We took a short flight from Milan to the town of Alghero on the northwest side of Sardinia. Alghero was a Spanish stronghold for many years and you see the Spanish influence in their architecture, food and street signs, often written in both Catalan and Italian. The old city center has narrow, pedestrian-only streets that are washed down every morning and kept very clean. Within the old town walls there are eight churches, plenty of small and interesting shops, an abundance of piazzas, numerous gelaterias and enough restaurants to handle the large crowds in the summer. Right now it’s easy to get a table, but the good restaurants were full this weekend
Good Friday Procession
We arrived on Good Friday, which allowed us the opportunity to witness some of the beautiful Holy Week traditions of this area. Our apartment was in the middle of the old town, so we were able to watch the late evening procession from our bedroom window. The first procession was a quiet one which included the parish priests with lanterns, Christ in a white, ornate casket followed by a large statue of Mary carried by about six strong men. The rest of the group were the local faithful carrying candles in colored candle holders that made them all glow a dark red. It was mostly a solemn procession with the sound of people praying. After the church service, the casket was left in the church and only the statue of Mary came out followed by a much longer procession (with the addition of a band and the late arrivals). The music was a solemn funeral march and at the end of the long procession of red lights, we could hear a woman singing the Ave Maria in a sad and moving voice. We went to bed early that night because we were still tired from our travels. But the rest of the people around here must have gone to the bars afterwards because we heard their lively reverie around two-thirty in the morning!
Not much happens on Holy Saturday, but the tradition for Easter Sunday is quite unique. This time, the parades started out in the morning. There were actually two parades at the same time. One group walked with the statue of Mary and the other group walked with a large statue of Christ (no longer on the cross). Each group paraded through the streets of the town and met at a place near the harbor. When the two statues arrived at a certain spot, a group of about 25 men on a platform all shot their rifles into the air for a few minutes. It was quite noisy but exciting! When I get Internet access, I’ll find out the exact reason for this Sardinian tradition.
After following the parade around the town, we walked the lungamare (a long waterfront sidewalk) and enjoyed our first sunny day in Sardinia. The rest of the day we joined the other tourists and families who strolled the streets and we enjoyed a long, relaxing lunch outside in a protected piazza. We had planned to take a boat trip, but the seas were too rough and the boats didn’t leave the harbor.
So far, the Sardinian food is not so different from other Italian fare. There are plenty of pasta dishes, pizzas al forno, meats and fresh seafood. We’ve tried their rolled pita sandwich, spianata, that resembles a wrap, a pasta dish similar to gnocchi, home made Sardinian breads and a tasty, fritter type dessert filled with honey and cheese called seadas — and all were good. But each region has their specialties and we plan to explore more culinary treats in the following days. Stay tuned.