#45 / Don’t expect white sand beaches

#45 / Don’t expect white sand beaches - Marco Moreo Milano

Undaunted, let’s continue our imaginary strolls in spite of variants with Greek letters and various flavours of pessimism. Don’t lose heart! Come on, let’s go wandering again this Sunday.

[And if you’re not wearing a pair of MarcoMoreo shoes, never mind, I’ll take you with me all the same: we Italians are companionable people, you know...] ;)

Today, I want to let you in on a place that’s not very well known, even here in Italy: we’re in Sardinia, in the north of the island to be precise. This time around, don’t expect white sand beaches and turquoise waters, oh no... We’re going in search of Italy’s most ancient trees. These are two oleasters (wild olive trees): one is no less than 2,000 years old, while the other has been around a good 3,000 to 4,000 years. Incredible, right?!

What’s special about these trees, in addition to their age, is their location. Imagine you’re in the middle of the countryside, around 40 miles from the coast, in a pleasant little valley in the Mediterranean scrubland overlooked by a tiny rural church – here since the 1700s watching over this silent, contemplative, almost mystical place.

There aren’t many people around (Sardinia is very well known for its coastline, less so for its inland areas), and silence reigns, interrupted only by the wind and the occasional chirping of birds. A short dirt road descends towards the valley, and a little way down it we find the main attraction: the trees are immense, not so much in height but in width.

We’ll head straight over to the patriarch (let’s give him that affectionate nickname). For some years now, he’s been protected by a wooden fence (could that be made of olive wood too?!) which prevents people from venturing among the branches that intertwine and extend outwards for several metres. The trunk is gnarled, as if it were the embrace of many trunks that have grown over the centuries next to each other, within one another.

The “younger” tree is even more enjoyable, because you can admire it without fences or enclosures: it’s like entering inside, into the shadow of leafy branches so muscular that their weight has pulled them down to earth over the years, creating trees within the tree.

I drift off, thinking about what it means to have been here for 2,000 years, and I can’t visualise anything concrete except for a Roman centurion... well, this tree has been around since Julius Caesar’s time!

I don’t know if it’s the heat, or teleporting back to ancient times, or the image of the centurion – he was a solider, better give him a wide berth... ;) Anyway, I feel a bit dizzy!

The solution? Refuelling, of course. And since Sardinia has a strong tradition of livestock farming, my recommendation for you is a cheese-based dish:

Sweet ravioli filled with fresh ricotta. Although they’re sugary, they’re dressed with a classic tomato sauce and sprinkled with grated cheese – an original pasta dish that leaves behind a delicate hint of orange...

The dizziness subsides, replaced by the good spirits of a delicious Cannonau, the quintessential red wine of this ever so surprising island. Surprising and long-lived – it’s not just the plants that live a long time here, it’s also the people: this is the Italian region with the highest number of inhabitants aged over 100.

What do you reckon, shall we stay here? Ciao!