Archeology, history and cocktails – Sant’Antioco, Sardinia

Yesterday evening we took a lovely walk in the setting sun along the seafront. There was a beautiful reflection of the setting sun on the calm waters, fisherman were standing round by their boats discussing their day. There were several bars open with people sat outside, it was such a nice evening we had to stop by. We went to a bar with a sheltered seating area with several tables filled, one a group of about 10 older local gentlemen were sat round chatting, apparently without feeling any obligation to buy anything from the café. We ordered a couple of beers and sat and watched people go by. We could not get the attention of the waitress again after our drink though, so we went inside to pay and moved on to the next bar. By now the sun had set and the lights had come on the Xmas tree.

We went inside a very festive looking ultra modern bar a few doors up. We ordered drinks and an enormous appetiser board was brought apparently for free, containing bruschetta, peanuts, crisps, popcorn, dried meat on focaccia, frittata and some local pastry with ham in. We felt so bad at receiving so much food when buying only one drink each, we felt we really had to stop for a second. The barman had been using a cocktail shaker frequently since we arrived and we deduced that was the thing to order here, Kev had been given a really nice locally brewed beer though and was sticking to that. I asked the barman for the drinks menu, he apologised that it was in was still progress, he had limited English but offered me something which included banana. I offered him my phone when I could not get the next bit and he showed me Plasmon biscuits 🤨 No idea what I was getting but willing to give it a go, I ordered one. At the risk of running away with the superlatives yet again, it was the best cocktail I have ever had. Really not sure what it was but it was so good!

We decided to quit whilst we were ahead then as the waitress tried to bring us yet another tray of free appetisers. We retired back to the van where Kev created a triumph of Salsiccia and Fagiloi (Sausage and Beans), a new van favourite, even for me, who does not eat the Italian sausage.

Motorhome catering – Salsiccia and Fagiloi

Overnight was raining and it was still a little drizzly first thing. We took the time to book our ferry tickets for Sicily for 10th December 😀 Once the rain cleared we head out for some local history at the Museo Archeologico of Sant’Antico. We had planned to visit the Hypogean village and came across the ticket office first. We paid our €10 which included access to the Necropolis, Acropolis, Tophet, Savoy Fortress, Hypogean Village, the Ethnographic and Archeological museums. The lady rang someone from her mobile and mentioned “duo inglessi”. We were welcome to take the dogs and she gave me instructions to go and find the Necropolis 50m away. We had not necessarily planned on that order of events, but I gathered someone was waiting for us there. Sure enough, a lady met us at the entrance and gave us hard hats. We were given QR codes to listen to audio guides in English as she did not speak any and my Duolingo lessons have not yet given me the vocabulary related to archeological sites.

We followed her on our personal guided tour into the Necropolis. The area we were looking at is one of three funerary sectors in the town of Sant’Antioco, this being the Pirixeddus area, relating to graves from the Punic period between the end of the VI-V and the third century BC. It was later reused by the Romans during the Republican age (between second and first centuries BC). Though this is not the oldest site as a Phoenician necropolis near the Via Perret (street) dates to the seventh century BC. This Pirixeddus site was used by the Punic inhabitants of Sulky, as the town was named then, are built into the hillside dug by hand out of rock. Corridors emerge with stairs descending into the chamber below. The Roman graves alongside were more surface level with tiled roofs, the images showing how the ashes of the cremated remains were stored in amphorae (earthenware jars) and buried, though the rituals changed through the period of use.

Before long we were directed to descend the stairs down the narrow corridors into one of the hypogean chambers by our guide. She indicated at this point we would no longer be able to use the audio guides on my mobile due to reception, so she took us through the tour with a mixture of Italian and French with the occasional English word and mime / pointing which was pretty effective in getting the message across, as I tried to translate at least the French bits for Kevin. It was surprisingly large inside, several chambers interlinked and also at different levels. Each room would apparently house a family of 6-8. There were later rooms with alcoves dug into the walls which would house a couple in one of the larger ones, or small children in some of the smaller niches. One of the graves was painted with a fresco, though I understood this was a reproduction and I think the original was somehow in the museum.

It was fascinating but also staggering that these have survived for so long. In one of the lower chambers for which only a corner had been opened, the broken remains of the amphorae jars could be seems when we peered in using the lights on our mobiles. It seems these jars would have been goods buried in the grave I used for use in the next life.

When we finished our Necropolis tour, we were handed over the the other gentleman in the wooden hut who then took us on our own personalised tour of the nearby Acropolis temple and then the neighbouring Savoy fortress. He literally unlocked the gates to let us in on our own to wonder round. I have never had a private tour like this before. The Acropolis was a temple built on previous Bronze and Early Iron Age, it’s early use was disputed but it became a place of worship in the Roman Republican age (2-1 century BC). Today the colonnades remain and the decorated floor, plus a cistern built below the floor capped with Perspex. The area was only partially uncovered from the 1950’s and two lion statues were found in the amphitheatre area nearby which we did not see which apparently were part of this complex.

Next, as we love a good piece of fortification, we had to see the Savoy fort next door to the Acropolis on the hilltop. Apparently originally the site of a Nuraghe (stone tower) due to its prominent position, the fort was built in 1812 to protect the town from the pesky barbarian attacks like the other towers we have seen on the island. Although it seems it was not very successful as Tunisian pirates killed the soldiers of the garrison in 1815 as denoted by a memorial plaque. Our guide played us the audio guides from his phone as we roamed around with the dogs still in tow taking pictures from the ramparts etc.

He then announced we were to visit the Hypogean village, our original destination. He walked us along the narrow town streets to the second burial complex on the western side of the hill. A further burial complex was later reused as catacombs under the church further in town, it is believed there were originally 10 hectares containing more than a thousand hypogea. This Hypogean village were Punic tombs from 6th to 3rd century BC, but later used as dwellings by the poorer townspeople. Unbelievably people were still leaving in these gruttas (caves) until the 1950’s. It was the doctor dealing with the TB and damp related illness who petitioned for social housing. Though some of the gruttas dwellers apparently took some adapting to their new homes and would sneak back at night. Now the gruttas look quite cosy, newly white washed and refurbished with some sample decorations. However, it is staggering that in this small area 175 families lived until such recent times that there must be a good number of the town’s older residents who grew up there.

Finally our guide escorted us to the Ethnographic museum just along the road which is housed in a former wine warehouse. It has a selection of tools from the various trades on the island from bread and wine making to carpentry and blacksmiths. Many are familiar from our own history but it was a nice little display which some interesting items such as the weaving of threads from large molluscs which is an old tradition on the islands.

A full few hours of historical touring done we thanked our guides and headed into town for some lunch. However, it seemed there was little open at this time, so after a walk along the seafront we headed back to the van for some delicious fresh pasta we had bought recently. A really interesting tour, showing the concentration of the many civilisations through the eras who have made this small island – off an island their home.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: