These two seasons are full of festivals, performances, sporting events and more: during the mildest months of the year, a host of events and workshops suitable for everyone take place in Santa Teresa Gallura. Culture, tradition and cuisine join forces with technology and an important project that envisages Santa Teresa Gallura as a tourist destination all year round. Let’s hear what Stefania Taras, the town councillor responsible for tourism, has to say as she reveals what the next steps of this ambitious project will be.
- What is the history of Santa Teresa Gallura? What values does the community hold most dear?
The town of Santa Teresa Gallura was officially founded on 12th August 1808 by a royal decree signed by King Victor Emmanuel I. The area was already inhabited during the Nuragic era and we have proof of this if we look at the various archaeological sites, the first and foremost being Lu Brandali. Later, the ancient Romans also appreciated the deep, safe bay offered by the port of Longonis, and used the coasts to extract granite, which is why it is included in the geomineral park of Sardinia. In the judicial era, it was part of the Judicate of Gallura, and you’ll find the remains of a castle, the Castello di Eleonora d’Arborea, at that same port. Its first inhabitants called the place Lungoni and themselves Lungunesi. Santa Teresa is a small town that had already become a tourist destination by the 1950s. The people who live here, who come from all over the world, are very fond of it and love the quality of life. Welcoming and hospitable, it is thanks to their pride in their origins that it is possible to protect such ancient traditions. On sunny winter days, the cliffs are crowded with groups of friends who have convivial lunches and are ready to invite any passersby to join in.
- Santa Teresa Gallura boasts a busy calendar of religious and lay festivals. What are the key events that can’t be missed?
As I mentioned earlier, unlike other places that merely sprang up with the tourist industry, Santa Teresa is a real town, so there are plenty of authentic festivals going on all year round. These range from spring festivals in country churches to the town’s patron saint’s day, which takes place in mid-October. The Galluran wedding rite has recently been rediscovered, where a couple is chosen to have a traditional wedding involving dances, improvised poetry readings and a wedding banquet.
- Sardinia is famous for its cuisine, but what traditional dishes does Santa Teresa Gallura boast?
While traditional dishes were only served at festivals in the past, today you’ll find them in many restaurants and agriturismo farms. There’s Zuppa Cuata, Gallura’s traditional soup, which is a product of life on its traditional farms, the stazzi, and whose ingredients include broth, stale bread and plenty of cheese. Each family jealously guards its own secret recipe. In contrast, Li Chjusoni degli Sgnocchi are just made with durum wheat flour and served with meat sauces; then there are ravioli filled with ricotta and sweetened with sugar, which contrast pleasantly when you eat them with the tasty tomato sauce they are served in. Goat is the most important dish, though it is often replaced with pork or beef, one of Gallura’s finest livestock-rearing industries. Fish is normally prepared in a simple way, either grilled or in the oven. It is definitely worth trying the local fish soup, known as Zimino, which means ‘mixture’, and the more types of fish, crustaceans and shellfish it contains, the more delicious it is. Local sweets are simple but wholesome, such as Papassini, Canestra and Acciuleddi ‘e Meli: braids of dough made with lard and covered in honey. Seada, a dish found throughout Sardinia, is called Casghjulata here and is filled with fresh cheese made from cow’s milk.
- Cinema, theatre and concerts: who is the target audience of events organised in Santa Teresa Gallura, do they manage to involve tourists and locals alike?
Santa Teresa offers a wide range of entertainment and cultural events. A dance and prose festival takes place in spring and autumn. Every month, the public library organises talks by writers and poets and there’s a book fair every summer. Easter Sunday is totally devoted to young people, with a concert featuring the best rap, hip-hop and pop musicians. On May Day, the popular P.I.G. food fair takes place. Throughout the summer, a local folk group, along with other Sardinian groups, organises Sardinian dances in traditional dress accompanied by an accordion. The local choir performs moving traditional Sardinian songs and religious works. The Gallura Buskers Festival, which takes place in July, particularly caters to families: the town is filled with the colourful performances of street artists from all over the world. The theatre reopens in September with the Fantasie Sonore classical music festival, which is particularly popular with adults. For the past few years, we have been hosting the Life After Oil International Film Festival, which focuses on environmental issues and attracts a number of foreign film directors and actors, and also involves local schools. These are just some of the events that are organised here, but the calendar is full of initiatives that cater to all tastes and ages. The council invests heavily in culture and entertainment, acknowledging the fact that they contribute to the community’s intellectual development.
