The main Sardinian traditions through the main festivities, including music, dance, and gastronomy.
"Life in Sardinia is perhaps the best a man can hope for: twenty-four thousand kilometres of forests, countryside and coastline immersed in a miraculous sea should coincide with what I would advise the good Lord to give us as a Paradise."
Sardinia is an ancient land whose origins go back a long way. Long, various dominations that have followed one another in the island, together with its geographical position, have contributed to the development of a complex culture with original and, at the same time, conservative traits in the Sardinian population.
In addition to its many beautiful beaches, each one different from the next, where white sand and pebbles alternate with rocks of the most imaginative shapes. In addition to its dawns and exciting sunsets, its undulating landscapes and art-rich villages, Sardinia is tradition to the nth degree.
The timeless charm of Sardinian traditions
Sardinia is an irresistible mix of art, history, music, craftsmanship, food and wine, something unique that has endured. Even the dialect of this land is so characteristic that it is considered a language distinct from Italian.
At the heart of Sardinian culture is a strong sense of identity and pride in one's roots, which have made Sardinia famous throughout the world. Thanks to the memory of the elderly, the customs handed down from generation to generation and the commitment of associations and institutional players, this immense heritage has come down to us.
If you attend a popular festival, such as the events of the Salude & Trigu programme of the Sassari Chamber of Commerce, you will understand the importance of traditions here. Promoting cultural and traditional events is also the best way to promote an area authentically.
You will soon realise how a timeless charm characterises most ancient Sardinian traditions: the magic of an island that has much to tell in addition to its turquoise sea coastline.
Cantu a Tenore: one of Sardinia's most important traditions
Traditional Sardinian music, both sung and instrumental, is ancient. The typical folk groups of the "Cantadoris", with their period costumes, periodically enliven the narrow streets of the historical centres.
The "coros", on the other hand, are dedicated to liturgical singing and vary in number, while the "tenores" are composed of four male voices and have a repertoire of secular songs. Canto a Tenore, or "cantu a tenore" is a style of Sardinian choral singing of great importance in the local tradition, both because it is an artistic expression of an original and indigenous matrix and because it developed within the religious culture of Sardinia. It is a polyphonic singing performed by four men using four different voices, called "Bassu", "Contra", "Boche" and "Mesu Boche", which take up the verses of animals such as calves, sheep and lambs.
Standing in a circle, the soloists sing a piece of prose or poetry, which may also belong to contemporary forms of cultural expression. At the same time, the other voices make an accompanying chorus. Most of the practitioners of this song live in Barbagia and central Sardinia and perform spontaneously in bars called "su zilleri" but on formal occasions and ceremonies and during the Barbagia carnival.
It is considered a unique artistic expression in the world. In 2005, UNESCO included it among the "Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" and is therefore considered an intangible heritage due to its uniqueness. The song in its current form is the result of the encounter between traditional local melodies and the guitar brought to Sardinia by the Spanish.
This song has been viral since the 20th century thanks to the numerous village festivals. There are actual competitions between "cantadores", usually men, accompanied by a guitarist and often an accordionist.
Many traditional instruments accompany these songs, such as drums, tambourines, accordions, guitars, and the "Launeddas".
Music: Sardinian culture meets innovation
There are many occasions to listen to characteristic Sardinian music and watch performances of traditional Sardinian dances, such as the event Cavart-Extrazioni Culturali, organised by the Associazione Girovagando, "Theatre en vol", Officine Culturali, in collaboration with the municipality of Monteleone Rocca Doria and the Unione dei Comuni del Villanova.
This event takes place in the empty houses, squares and streets of Monteleone Rocca Doria and aims to revitalise abandoned spaces through music, theatre, dance and other art forms.
In the beautiful city of Alghero, which offers not only uncontaminated beaches and wild nature but also a lively historical centre and an archaic language, a music festival with different proposals takes place: from 30 April to 25 November 2023 JazzAlguér returns, the festival organised by the cultural association Bayoun Club Events, which is now in its sixth edition. There will be live performances by famous names from the Italian and international music scene.
The evenings will be framed by the spaces of Lo Quarter, in the historic heart of the town of Catalan origin in northern Sardinia, the Teatro Civico, the Nuraghe Palmavera, the Cloister of San Francesco and the Casa Gioiosa in the Porto Conte Park.
In August, northern Sardinia will host a series of concerts in dreamlike settings: the 23rd edition of Musica sulle Bocche, a festival that has always aimed to unite "Jazz & Green", or rather, "Music & Landscape".
