by Luca Navarra


You arrived on the island of San Pietro attracted by its natural beauty, which is indeed remarkable, by its gastronomic delicacies, starting with tuna but not only, by the strangeness of this Ligurian enclave in Sardinia with centuries of a truly unique history; you arrived and got off the ferry, the gateway to paradise. A charming and elegant seafront, which you already appreciated as you entered the port, a triple row of trees adorning it, colourful facades of Ligurian-style buildings (so it was true!) and, surprise, plenty of people in all seasons. You didn’t expect this. The island is alive, the town is always inhabited and the Carlofortini (they prefer to call themselves Tabarchini, but that’s okay too) are to be found all around, in the streets, on the pier, along the country roads, in the many houses scattered towards the beaches and the hills of the interior. There are, of course, more crowded and privileged meeting places, but it all depends on a complex alchemy composed of time of day, season and climate, in particular the wind.

The piazza with four trees (Piazza Rebubblica), for example, past the statue of the one-armed king on the seafront (the first person you noticed when you got off the ferry) towards the church (Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy, known as “il forte”, one, and San Carlo, the other, just to be clear) is the true urban and anthropological centre of the town, slightly set back from the seafront, protected from the crowds in the bars, the road traffic, and the sometimes rough waters of the port: Here they are, then, the island’s residents, clusters of elderly permanent residents renewing their daily appointments, handfuls of vociferous women casually crossing paths between one errand and another, swarms of screaming children. The tourists watch indolently and happily. They try curiously to listen to the chatter but fail to grasp the meaning of the speeches, unless they know Genoese, another surprise that confirms the previous one. You will notice a vitality that does not allow itself to be affected by the looks and photographs of the observers, who do not always like them but always welcome them, a real life of a community that has been through so much and of all kinds (from emigration to slavery to colonisation, passing through the various articulations of work on the sea) and which therefore also endures this current tourist contemporaneity sometimes judged intrusive and too numerous but necessary to the island’s economy. The Carlofortini are obviously not only proud of their country and their identity, they like themselves in their ethnic diversity and uniqueness, they slyly enjoy being an amalgam of different peoples, eras and histories, having crossed the Mediterranean from the 1500s to the present day, far and wide, and still being in the saddle, well ridden by the mistral. This is the key to understanding them: you have not just arrived at a great holiday resort, it is important to be aware of this!