island of Sardinia (Sardegna) brought out the adventurer in us.
Our first stop was Sassari, a city of about 120,000 with a rich
history dating back to the early Middle Ages. Sassari is a college town,
home to the University of Sassari that was established in May of 1562.
Over the first
nights dinner, conversation turned to local food and customs.
Gianluca mentioned that horse and donkey were the "national
foods" of Sardinia and that people who are not from the island
can find them hard to eat. It wasnt meant as a challenge,
but to us, the gauntlet had been dropped. Since David had tried
horse on a previous visit to Italy, it was obvious that we must
eat the ass.
Sniffing around the next day, we found an intriguing little local haunt called Trattoria da Peppina in a tiny piazza near our hotel. Turns out assenello (little donkey) was one of the least adventurous menu items. Spinal cord, small heads of lamb, three kinds of snails, various entrails, and goat feet were all available, as well as several things we couldnt decipher even with our fairly complete dictionary. This was it - wed found our place. The nervous, obvious jokes preceded our meal - "Thats some nice ass," "Theres just nothing like a good piece of ass," "Howd you like to bite my . Well, you get the idea.
Sassari sleeps in the afternoons, so it felt as though we had the whole place to ourselves, but we did find the Museo Nazionale Sanna open. The museum houses some of the earliest Stone Age and Neolithic finds on the island. Phoenician and Carthaginian pottery and gold jewelry, Roman statuary, a sprinkling of coins, bronze belt buckles and a stash of heavy Roman boat anchors that pay homage to Sardinias seafaring history share the space with the art collection of Giovanni Sanna, whose family built the museum.
A souvenir shop hocking tee shirts that read "No Mirto, No Party" caught our attention as we strolled. Intrigued, we stepped in to ask the proprietor about Mirto. With little language in common, we learned through hand signals and interpretive dance that Mirto is a traditional Sardinian liqueur that tastes harmless, but in a half an hour all hell breaks loose.
upon arrival back at the hotel, we started our research. Mirto,
we found, comes
in two varieties, red and white, and is made from the myrtle plant - the
red (rossa) is made from the berries, the white (bianca) from the
leaves. Nothing about hallucinations. Since we were not sure who to trust - Wikipedia or the guy at the souvenir shop (could he have
been exaggerating just to sell us a tee shirt?) - we felt that further,
more personal research must be done.
The plaza was filled with outdoor cafes, strolling families, necking teenagers and, as always, the old guys sitting on benches, watching.
Situated at an outdoor table, we started with the Mirto Rossa. Very sweet, thirty-two percent alcohol, with a back taste of herbs. We enjoyed some people watching, letting some time pass, hoping that the effects of the drink would not be too harsh. Still coherent, we shared a Mirto Bianca. The herbal taste of the Bianca is more obvious, as the sweetness of the berries has been eliminated. Again we wait for the hallucinations. Nothing.
Our study concluded that while Mirto will warm your spirit, its probably best not to expect a mind-expanding experience, but it may make you want to exclaim the local howl of "Aiooo!"David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com