National Geographic : 1923 Jan
THE ISLAND OF SARDINIA AND ITS PEOPLE One cannot too strongly stress the di versity within an island only 16o miles long and 70 miles broad. So, instead of giving a systematic description o.f Sar dinia from north to south, or from east to west, it will be much better to treat sepa rately such regions as present the greatest contrasts. It will be easy for any reader to trace them on a map (see page 4). A BIT OF OLD SPAIN IS TRANSPLANTED IN SARDINIA If one visits Alghero and has previ ously traveled in Catalonia, he is at once struck by the resemblance between this Sardinian town and various places in Spain. In fact, Alghero cannot be called a Sardinian town. It is a colony from ancient Catalonia, and has kept unchanged the character of its early Spanish settlers. The very appearance of the streets, with their four-storied houses; the men, with their faces neatly shaven, who sug gest some Spanish matador; the language, which is almost pure Catalonian - all make Alghero seem actually "foreign" to such a place, for example, as Villanova, with its gorgeously costumed women, situ ated only a few miles away. Sassari, the capital of the Northern Province, is surrounded by olive groves whose stretches of gray-leaved trees are now and then broken by vast vineyards. The white limestone rocks are very soft and the country roads, incredibly dusty, have a whiteness which dazzles the eyes. The town itself is not so peculiar, but its inhabitants have a character which dif fers greatly from that of the other island ers. The Sassarese is talkative, gay, soci able, and hospitable, with a bit of humor tingeing every subject he discusses. No writer, ancient or modern, has ever failed to speak of the Fountain of Rosello. It is curious to note how authors of dif ferent ages have invariably reported what was said about that modest monument by previous visitors; so that a legend has arisen about the extreme beauty of a fountain which possesses little. In 1849 an English writer said: "Few cities can boast a handsomer fountain than Rosello." In 1885 another English writer printed the same words, and the quaint old monument, so modest in its dimensions and so plain in its ornaments, having nothing but historical interest, is favor ably compared with the splendid fountains in which the Italian cities are so rich. The legend is, however, so strongly rooted that not to speak of the fountain of Rosello when describing Sassari would be considered a serious fault (see p. 57) Sassari may be called one of the foreign towns of the island, such as La Madda lena, Carloforte, and Alghero. It was a Pisan colony and the dialect spoken there still retains some Tuscan characteristics. La Maddalena is a Corsican colony and life is conducted there in accordance with the customs and habits of the motherland. The language spoken is almost a pure Corsican dialect, mingled with some Gen oese words; but the visitor must be ex tremely careful in judging racial char acteristics, for in La Maddalena live many Italian families. Carloforte, which has taken its name from King Charles Emanuel III, is a pure Genoese colony. The isle of San Pietro, on which the town is situated, was given to the inhabitants by King Charles when he ransomed them from slavery. In former days the people in habited the isle of Tabarca, off the Tuni sian coast, and through an incursion of pirates all its inhabitants were made slaves and sold at the slave market in Tunis. That small, clean, lovely town is making successful efforts to thrive and improve, but being a smaller island, un connected with Sardinia, its isolation is doubled. FAMOUS NOVELIST DEPICTS ONLY ONE PIASE OF SARDINIAN LIFE The Sardinian novelist, Mrs. Crazia Deledda, has through her stories made the island known to Italians and to such other readers as have had the fortune to read them, but she has pictured only one phase of Sardinian life. The description which she gives of that part of Sardinia where her heroes and heroines live is not inaccurate, but her works have had a deleterious influence on the estimate formed by people generally concerning the island. The part of Sar dinia pictured in Mrs. Deledda's descrip tions is a small region, which, however interesting and characteristic it may be, is extremely circumscribed.