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itinerario, sardegna, costa smeralda, loro 1, Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare di agosto, Orosei, Cala Fuili, Cala Luna, Dorgali, Capo Comino,  Nuraghi, Tabarchini, zuppa gallurese

Foodie Cinema | Sardinia: Nuraghe, tabarchini and zuppa gallurese

(by Andrea Gropplero - Cinecittario: Archivio Luce)

Nuragic culture is considered the most ancient of Mediterranean civilizations. Already by the time of the Greeks, Sardinia was known as a wealthy, free land with flourishing agriculture. A land with no fishermen surrounded by a sea that was identified as the source of danger in the form of foreign invaders. The strange relationship the Sards have historically had with the sea that surrounds them is summed up in this old proverb: Furat chie furat e chie benit dae su – The thief steals as does those who come from the sea.

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The locations

Arbatax — Red Rocks Bay
Region: Sardegna Type: Faraglione Territory: mare
Cala Luna
Region: Sardegna Type: Spiaggia Territory: mare, montagna
Costa Smeralda
Region: Sardegna Type: Spiaggia Territory: cittadina, mare
Region: Sardegna Type: Borgo storico Territory: borgo, centro storico, montagna, villaggio
Porto Cervo
Region: Sardegna Type: Paese Territory: cittadina, mare

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Loro, Swept Away

In his film Loro 1 (2018), largely shot on the Costa Smeralda, Paolo Sorrentino describes a tendency to predatory and sycophantic behaviour in a certain type of Italian politician, trading business and sex on board huge yachts at the dawn of the millennium while eating giant prawns from the protected nature reserve of Tavolara or lobsters from Calagonone.
Historically, this was the role of Sardinia – which has given to the continent more than it has received. Once it was the crossroads for commerce in the Mediterranean region, drawing in populations from Northern Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe. The Romans identified the island as a large grain store, at an easy distance for speedy triremes, and they would profit from frequent incursions to coin sesterzi by smelting the little bronzes that proliferated in the nuraghe and famous funeral monuments such as the Domus de Janas.
Lobster, fished by hand and cooked live on a bonfire by two shipwrecked survivors, also appears in Lina Wertmuller’s magical Swept Away (1974). The film tells the story of an ill-assorted couple washed up on a deserted island. Raffaella Pavone Lanzetti (Mariangela Melato), rich, bourgeois, republican and anti-Communist, and Gennaro Carunchio (Giancarlo Giannini), a working-class Sicilian Communist, enact a patriarchal class war on the island until they fall madly in love with each other. The apparently single location of the island in the film is actually a composite of several places: the gulf of OroseiCala Fuili and Cala Luna in the municipality of Dorgali, and Capo Comino in Siniscola. The same locations were used by Guy Ritchie in his remake Swept Away (Travolti dal destino, 2002) which starred Madonna and Adriano Giannini, Giancarlo’s son.

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The piglet of Bandits of Orgosolo and the Barbagian Code

When his love of ethnoanthropology drove Vittorio De Seta to Barbagia to shoot Bandits of Orgosolo (1961), he was stunned by the discovery of a civilisation that seemed the product of an extraordinary time machine. A leap backwards in time over not years but millennia. In an unchanged and unchangeable scenario, people move with cyclical rhythms that are always the same, governed by the Barbagian Code: an unwritten law, propagating rigid, at times savage, concepts. With no written trace of it ever found, this bonafide community law was compiled to govern the tribes that, for millennia, represented the basic economic units of the populations gathered in the mountains (the plains were mostly swampy marsh until the mid-1900s) who practiced pastoral traditions, almost always sheep farming. A law that gave the community the power of life and death over its members and that was applied by the people in the innermost areas of the Barbagia.
De Seta focuses his attention and the camera on Orgosolo, the village that is the symbol of this ancient code. Standing at the heart of the most important virgin forest in Europe (Supramonte), it is the birthplace of many famous bandits including, most recently, Graziano Mesina. Banditry in Sardinia is an ancient phenomenon, rooted in the moment when legal order threatened to replace natural law for the inhabitants. The Spanish (the Bourbons delegated the task of colonising what they believed, erroneously, to be the largest island in the Mediterranean to the Aragonese), who arrived at the end of the 1300s with the intention of building the outermost defensive bulwark for Spain against the Moors, brought their legal heritage with them. At the same time, Eleonora, Judge of Arborea, proclaimed the Carta de Logu, the first written constitution in history. The conflict with the Barbagian Code was inevitable, especially when taxation became particularly oppressive. The decisive push was provided in 1821 when Piedmont, which at the time composed the Kingdom of Sardinia with the island, decided (in accordance with Cavour’s liberal ideas) to proclaim the so-called Legge delle Chiudende (Enclosures Act) whereby anyone was permitted to fence off and claim land that had previously been shared commons, regulated by civic usage, for thousands of years.
With his careful and light focus, De Seta grasps even the tiniest detail of the incredible natural and human scenarios that appear before him with extraordinary efficacy. With skill and wisdom, he moves the characters, many of whom non-professionals who interpret themselves with dour expressions and dialogues that are mostly long silences and sketched gestures.
Cooking is also rigorously essential. Those who need to spend months away from their homes, in the midst of such verdant but arid nature, needed nutritious food that could keep for a long time and be cooked fast and without fuss. Food such as pane carasau, bread once cooked on the hot rocks in the fire (as Homer mentions in the Odyssey) which serves as a plate for slices of roasted sheeps cheese or, on holidays, boiled mutton with potatoes or the famous roast pig that De Seta describes so well in the film, a dish as simple as it is tasty.

