began exploring the island, there are plenty of places to stay that are highly rated in Milis and nearby Bauladu.

Domus Maria is inexpensive and very highly rated (9.7 out of 10!). It’s right in the heart of town. Domus is “casa” in the Sardinian language.

Casa Christina is a highly-rated large apartment with a mountain view and bike rental available.

Just a short way away is the town of Bauladu which has an extraordinary B&B we’ve eaten at. Casa Atza is attached to a working farm, and cheese is made when the cows are giving milk and you can watch the process. Meals are fabulous and gargantuan—and very inexpensive for the quality and quantity. Ask to have the traditional maialino sardo, the island’s famous roast suckling pig. It’s fantastic.

casa atza cheesemaking
Making Cheese at Casa Atza

Suggested Postcard Scribblings

“Hi All. We’re spending a week in the Sardinian town of Milis. It’s right near Bauladu. The people are nice and the boys that bought us wine in the piazza are crazy and on the Saint’s days they go all out with processions and then they eat like it’s their last meal.

Milis is…well, try to find it on the map. By the time you do, we’ll be home to tell you about our adventure there.”

Travel Advice and What to See Near Milis

How to Get to Sardinia on the Ferry

Museum of Contadina Technology in Santu Lussurgiu

Sinis Peninsula and Cabras – See the Giants of Mont’e Prama and the ancient archaseological site of Tharros, spectacularly situated on the coast.

Santa Cristina—The World’s Best Off Ramp Attraction?

Milis Travel Guide originally appeared on wanderingsardinia.com Dec 23, 2016, © James Martin

Oristano, General Travel

Categories Oristano, General Travel

Etruscan tombs like those at Tarquinia may thrill you with their frescoes or mastery of architectural details, but the 20 “fairy houses” of the Necropolis of Sant’Andrea Priu just might astound you.

Come in spring and the plain of Saint Lucia will likely be verdant and colorful with wildflowers. Even the rock faces are alive with color in May.

Tomb Opening, Sant'Andrea Priu

In the middle of this fertile valley is a rock outcrop 180 meters long, pocked with carved terraces and tomb openings.

domus di janus
Domus di Janus, Sant'Andrea Priu

There is a reason they are called fairy houses. They are carved to be just like the houses of the times, perhaps the houses the dead lived in. They have beams and wainscotting; some are tent-like as we see below. They are dated to the final neolithic (3500-2900 BC) period.

Domus de Janas Interior

The Necropolis of Sant’Andrea Priu is located in the municipality of Bonorva in what they call “La valle dei nuraghi,” the valley of Nuraghi, a new designation. It should be combined with a trip to the Nuragic complex of Santu Antine di Torralba. The city of Torralba also includes the Museo della Valle dei Nuraghi del Logudoro Meilogu. There is a longer itinerary starting from Bosa, a great city to stay in, as outlined on Tharros.info.

Unfortunately the largest and most elaborate cave, called the Chief’s Tomb, may not be visitable. This complex of chambers was transformed in an early Christian church in the Byzantine period with frescoes which are being conserved by the Centro di Conservatione Archeologica.

Restaurant Recommendations in Bonorva and Rebeccu, valle dei nuraghi

Just outside Bonorva on the other side of the superstrada is the “Ristorante Valle dei Nuraghi”: which serves excellent food. Try Bonorva’s specialty pasta made from bread dough, Zichi di Bonorva.

Between Bonorva and Sant’Andrea Priu is the medieval village of Rebeccu. Despite the fact that the town is largely deserted, Ristorante Pizzeria Su Lumarzu serves excellent local food and pizza.

sant'andrea priu
Sant'Andrea Priu and the plain of Saint Lucia

Necropolis of Sant'Andrea Priu originally appeared on wanderingsardinia.com Jun 12, 2016, © James Martin

Archaeology, Food

Categories Archaeology, Food

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of the hateful Levitucus cult that seems to have overtaken Christianity. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the aims of the Evaristian Community of the Sacred Heart: “giving assistance to abandoned and orphaned children and those stricken by poverty, and offering religious instruction, education and youth guidance through the parish network.”

What does this have to do with wine? Well, the beverage is mentioned a lot in the Bible, but in this case, the wine is the vehicle by which the community gets funds to finance its activities. Here’s a snap of the bottle of biologically certified Cannonau we’ve recently had the pleasure of drinking,
Evaristiano Aristo.

evaristiano aristo wine
Evaristiano Aristo: Cannonau di Sardegna

It’s doubtful you’ll find it in your store. But sit a spell and let me tell you the story of this wine.

We’ve recently spent a week in the town of Bauladu, a village of but 800 people in the Oristano province. Thirty years ago we took part in the excavation of the Bronze age village that surrounded the local archaeological treasure: Nuraghe Santa Barbara. We’d returned to see how the village has fared in these trying times. It was neat as a pin. The bar, where we went for our morning coffee, was alive with people who greeted us warmly. Unike thirty years ago, there are several places to stay in the village for tourists.

Things seem to be looking up—in down times.

