Do You Need a Private Guide?

The story of the unknown Milis, Sardinia, and how guide Paola Loi helped uncover its secrets

We were two couples, sharing a fantastic apartment in Milis, Sardinia. It was a very nice little village with two butchers, a shop that sold homemade pasta and pastries, several bars and a pizzeria which we never found because it was so pleasant to make our own food in the house’s well-stocked kitchen.

I knew the area. Heck, I knew the mayor of nearby Bauladu, a place I’d worked as an archaeologist in the 1980s, excavating Nuraghe Santa Barbara, just outside town. We didn’t need no stinkin’ guide, I was the guide.

Then my friend Paola Loi came to visit for a day. She’s a guide who gives private tours. We wrote an app together about Sardinia. The company who published the app went out of business. I’m pretty certain it wasn’t our fault.

So the first thing we do upon Paola’s arrival is run around town picking up little things that are good to eat. Paola looks at the glass case in a macceleria and starts a stream-of-consciousness thing, meandering through the unique flavors of her island while a suckling pig glares at us from the glass case. Soon we leave with a hunk of salami that’s cured with vinegar. It’s OMG good. I wouldn’t have known.

So we ate a feast of all the things we’d foraged in Milis. Then we tried walking off the calories. We’d heard that in unlikely named Palazzo Boyl in the main square there was some kind of museum so we tromped toward it. Then Paola stops a guy dead in his tracks and asks him if he knows anything about it. No dice. He says the museum isn’t open much. But—this guy is getting out some keys. He’s planning on going in. “Can we just see inside?” Paola begs.

“I just have a couple of minutes,” the man answers, “But I can let you in”

He can let us in because he’s the mayor, we find out. His name is Sergio Vacca.

Paola immediately engages him. They talk about Sardinia like it’s some classic Italian car they both remember from their childhoods, a sleek but clunky beast that holds great memories. After quite a bit of walking and gawking we’re worming our way in to the far reaches of the palazzo, the place where the mayor brings special guests and has placed some special art of the island to create a favorable cultural atmosphere. Who needs a museum? History and art surrounds us.

walter sanders palazzo boyl
Walter Sanders makes eyes at the Sardinian art in the Palazzo Boyl

Walter Sanders, the master of art interaction, leads us further into the story of a day in Milis:

Sergio’s couple of minutes to spare stretched to nearly two hours. He also had the keys to the Romanesque church of San Paolo and he gave us a grand tour there. ~ Milis in Sardinia

Sergio Vacca
Sergio Vacca, the mayor of Milis, discusses the Romanesque church with guide Paola Loi.

Then we strolled to the orange garden, and past it to another locked gate the mayor opened for us. beyond the gate we found Milis’ past glory waiting to be made into…perhaps a hotel—and the largest, ugliest bomb shelter you could imagine.

By the end of the day we had seen all of Milis—it’s past, present, and even vestiges of what might become its future. A good, engaging guide can do that for you, even in places you’ve never heard of.

You don’t need a “stop of the car, roll down the windows, get a rote paragraph of explanation thrown at you” kind of guide, you need one that has the keys or knows who to ask to unlock the doors and gates.

Yeah, the gang certainly appreciated the effort.

group in milis after tour
The gang: happy in Milis

How to Have a Milis Vacation

We stayed at the this fabulous house in Milis. If you like to cook, its well-stocked kitchen will wow you.

You can reach Paola Loi at Sardinia Guide Paola Loi

Get an overview of Milis, Sardinia

See a Sardinia Map

What can you see in a short drive from Milis? Well, there’s Sardinia’s best off-ramp attractions, Santa Cristina. To the west is the awesome Sinis Peninsula with Roman, Punic, and Nuragic ruins, Romanesque Churches, the Giants of Monte Prama, and fine beaches.

More Articles About Sardinia

The Taste of Sardinia

Cooking Sardinian at the Tenuto Li Lioni

Ristorante da Armando, Sedilo

Autunno in Barbagia: Artisan Sardinia

There are Two Sardinias, and One of Them is Dying

Do You Need a Private Guide? originally appeared on , updated: Nov 29, 2022 © .

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