Sardinia is a strange place. Not the beaches, they’re all veneer. Beautiful, to be sure, and teaming with people, also veneered.
Strange and fascinating is the interior. It’s not like anything you’ve experienced, especially if you stick around for a while—or live there for a time, as I have. I can’t shake it from my mind.
Sardinia is known for its bandits. Yes, bandits. And of course, where there’s a traceable lineage of bandits, there are knives. My early introduction to Sardinian knives was strange, like the country. It is a long story. It goes like this:
We arrived in Sardinia to do an excavation of a nuraghe and its surrounding village. Nuraghi are those ancient stone towers that dot the Sardinian landscape. We were picked up at the airport by the dig car, a Fiat van. We zipped along the north-south superstrada for a while. Then we stopped. Not voluntarily; I mean the car just burped and slowed. The driver pulled off expertly, following a sign to Santa Cristina, a sacred well, older even than a nuraghe. The car stopped in a field. Dead.
We men diddled with it while the women watched and mocked us. It is an ancient rite. Testosterone makes you a whiz with automotive devices. Everyone knows this, so it is a fact. If you can’t fix a car, then you have a small dick. This is another fact.
We spent the night in the van. It was not pleasant.
The next morning, some of us went off to the next town for some diesel fuel, thinking the lack of fuel had to be the problem. We took the superstrada, since it was the most direct way we could see to get there. Along the way we were stopped by a cop. We explained our plight to him. He looked at us gruffly, then stepped into the road full of speeding cars (Sardinians don’t necessarily do that idiotic “slam on the brakes and gawk at the cop car” thing that Americans do).
Anyway, he flags down a car. There’s a couple in it; the back seat is full of all manner of crap. He orders them to take us into town. They point to the crap. He shrugs. They get out and start to load the crap into the trunk.
While they’re doing this I’m looking at the ground like a good archaeologist and—wham!—I spot a cool knife. I look at the cop. He’s watching the crap pile up in the trunk. I slide the knife into my pocket.
Later, after we discover that the van was just tired or something because when one of the men thinks of starting it, the beast roars to life. After an uneventful drive we get to the dig house and I show my find to Antonio, a Sardinian friend.
“Wow. This is nice. Some shepherd is going to kill himself over losing this knife, you know that?”
I remember feeling bad. Like I should have flagged it and left it alone, like we do with archaeological artifacts. I had almost forgotten the incident and my shame, then yesterday that I discovered a wealth of information on Sardinian knives on the web. Sardinian knives are far more famous than I thought. While you’re in Sardinia, you don’t realize it; everyone has one.
It all started with a chance find: Knife in the Water, an article by Eliot Stein, with a picture of The world’s heaviest knife in Arbus, Sardinia, where there’s a Sardinian Knife Museum at Via Roma 15, Tel: 0709759220.
Sardinia has strange knives. There are knives that have a blade that looks like someone just cut the tip off it. Stein tells us that this is a guspinese:
The guspinese is characterized by a slightly rounded handle with an amputated point, making it look something like an old-time shaving blade (and getting around Italy’s obscure law stating that it is “illegal to carry a knife with a sharp point longer than the width of four fingers.”)
The web is amazing, isn’t it? Not as strange as Sardinia, or as fascinating, unfortunately. You’ll just have to go, won’t you?
Don’t bother to take a knife. You can buy a good one when you get there.