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The beautiful island of Sardinia that lies east of the Italian mainland has a relatively mild winter. And yet I know that you definitely would not want to sit in your shirtsleeves in a seaside cafe sipping a local wine. This indescribable pleasure will have to wait for the other seasons.
November 1 is the day of the Dead, and in the town of Nuoro as elsewhere in Sardinia, especially rural Sardinia, many families prepare a delicious feast and leave a special seat at the dining room or kitchen table for departed loved ones. They cook lots of extra food and share the meal with less fortunate neighbors. Then people take part in the holy procession to the Madonna delle Grazie sanctuary, where village from neighboring villages sing hymns.
The village of Desulo holds a 'Mountain Products Agricultural Fair' with handicraft and painting exhibitions during the first week of November. Santa Lucia is a beloved saint whose December 13th festival is celebrated in many Sardinian towns such as Nurachi Tempio. The regional capital of Cagliari at the southern end of the island hosts a Christmas Fair for two weeks in December featuring traditional crafts, food, and wine.
Alghero is a great place to spend New Year's Eve, especially in the Old Town whose piazzas host live music concerts culminating in a grand firework display over the harbor. There are firecrackers in the streets, and most bars stay open until at least 6 am the following morning! St. Anthony's Day is widely celebrated in Sardinia on January 16 and 17. Ancient tradition states that the saint, like Prometheus, stole into hell and brought back fire, so a bonfire is at the center of the festivities. Each town places different herbs and fruits atop the blaze, creating a unique aroma. The women bring sweets and dark fruity loaves of pane nigheddu, while men enjoy wine and aquavit. The most spectacular celebration is said to be in Mamoiada, where 12 frightening masks called mamuthones represent the months of the year.
Each and every weekend starting in early January and running up until mid February Alghero holds its Bogamarì Sea Urchin Festival that dates back to the days when Sardinia was ruled by Catalonia; this town's nickname is still Barcelonetta and the old people still speak a form of Catalan. The restaurants offer tasty specials such as Spaghetti al Riccio di mare (Spaghetti a la Sea Urchins) best enjoyed with local white wine.
Levi Reiss wrote or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but would rather drink fine French, German, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new wine, diet, health, and nutrition website www.wineinyourdiet.com and his Italian travel website www.travelitalytravel.com.