Sea and Sardegna

Vacation has come to an end. Tomorrow I go to the Comune to request keys for the deposito where the artifacts are stored. I start designing a database to record the bones in my zooarchaeological study. I buy a good desk lamp. I park myself in the Biblioteca Comunale and take advantage of the free wifi to answer a long list of emails. I go through the proofs for my edited volume.

But this week of vacation has been glorious, spent relaxing with friends on several of Sardinia’s beaches, and Sardinia’s beaches are gems. They tend to be small – narrow strips of sand caught between junipers and jutting rocks – reached only after turning off the road and driving several minutes down a dirt trail.

There’s often a kiosk selling coffee and gelato, maybe a simple restaurant, and that’s generally it in terms of services: most beaches are minimally “improved.” The ideal of the wild beach, sometimes reached only after leaving the car in an unpaved parking lot and hiking an hour down a dry riverbed, is one many Sardinians hold dear.

I have to agree with them. The beaches I saw this week weren’t even among the really wild, and they were stunning in their natural beauty. It’s hard to describe them without sounding cliché. The water deepens from aqua to almost purple as you look toward the horizon. It’s so clear I often watched my shadow on the rippled sand below me as I swam. Rising behind the beaches are slopes of rock and evergreen maquis broken only by occasional clumps of houses. Even these houses are the source of some complaint – my friends love to recount how, a few decades ago, there weren’t so many houses and the beaches were truly wild.

I find myself torn between wishing more people knew about the beauty of Sardinia and fearing that one day they will. That one day, not only the Costa Smeralda but also the Costa Rei will be covered with slick palazzi and high-end boutiques. That the Costa Verde will turn from a wildlife refuge to a stretch of strip malls. Most Sardinians show admirable stewardship of their lovely beaches: they don’t take the sand or rocks or shells, they do take all their garbage. I just hope further development will be in this same Sardinian spirit.

Cala Pira
The crystal waters of Cala Pira, near Costa Rei
The soft sands of Chia, in the south
Near Chia
Following the coast from Chia
A pebble beach near Capo d’Orso, in the north

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