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Island of San Pietro

The tabarchini

The tabarchini are the inhabitants of the island of San Pietro, to the south west of Sardinia, heirs to the thousand-odd citizens of Pegli (near Genoa) who were sent by the powerful Ligurian Lomellini family to colonise the island of Tabarca in Tunisia in the mid 1500s. Two centuries later, Tabarac was invaded by the Tunisians and its inhabitants taken prisoner. Ransomed thanks to the intervention of the Pope and other European nobles, the Tabarchini were permitted to occupy the then-deserted island of San Pietro by the King of Sardinia, Charles Emanuel III. They quickly abandoned the idea of returning home and established a flourishing coral and tuna fishing activity, a trade unknown at the time in the area, which they had learnt during their time in Tunisia capture. Still today the island inhabitants speak a dialect that has died out in the city of Genoa itself.

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Sardinian sheep

Brief historical notes on Sardinian cuisine

In other regions of Italy, it is said that nothing is wasted of the pig, in Sardinia this is true for sheep. Farming of this versatile animal, at ease in such harsh landscape, dates to pre-Nuragic culture. Sheep dress and protect people with their warm fleece, feed children with proteinic milk and adults with cheese, meat and offal still cooked today with methods whose origins are lost in time.
The Nuragic civilization brought the immediacy of using nature as an instrument in dowry to Sardinian cooking: from hot stones to cook pane carasau, holes in the ground to produce an oven, myrtle used to wrap fish and suckling pig to the rare examples of geophagy still in use.
The favoured cooking method has remained roasting, because of its simplicity, indispensable for those, like nomadic shepherds, who are always on the move to ensure adequate grazing for their herds. Even the animal’s blood, captured in the stomach, is mixed with cheese and spices and cooked in the ashes. This custom has spread from Sardinia throughout the areas of the Mediterranean with nomadic herding.
Another typical dish from the Sardinian pastoral tradition is roast suckling pig (5-8 kg in weight) which is cooked underground. Some anthropologists have interpreted this as a sort of ritual but it is actually a very practical choice. The animal is placed between two layers of freshly cut myrtle branches laid on embers in a hole in the ground previously solidified by fire, then covered over with a layer of earth which provides the base for a fire of aged wood which blazes quickly, turning to burning coals. This natural pressure cooker guarantees perfect cooking in 5-6 hours, time that the shepherd uses to take care of his business.
The practice of geophagy is found in many ancient cultures, including in East Africa, among the indigenous people of Australia and the Amazon, and in Sardinia as recorded by Pliny the Elder in the first century CE. Here mature acorns are boiled at length, mashed into a poultice similar to polenta and mixed with clay – which reduces the bitterness and provides a consistency similar to gluten – then cooked as little loaves. Once this practice was driven by the need to survive, today acorn bread is used in religious rites, especially in the area of Ogliastra.

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Zuppa gallurese (Gallurese soup)

Zuppa gallurese | Gallurese soup

Gallurese soup is the key dish of the shepherds’ feast day in what was historically the poorest area of Sardinia, recently become the richest thanks to tourism. The base, as in other pastoral areas, is mutton, boiled at length with kitchen garden vegetables (onion, celery, carrot).
INGREDIENTS (for 8 people)

  • 2 litres, sheep broth
  • 1 kg, old durum wheat bread
  • 500 g pane carasau
  • 500 g aged pecorino cheese
  • 500 g cheese (provola, caciocavallo or semi-aged cows milk cheese)
  • thyme, parsley, wild fennel, mint

The simple procedure relies on the quality and freshness of the prime materials. The base is mutton stock, at least 2 litres are needed. Line a large pan with a layer of old bread. Cover with a mixture of grated pecorino cheese and herbs (wild thyme, parsley, wild fennel, mint) then layer thin slices of caciocavallo cheese. Repeat for two or three more layers, and make the last with slightly thicker slices of caciocavallo. Pour in the stock, making sure that it reaches the bottom of the pot by using the tines of a fork. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees until a golden crust has formed. Leave it to rest for 20 minutes. The dish will surprise your palate.

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Loro 1 (2018) – © Gianni Fiorito

Recipe to make your own trailer on food and film in Sardinia

This game is for anyone who wants to make a homemade trailer about Nuraghe, tabarchini and zuppa gallurese. We’re providing the time codes for the film clips. Any edit program will work for this. Input the following data into the timeline and you’ll have your trailer in minutes.

  • Download the film titles for Loro 1
  • attach to sequence from 03.20 to 03.55
  • attach to sequence from 04.15 to 04.57
  • download the film titles for Bandits in Orgosolo
  • attach to sequence from 12.57 to 14.44
  • download the film titles for Swept Away
  • attach to sequence from 11.18 to 12.38
  • attach to sequence from 45.00 to 47.15
  • attach to sequence from 48.00 to 50.02
  • attach to sequence from 01.11.55 to 01.14.00
  • add the end title card “End”
  • enjoy it in company and, if you haven’t yet seen the films, watch them.

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