Mandas, Southern Sardinian local charm
Surrounded by beautiful vineyards that produce the white Vermentino and the red Cannonau, and 4,000-year-old nuraghi stone towers that against all odds have managed to survive the ravages of time, life here is lived as it always has been.
And through some hidden doorways Scandinavian Traveler discovered a centuries-old cheese-making dynasty, a small bakery, and the most adorable recently renovated bed & breakfast.
Mild, mature, truffled, or spicy. Sardinia’s national cheese, pecorino, is a gastronomic gift from the island’s countless sheep.
Cheesemaker Caseificio Garau has been producing Pecorino here at Via Cagliari in Mandas in the traditional manner since 1880. And from a large, shady and wonderfully cool storeroom, behind the deli counter, that is stacked from floor to ceiling with rows of cheeses, Caseificio Garau sends tasty little packages of the cheese all over the world.
Mimmo Garau is a fourth-generation cheesemaker from the Garau dynasty.
“There are just two of us producing the cheese, mostly sheep’s milk cheese, but also some using cow’s milk,” Garau says. “We mostly make Pecorino Sardo, which requires a lot less maturing than Parmesan cheese. Our pride and joy is Duca di Mandas, which can be stored for up to 12 months.”
The fruity, almost sweet flavor comes from the landscape. Here, the sheep feed on the local stock of herbs, shrubs, and grasses.
The latest venture is proving to be a premium product. Lo Zinnibiri is a cheese full of holes, a kind of Sardinian Emmental that is matured for up to two and half years and is very tasty.
Pecorino can be found in many Sardinian dishes. It is a key ingredient in hearty vegetable soups and is grated over the island’s numerous varieties of pasta, such as the ear-shaped malloreddus or filled culurgiones.
The village bakery, Antico Panificio, is full of bread that is baked using mainly durum wheat, with names that present some tongue-twisting pronunciation challenges: tricu rujiu, civraxiu, pistoccu.
“Mandas is a cozy little village,” says Sara Toro from behind the bread counter, her voice almost drowned out by the noise of some early morning birds in the nearby alley. “Coming from Siurgus, where hardly a soul ever goes, I think there is a lot to do here – like riding the old Trenino Verde train line. It is also one of the few villages where they really seem to care a lot about their old historic buildings. But it is very quiet.”
A stone’s throw away, in a courtyard that brings home a feeling of timelessness, is Antica Locanda Lunetta. Agostino Porcedda runs the beautiful and well-preserved small family hotel with his sister Barbara. It took six years of refurbishment before Lunetta was ready to open in 2010. “We worked hard to highlight the ancient walls and wooden ceilings, but also to reconcile the many old details with modern glass materials. We want to be both ancient and modern,” says Porcedda, as he shows us into the welcoming entrance hall.
Antica Locanda Lunetta
A small, personal and very tastefully restored hotel. Offers cooking courses.
Via Roma 10, Mandas
Antica Casa Pasolini
Six rooms in a charming converted hunting lodge. Hostess Monica creates rustic dishes. Cooking courses also available.
Via Cagliari 128, Mandas
Il Trenino Verde
The little green steam train is one of the main attractions around Mandas. Puff around 400km of beautiful countryside and experience a Sardinian Wild West landscape.
By Lars Collin
Published: May 6, 2016