It is a project that brings together localities at risk of depopulation and tourist flows, playing a "Strategic Cultural Institution" role. It is a precursor of the new tourist model that has emerged in recent years, defined as Experiential Tourism.
The Festival programme integrates quality music, innovative proposals, environmental sustainability, natural beauty and valorisation of the territory, generating a unique experience.
Because of its focus on the territory, the Festival is supported by the Sassari Chamber of Commerce thanks to the "Salude & Trigu" project.
From 2 to 10 September, the search for innovation continues, linked to the enjoyment of art concerning the extraordinary territory of Palau, which hosts the International Festival Isole che Parlano.
Since its first edition, the festival system has successfully combined tourism, entertainment, culture, archaeology, local products and the environment authentically.
Sardinia, with its deepest roots, confronts contemporary society by drawing an ideal bridge with the world.
Finally, from 15 September to 1 October, the Festival of Sant Miquel is celebrated in Alghero with a festival in honour of St Michael, the city's patron saint. Celebration marks the climax of the summer season in Alghero and has become a must for visitors with its games, music and many events.
In the field of music, there is also an award created in honour of the greatest and most famous Sardinian singer-songwriter: Maria Carta. The artist managed to bring Sardinian popular music to events at the national and international levels.
On 3 September 2023, in Sligo, the Premio Maria Carta will be held. Born to promote and remember the artist who died in 1994, the award has expanded its scope over time. It intends to play a role in safeguarding and promoting Sardinian musical culture in its various expressions beyond tradition and to give visibility to the island's excellence in the economic sphere and the contribution of our emigrant communities around the world. Among those who have received the prestigious award over the years are Carla Fracci, Ennio Morricone, Alda Merini and Andrea Parodi, unforgettable protagonists of the Italian culture of recent decades.
Popular festivals and traditions of Sardinia
Festivals have always marked the life of island communities and are linked to the desire to reaffirm their cultural identity. In Sardinia, going to festivals means immersing oneself in ancient culture, discovering unknown sounds and harmonies, rhythmic dances with rich traditional costumes, poetic competitions out of time, wild horse races, and folkloric parades with precious and colourful clothes of yesteryear.
Often the festivities last several days and involve the whole community. For the occasion, unique sweets are prepared, and banquets with traditional dishes are organised for all to partake in.
An example of a festival celebrating Sardinian folklore is Primavera in Gallura, organised by the Associazione Stazzi e Cussogghi, between June and September.
Gallura is the area in the northeast of Sardinia with Olbia and Tempio as its most important centres. The event aims to strengthen the tourist vocation of the Gallura area, which is recognised as an attractive destination for sustainable tourism and of great interest for local gastronomic excellence.
The inhabitants have their own language, "Gallurese", customs, traditions and a reasonably independent character.
Their customs are different from the rest of Sardinia because their history, culture and relationship with the landscape and nature are different.
The "Primavera in Gallura" project was launched with the aim of re-appropriating their civic, cultural and musical traditions to strengthen their sense of belonging to their community. It aims to rediscover past traces, signs, and testimonies and stimulate the younger generations' knowledge of their own history.
This event also contributes to strengthening the collective perception of culture as a primary value and to making the local population and participants aware of the scientific, civic, cultural and tourist value of the historical and cultural heritage of their territory.
The most eagerly awaited event by the inhabitants of Sassari is the Faradda di li Candareri an event that will take place, as always, on 14 August. Its origins date back to the vow that inhabitants of Sassari made to Our Lady of Assumption, asking to free them from the scourge of the plague in 1652.
The Faradda, or descent, is a dancing procession involving representatives of the city's various trades, the 'gremi' of Sassari. They carry heavy votive candles on their shoulders around the city, along Corso Vittorio Emanuele until they reach the church of Santa Maria di Betlem.
It is one of the most prestigious events in Sardinia. It is part of the Network of the Great Italian Shoulder Machines and, since 2013, has been included in the UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The celebration is followed every year by about 120,000 people, with visitors coming to Sassari worldwide.
Among the main festivals in September, the Festa Della Beata Vergine Della Difesa (Feast of the Blessed Virgin of Defence) is worth mentioning.
A traditional religious, cultural event is celebrated in Stintino, on the date of Mary's birth. Here, the characteristic sea procession recalls the crossing that 45 families made in 1885 from Asinara to Stintino with the simulacrum of the Virgin for the foundation of Stintino.
