The Italian island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean is popular for its beaches but, finally, some of its other locally sourced and made beauties are coming to the fore.
I am lucky enough to be visiting this island paradise ahead of the Milano Expo. Sardinia is surrounded by blue seas. Striking limestone mountains tower over valleys of juniper and evergreen shrubs and trees and the island rings with the bells from roaming goats.
It has long been a popular holiday island for mainland Italians but it’s becoming a more common holiday destination for others, particularly German and French tourists who come here to rock climb, swim, and ride motorbikes and pushbikes on the twisting, hilly roads. Sardinia had a 22% increase in tourists in 2014.
The natural attractions of the region are obvious, what’s less obvious is Sardinia’s surprisingly large number of artisans.
Carpets rivalling Persia
Serafina Senette learned how to make traditional carpets from her mother but to be more commercially viable she learnt how to incorporate different techniques. This allows her to make radically different and intricate designs and she now makes carpets on consignment for international clients.
Using untreated wool from locally grown black, white and grey sheep, which are native to Sardinia, she uses one of two large looms to thread the wool. (Interestingly, and unlike Australia, the black wool is highly valued in Sardinia.)
It takes Serafina one month to design and make a larger carpet and they sell for $2,000 Australian dollars.
She also makes beautiful, colourful carpets that reflect the landscapes and architecture of local and international regions.
Milan is not the only region to be blessed with great leather craft. Sardinia also has a handful of local, handmade leather goods outlets.
Sabastiana Fara uses cow leather processed in Florence to make handbags, backpacks, purses and clutches. Fortunately the tanning process has vastly improved since the days of disposing chemicals into nearby rivers and there are now better treatment plants to cope with the tannery industry in Italy; however Sustainable Shopper is aware of some natural tanneries and we’re keen to track them down later.
Sardinia, particularly the region of Dorgali, is also home to the fascinating and very practical craft of resoiza knife making, a skill dating back to the 1600s.
The knife handles are carved from local goat horns, tree roots and branches. The stainless steel blade, which is sometimes engraved, retracts into the handle like a pocketknife.
The craftsmen and women assure us they last a lifetime – and with a point like that you’d be sure not to leave them unfolded!
And of course if you didn’t drink much wine before, you do now. No chat with an artisan was complete without a small glass of homemade red to say goodbye.