It turns out that not only does the town have a brewery that produces excellent, though expensive, beer made from local and unusual ingredients like the unique honey made from cardoons grown in town, but the vineyards for the wine in the picture lie outside the nearby village of San Vero Millis. Furthermore the Evaristian Community of the Sacred Heart has some roots in Bauladu:

“The Institute has since expanded further, with several new centres being opened: the Community is currently active in the localities of Donigala Fenughedu, Putzu Idu and Bauladu in the province of Oristano, in Serramanna and Villasimius in the province of Cagliari.”

After meeting with Davide Corriga Sanna, the mayor of Bauladu, who drove home his point that the area around his village was perfect for Cannonau production, he handed us a bottle of wine as we prepared to leave his village. It was the wine you see in the picture above.

We had it a few nights ago with dinner. It was rich, full, complex and since I am not a wine writer I will leave you with the empty, sentence-draining, “fantastic!”

But you know what? It was great with the main course, but it was better with the dolce we had following the meal, the torta di sapa, a cake we had learned to make in Bauladu using Sapa di fico d’india, prickly pear concentrate, for sweetness, color, and flavor.

Despite being biologically produced, despite being a very fine wine, you can buy a bottle for a reasonable price. None of the Evaristiano wines sell for more than 15 euros.

The good things in life go together. Wine and food, caring and love, richness and charity, sweet grapes and prickly pear. There is a warp and woof to it.

Cin cin!

Evaristiano: Wine from the Heart originally appeared on wanderingsardinia.com May 14, 2016, © James Martin

Food, General Travel

Categories Food, General Travel

I can image the moment when Sergio Leone set his eyes upon San Salvatore’s dusty central square surrounded by the little cumbessias, pilgrimage houses used during religious festivals. It was the American southwest. Or at least it was good enough for his quickly produced, low budget cowboy films. Leone’s credentials on this location issue were sound, the man was called the “father of the spaghetti Western” in the 1960s.

San Salvatore: A Row of Cumbessias, Houses Used During Religious Festivals.

San Salvatore is a bump along the road to famous beaches on the Sinis Peninsula like Is Arutas. When we visited San Salvatore in the 1980’s there was a wooden replica of a typical southwestern bar right in front of the church. It really rocked at night. You could order a beer and it came with peanuts you shucked then swept the refuse onto the floor like a real badass. Alas, the place was lost in a fire and never rebuilt. Quite a pity for San Salvatore.

The Spaghetti Western: A Taste of Italy has a picture of the saloon and description of the era of Spaghetti Westerns in Sardinia.

While the saloon is history, two restaurants remain in San Salvatore. Get the blue plate special.

The Hypogeum

So about now you’re mumbling, “why is this guy sending me to a town that’s seen better days?” Ok. Fair enough. If you’re passing by San Salvatore, take a few minutes to park on the outskirts of town and go to the church. It’s adjacent to the town square. You’ll hardly recognize it as a church. There is no grand facade carved with saints. Go in anyway—if the doors are open. It’s run by volunteers so opening times may be hit or miss. Let your eyes adjust to the light, then go down the stairs.

Watch the first stair. It’s a doozy.

If you haven’t taken a header on that first stair, you are descending gracefully to a place built in the 4th century BC. Christianity was just being explored. There are Punic and Roman scratchings on the walls. There are altars and some drawings they’ve restored, as you can see in the picture below.

san salvatore hypogeum
San Salvatore Hypogeum

Let’s just say that you now have a reason for going to the spaghetti western town of San Salvatore. Walking around is also a pleasure. The little hamlet is somewhat unique.

san salvatore
San Salvatore di Sinis, Sardinia

And speaking of getting around on foot…

Festa San Salvatore di Sinis: La Corsa degli Scalzi di Cabras

On the first Saturday in September, young men in white tunics called Is Curridoris grab the wooden statue of San Salvatore from the parish church in Cabras and take off on a very long run—barefoot. 7 kilometers. The surviving arrive in San Salvatore to be resuscitated with the local Vernaccia wine. The next morning they will run back.

You may wonder why they do this. It all has to do with refreshing the memory of an Arab pirate attack in 1506 in which the faithful of Cabras were compelled to save their saint by whisking it away to a hiding place in little San Salvatore. The dust alone made the pirates think they were seeing a huge, advancing army.

Just in case you think this is just a thing for runners, there is way more to the celebration. There is traditional Sardinian music featuring the Launeddas as well as the harmonica. There are celebrations of the local foods, like the muggine, the grey mullet fished from the Stago di Cabras. There are exhibitions, theater and even fireworks throughout the week of the festival.

Running with Faith is a brilliant description of the run by an expat Quaker living in Sardinia.

See, San Salvatore isn’t such a cowboy backwater after all.

Travel Toolbox

Highest rated B&B near San Salvatore: Agriturismo S’Incant’e Sinis

Oristano Travel Weather and Climate Charts

San Salvatore originally appeared on wanderingsardinia.com May 10, 2016, © James Martin

Oristano, Festivals

Categories Oristano, Festivals

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