The Madonna della Difesa, the town's patron saint, is carried in procession on a boat. Every year, a small committee elects the "Obriere". It becomes the ceremony's grandmaster to organise the patron saint's feast and attend the main religious events with a minimum number of brothers. On these occasions, they wear the typical dress consisting of a long skirt and white shirt, with a blue cape and a cord of the same colour.
The festival takes place over a week and consists of various events and activities. Sporting events are also organised, especially for children, and musical and theatrical performances and multiple entertainments attract thousands of visitors.
In Ittiri, near Sassari, one of the most famous events in Sardinia, the Ittiri Folk Festa, is held every year.
It is the International Festival of dances from all over the world. Organised by the Ittiri Cannedu group, it hosts folk groups from all over the globe who excite all spectators through their dances, music, costumes, and colours every year.
The event, which will run from 20 to 25 July, is dedicated to traditional music and dances and sees the participation of the Ittiri folk group, joined by various Sardinian folk associations and from many other parts of the world.
During the Ittiri Folk Festival, visitors can enjoy folk concerts in the streets and squares of the town, traditional dances and characteristic parades in which dozens of groups take part, bringing joy with their music and colourful costumes.
Sardinian culture amidst scents and flavours
Talking about Sardinian culture also means talking about food, wine, and typical cuisine.
Sardinian cuisine is based on simple and original ingredients derived from pastoral, peasant and maritime traditions. It varies from area to area, not only in the name of the dishes but also in the components used.
Wild boar and pork hams, and sausages are familiar, accompanied by olives and mushrooms. Some typical first courses are the 'malloreddus', a kind of small dumplings dressed with a full-bodied sausage sauce, called 'alla campidanese', or with cheese, called 'casu furriau'.
Also typical are the 'culurgiones ogliastrini', the 'fregula', the 'zuppa gallurese' and the 'lorighittas'.
Roasts are a characteristic feature, and 'porcetto' (roast suckling pig) is considered the emblem of Sardinian cuisine.
Sardinian bread, also known as 'Pane Carasau', is famous everywhere. Myrtle-based liqueurs and the local brandy, called 'Filu ferru' in dialect, and the renowned red wine 'Cannonau', excellent with tasty meats, are also exquisite.
Other typical products are cheeses and Sardinian pecorino cheese, appreciated for its ageing, and sweets with a unique flavour such as 'seadas' or 'papassini'.
The custodians of Sardinian traditions are the festivals and numerous popular feasts, ideal occasions to taste the island's typical dishes.
One example is the traditional Sagra della Cipolla Dorata (Festival of the Golden Onion) of Banari, a village in the Meilogu region, not far from Sassari. The event takes place in July and is an opportunity to taste typical dishes based on the delicious local onion, drink a good glass of wine and visit the old village.
A characteristic event of the Uri area is the Sagra del Carciofo (Artichoke Festival), in August. This identity event recalls the village's history, which has grown up with an artichoke-growing vocation since the mid-eighteenth century and has increased its number of visitors exponentially over the years.
The quality of the event and the right mix of food and wine, folklore, tradition have created an event that is eagerly awaited not only by the Uri community but, above all, by tourists.
In fact, it allows visitors to visit the most representative places in the town, such as churches, ancient dwellings, exhibitions and craft workshops that recall old trades.
Autumn flavours of Sardinian culture
In Sassari, from 23 November to 3 December, the event Weekend Dei Gusti, delle Arti e dei Mestieri will be back.
This event was born in 2006 to promote the culture of taste, showing the experiences of street food typical of the city of Sassari. Enhancing the offer of commercial businesses, contributing to broadcast from a touristic point of view the city, its gastronomical tradition and its most charming corners.
It is one of the most important events of the island dedicated to the valorization of the agro-alimentary production and the gastronomic tradition, particularly of the city of Sassari and its territory.
The Weekend of Tastes, Arts and Crafts has always taken place in the city's heart, among the alleys, the stores, the restaurants, the clubs, the trattorias of the historical city centre.
In the flat hinterland of northwest Sardinia, in the historical region of Logudoro and about 10 km from Sassari, lies Usini. The hamlet is renowned for producing artichokes such as Spinoso di Sardegna DOP, extra-virgin olive oil, a member of the National Association "Città dell'Olio" and wine much so that it is part of the "Città del Vino".
Dedicated to the "nectar of the Gods", among the events stands out, Ajò a Ippuntare, an exhibition dedicated to new wine, which takes place between November and December.
"This land does not resemble any other place".