It has taken me 5 years to get around to it, but from this Spring I will finally be offering tours, tastings and cooking classes in my favourite Sardinian places, with my favourite Sardinian produce and people.
There is something undeniably magical about this place I call home, it both bulldozes cliché and bathes in that classic Mediterranean honey, with its bursting ripe fruit, bulging tomatoes, long late lunches, piazzas, pizzas, beaches, peaches and glinting sunset aperitivos. There is something more too, the bulldozer bit; an element of the undiscovered, under-explored and un-exploited, of the ancient, untouched and imperfect, an aura of authenticity which existed long before we all started using authentic as the default adjective for just about anything.
This is what makes Sardinia so special, because it is a little sperduta, a bit lost, off the beaten track, ‘Italy’s Wild West’ as Stanley Tucci recently described it. Ancient, fascinating, complex, uncompromising and breathtakingly beautiful, Sardinia is a place for those in search of a holiday less ordinary, and there is no better way than approaching it through the window of its unique and inimitable cuisine.
As I don’t yet have accommodation to offer (a work in progress) I can offer days at a time, where we will cook together, make pasta, taste and make wine, forage, comb honey with Luigi the honey man, pick and press olives, taste freshly pressed olive oil, visit the markets in Cagliari and Oristano and shop for the very best of the Mediterranean, in terms of both handicrafts and produce.
What I offer will be tailored to your individual needs/wants, and can be adjusted according to your time and budget. They are informal, fun, immersive and educational workshops, visits and classes. We will talk (lots), cook, eat, drink, explore, discover. You can come for as long or as little as you like, and no day will ever be the same.
What to choose from:
Capturing the Castle: A Day in Cagliari
Known as Casteddu in Sardinia, which means Castle, Cagliari is a stunning, diverse and dynamic city which is perfect for an introduction to Sardinia. Technically closer to Africa than mainland Italy, there are influences from all over the Mediterranean here, and the city is home to a blossoming food scene. The biggest indoor fresh produce market in Europe, San Benedetto, will be the first stop: a place overflowing with fresh, seasonal produce, including an entire floor devoted to fish. Then we will wander around Cagliari taking in the old city with its laundry adorned streets, the best and oldest café in town, the sea front, my favourite gelato and my favourite maritozzo (a special Sardinian version filled with two different types of cream). Also stops to get ricotta rolls and traditional Sardinian knives & fabrics. We can shop for just about anything you’d like to, whether food or otherwise.
Market to Table, Oristano
A visit to my local Oristano Market followed by a cooking workshop in my kitchen. This market is where I try to do my weekly shopping. It sells almost everything you would like to eat, all grown locally and all seasonal. We can buy aged pecorino, local honey, bitter almonds, torrone, strawberries, artichokes, peaches, cherries, clams and salami, to name just a few of the things available. We can also hunt for vintage tablecloths. Anything we buy we will make into a seasonal and delicious multi course lunch, including at least one pasta dish, a salad or two, some antipasti and a pudding. I usually cook predominantly vegetarian but am happy to add a little meat or fish as you prefer (anchovies, bottarga and prosciutto find their way into many dishes).
Le Mani in Pasta
If you prefer to skip the shopping you can plunge straight into the pasta, and we will prepare 2 or 3 pasta shapes together (including Malloreddus, Trofie, Culurgiones), and something sweet in my home kitchen. We will then eat everything we make with wine, bread, cheese and salads/vegetables added.
Botte Mezza Piena: Wine-Tasting In the Cantina
A visit to the family vineyard, where maestro Mauro my father-in-law and the family will teach you all about the very special DOP wine (Vernaccia di Oristano) his family have been making in this specific region for generations. After visiting the vines and exploring the cantina we will prepare a complete tasting of 4 different home-made wines.
Sotto le Olive: Wine Tasting in Campagna
If you’d like something a bit more relaxed and rustic, we can also provide a more bucolic-style complete tasting in the vineyard itself, under the olive trees, looking over the vines.
Segreti del Sinis: Guided Coastal Walks around the Sinis Peninsula
For those looking to go somewhere off the maps, for a hike with spectacular views, historical and archeological information as recounted by in-house Historian Lorenzo and an insight into where to find the best secret beaches and swimming spots. We can choose the site/duration based on your interests/wants, but each hike will incorporate stunning scenery, unspoilt nature and beautiful beaches.
