Isle be there in Sardinia!
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Isle be there in Sardinia!

Caron Bluestone returns to the idyllic shores of Sardinia and discovers this Italian island’s fascinating Jewish past

The stunning pool at the Park Hotel Cala Di Lepre
The stunning pool at the Park Hotel Cala Di Lepre

The Jews are off to Sardinia again. By rights it’s a statement that shouldn’t mean much by island standards: we have been and gone multiple times in history. 

But after a colourful history stretching back thousands of years, which includes exile, expulsion and decimation, a community is slowly starting to build on these shores once more.

This is my fifth time on this wonderful island, which boasts 2,000km of exceptional coastline, with each visit differing as our family grows. Italians love children and cater well to them.

Sardinia is nigh on a tropical paradise and it’s just a two-hour flight from London Luton with easyJet.

The first Jews arrived here more than two millennia ago, having been exiled during the days of the Roman Empire, in the year 19AD.

Not much tangible Jewish history is left today, although Jewish influences do remain; the Sardinian word for Friday, cenabura, takes its meaning from the Latin cena pura – pure feast – or  Shabbat meal and caputanni, meaning head of the year, from Rosh Hashanah, is used to denote the month of September.

Sant’Antioco, an island reached by ferry or car from the south of Sardinia, houses probably the most interesting of Jewish artefacts. Within its catacombs, visitors can still see inscriptions written in Hebrew and Latin in one of the only places where these can be found in Italy.

In 1325, when Sardinia came under Spanish rule, life became more pleasant for the Jewish community. Spanish Jews began to arrive, as well as families from Marseille. Many lived in the capital, Cagliari, which at one time housed a large synagogue.

Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia

The largest community was in Alghero. But, just as the community began to flourish, Spain began to persecute its Jewish citizens, first by making immigration illegal under pain of death and finally, in 1492, expulsion.

Many went to Malta, Greece and Calabria. Not until the 19th century did they return with the revolutions in Italian states in 1848 and Jewish emancipation, only for the community to be decimated once more by the Shoah.

Today, Sardinia is seen as an island of opulence and luxury, and for Jewish tourists, things couldn’t be better. There are plenty of kosher options available and while there is no active synagogue, a fledgling Jewish community has begun to emerge.

Caron with her family

We headed to the unspoilt north east to Delphina’s 4* Park Hotel Cala Di Lepre, situated just a short hotel shuttle ride away from the pretty port of Palau. Visitors here can enjoy single-storey suites, set to blend in perfectly within a stunning
park that features more flora and fauna than a nature reserve and enough bougainvillea to satisfy Chelsea Flower Show.

We were just a short walk away from the calm, turquoise sea and private beach, although there are also three pools, including a dedicated children’s area, at the hotel. There’s even a superb kids club, open until 11pm every day.

Our home for the week was a beautiful, newly-refurbished two-bedroom suite, which offered plenty of space for our family of four.

One caveat: this is definitely a place for the more active. The hotel’s situation on a steep hill means that views are to die for from almost every standpoint, but be prepared to walk off those sumptuous buffets!

Foodies will be very happy here. Take the half-board, or if you dare, full-board option and you will be greeted with buffets groaning with the freshest antipasti of meat, fish and vegetarian, as well as gluten-free options.  Then there are the pasta, pizza and fish main course options and, if you still have space, mouth-watering desserts. And, for extra-special meals, Le Terrazze offers a more intimate à la carte restaurant.

Our week in Sardinia flew by, with mornings spent by the pool, and the boys enjoying football and archery, and afternoons on the beach, gazing out to the crystal blue sea, while they attempted to catch fish in their buckets.

Dining at the poolside restaurant

On the penultimate day, I made it to the hotel spa, a destination in itself complete with three pools, for a massage that saw me slip into a blissful state of slumber.

As our holiday came to an end, we bid farewell to Sardinia once more, this island offering a piece of paradise. No doubt we will return.

Caron’s travel trips 

Caron and her family flew to Olbia with easyJet (easyjet.com) from London Luton, with transfers by Just Sardinia (justsardinia.co.uk). A week half-board for a family of four at Park Hotel Cala di Lepre (hotelcaladilepre.com/sardinia) starts from €1,995 (£1,777).

 

 

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