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Picturesque Calasetta was founded by Italian coral fishers.Photo: Mauro Rongione
Picturesque Calasetta was founded by Italian coral fishers.Photo: Mauro Rongione

Places

Don’t miss Calasetta on Sant’ Antioco when visiting Sardinia

Sant’ Antioco is an island just off the south west coast of Sardinia. It is Italy’s fourth largest island and is connected to its much larger neighbor by a road bridge.

Its inhabitants live mostly in the town of Sant’ Antioco or in Calasetta in the north west.

Calasetta, which means the silk bay, is worthy of its name, with wonderfully secluded beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters. The town was founded in the 18th century by Italian fishermen who moved there after leaving their most recent home on the Tunisian island of Tabarka. They originally came from Genoa in northern Italy, but wanted to seek their fortune as coral fishers further south.

Estate agent Anna Rita Rombi. Photo: Mauro RongioneVia Roma is a Calasetta street reminiscent both of narrow North African alleyways and the grid pattern of New York. The estate agent Anna Rita Rombi can be found in one of the white­washed houses on this pedestrian street. From her office, she sells properties in the town, in the countryside, and along the seafront, mainly to English, Dutch, and French buyers.

“Calasetta has remained relatively unknown,” Rombi says. “Perhaps because it is so different to the rest of Sardinia. I think that we have managed to retain our uniqueness – our own culture, dialect, and even our food. Most of us here in Calasetta are descendants of the 60 or so families who moved here from Liguria via Tunisia in the 1700s.”

The families brought their knowledge of winemaking with them from the Bay of Genoa. Today, the Carignano grape is ­almost only found in Sant’ Antioco. It literally grows on the sand dunes.

The culinary influence meanwhile comes from recipes the families brought with them from North Africa. Couscous is still preferred by the islanders over pasta.

“We have really preserved our traditions here since the 1700s,” adds Rombi. “And having fun is in our DNA. There is an all-night celebration for something here every month, from January right through December. Here, we like to pay homage to our grapes, our various herbs, and our figs.”

Mercury Boutique Hotel

Photo: Mauro RongioneOne of only a few larger coastal hotels, just south of Calasetta. Large rooms, even larger terraces, and a menu of seafood that requires long lunches and dinners.

Località Cala Sapone, Sant’ Antioco
mercuryboutiquehotel.it

Ristorante Pasqualino

On a dead-end street and with an unpromising exterior, the inside of Pasqualino warms the heart with amazing antipasti and wonderful seafood pasta. Excellent value for money.

Via R. Margherita 85, Calasetta

Museo d’Arte Contemporanea

An unexpected modern addition to the museums in this small fishing town. Founded 15 years ago by Sardinian artist Ermanno Leinardi, this is home to some very exciting experimental European art, mainly from the 1960s and 70s. 

Via Savoia 2, Calasetta

By Lars Collin

 

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