Honey tasting and combing with Luigi Manias, a brilliant honey-maker, friend and bibliophile, who will teach you all about various honeys and the history of Sardinia, too. Luigi is a good friend and great company, he recently appeared in Tucci's Searching for Italy, where he spit roasted a whole lamb doused in bitter honey. He's not very technologically minded, but his site is here: https://www.mielimanias.it/
There is also always the opportunity to take home as a souvenir:
Our home-produced olive oil.
A single variety, cold-pressed, extra virgin Semidana, which we pick and harvest entirely by hand (we like to make our own lives difficult). It has an extraordinary grassy flavour with hints of green almond and artichoke.
Our home-made wines.
We – the family - select, harvest and crush every single grape by hand. The vines have been in Mauro’s family for at least 3 generations. We make four types of wine:
- A young Vernaccia di Oristano. Fresh with a good acidity, pale golden and almondy, this pairs beautifully with seafood and is great for cooking with too. With a slightly higher alcohol percentage than most whites, this wine is unique in its ability to age in barrels which are only half full and thus interact with the oxygen to create a complex flavour profile.
- A Cannonau/Nieddera red wine blend. Strong and full-bodied, this pairs well with red meats and ragu, and makes a perfect red table wine. Based around two of the most important red-wine grapes of Sardinia, a hint of Vernaccia di Oristano is our secret ingredient and adds a welcome acidity, making it dangerously drinkable.
- An aged Vernaccia di Oristano. This is the most important and exclusive wine produced in our area, aged in barrels inherited from Mauro’s grandfather, it is a wine that is almost more like a liqueur, with a high alcoholic content, an amber colour and an incredible depth and complexity of flavour. Hints of raisin, liquorice, honey, elicriso, vanilla and tobacco are amongst the 70 or so various secondary aromas identified in this unique wine which is designed to be savoured slowly. It pairs beautifully with puddings and local almond amaretti.
- A Vernaccia di Oristano Reserve. Aged for almost 30 years, this is made from the same base young Vernaccia wine but has spent more time in the barrel and bottle. The spicy aromas are even more pronounced and complex, and the colour a richer amber. To be enjoyed with dark chocolate or dolci di mandorle.
Who We Are
Letitia Clark (me): I am a chef, food writer and illustrator originally from Devon and now based in Sardinia. I have written two cookbooks about Sardinian/Italian food, and I am working on two more.
Lorenzo Putzolu studied Classics and is passionate about history, languages and literature. Apart from teaching Classics, History and Italian he drums in several bands during the summer season and helps his father make the family wine and olive oil. He likes to spend his free time reading about obscure moments in Medieval history and hoeing large areas of land by hand.
Mauro and Monica are Lorenzo’s indefatigable parents who make the Cantina (S'Anatzu) what it is today. They both work full time (as a surveyor and modern languages teacher respectively) but still make time to make the wine and olive oil and entertain guests from Sardinia and beyond, offering tastings and tours/talks in the vineyard. Read the reviews on their site to get an idea of how welcoming they are.
Where we Are
We are based in Baratili San Pietro, the hub of Vernaccia di Oristano production, situated on the river Mare Foghe and with views of distant Monti Ferru. A part of the Sinis peninsula, Baratili is a 10 minute drive from some of the region’s best beaches, including the infamous quartz beach Is Arutas. Oristano, a Medieval town founded in 1070, with a beautiful historic centre, is just a stone’s throw away and next-door Riola Sardo provides all the local amenities including a large supermarket, independent butcher, bar and bakery. We are ideally situated for anyone wanting to explore further up the west coast (Bosa and Alghero are particular highlights), the local coastline, or further inland. We are a 50 minute drive/train ride away from Cagliari Elmas airport.
If you would like to come and visit, head over to the Experiences page on the website for more information, or send me an email at email@example.com.
Accommodation wise, there are plenty of AirBnB's near us. Some of my favourite places to stay are here:
Sardinia Secrets (a group of lovely hotels inc, the two previous)