- One of the aims of the three-year Tourist Destination Plan’s coordination project is to make Santa Teresa Gallura an increasingly united, welcoming and contented community. Could we use this opportunity to mention the goals that have been achieved?
A community is a fundamental territorial social unit made up of shared goals and rules, solidarity, cooperation and belonging. A young community like that of Santa Teresa Gallura, which is only 212 years old, where there has been a mingling of local rural traditions and the cultures of people who have arrived here from all over the world either because they fell in love with the place or found work here, boasts what has become a kaleidoscope of diversity. However, it also makes the creation or maintenance of a community a greater challenge. In 2018, we launched a participatory process that focuses on tourism in order to fine-tune new development strategies. A mutually agreed plan to develop new tourist proposals that would go beyond the beach holiday approach was a social and community-based experiment that allowed all participants to contribute their own proposals and ideas as part of a constructive and proactive debate. When people become aware of being part of a community and not just a place, they feel more responsible for its care and improvement. While it may seem a utopian, unrealistic aim to focus on objectives inspired by a constructive vision and to build a happy community, or even a community of happiness, it is actually the first step towards a process of participatory governance, involving residents, local associations, businesses and the town council, a necessary condition if we want to identify projects and actions that aim towards a common vision of well-being. The strategic vision that allowed us to tackle real issues and try to improve them was the first step, which took place in what we call a Cooperation Room where tourist operators and councillors discuss and share ideas. The range of products on offer in the Gallura Highlands demonstrates how rich the territory is when it comes to activities and professionals, hospitality, itineraries and events, which one can only entirely appreciate when staying here on a pleasant holiday.
- At what point in the project, which is still underway, did you personally realise that things were moving in the right direction?
Initially, the council’s Department of Tourism aimed to talk to local people in order to try to find a way of lengthening the summer beach holiday season, which was too short. Town councils may well come up with a plan, but if that vision isn’t accepted by those who will have to work to it, using (amongst other things) policies promoting businesses, any measures they implement are destined to fail. With the introduction of the tourist tax, we had the chance to increase the funding destined for the tourist industry. Over the years, I had attended public administration meetings and training sessions on tourism, and one of these included a project that was being developed in Arzachena. When I was there, I had the opportunity to meet Giuseppe Giaccardi at some of those meetings, who was made the project’s supervisor after about a year. When we organised our first meeting with tourist operators, we received official notice from them, particularly local hoteliers, stating they would walk out of the meeting and any similar initiatives. Though disheartened, we didn’t give up and we visited each and every hotelier, managing to persuade them to change their minds. The following meeting was unexpectedly successful, the town hall was so full that many of those who attended were forced to stand. It was incredibly exiting to see local traders, associations and restaurant owners speak out for the first time about what needed changing. However, we made it clear from the outset that it was going to be a meeting for gathering proposals and not criticism and that’s been the basis of the way we try to work ever since. Later, at the Tourism Forum held in January 2019, we successfully attracted another large audience. The theatre was as packed as it is on the most popular occasions and the roundtables involved a hundred or so participants. Despite the highs and lows in local interest, we finally inaugurated our Cooperation Room, involving 20 or so operators from different services who regularly meet and propose solutions and projects. I think this is the beginning of a new way of managing territories, based on communication and fostering the kind of proactive citizenship that improves communities. Our next aim is to involve young people and give them personal and professional goals for future growth, treating them like a real resource.