Scotland to Sardinia

Sophie Simmonds

Alghero is a medieval coastal town on the Italian island of Sardinia. This is where I’m spending my year abroad as an English Language assistant in a local secondary school.

Alghero itself is very small and it feels quite strange having moved here from Glasgow, but I still find myself getting lost every day in the tightly knit enclave of cobbled lanes which make up the historic city centre. The streets are lined with pizzerias and gelaterias, which lead onto picturesque piazzas. The petite yet perfect town is surrounded by golden sea walls, which are capped with restaurants and bars: the perfect place to grab a coffee and gaze into the distance at Capo Caccia, or as the locals call it il gigante che dorme, ‘the sleeping giant’. Beneath, yachts crowd the marina and white sandy beaches curve away to the north of the town.

Moving to Alghero strangely reminds me of when I first moved to Glasgow – I’m struggling to understand anyone! Despite being a native English speaker, I found it difficult to understand Glaswegians. However, I am happy to have experienced a language barrier before moving to Alghero, as it taught me that it’s not as limiting as I once thought; it’s just a series of blush-worthy moments that you’ll eventually get over. Here in Alghero the locals don’t just speak in Italian, they also speak in the local Alguerès dialect which is a hybridisation of Italian, Sardinian and Catalan. The Catalan language has semi-official status in Alghero, as Alghero was once a Catalan colony. Presiding over Alghero is a conspicuous Catalan atmosphere, from the number of restaurants serving paella to the use of Catalan la Senyera as the city’s flag. It’s no surprise that Alghero is aptly named Barcelonet, ‘Little Barcelona’.

I’m enjoying working as an English language assistant so far, not just because for the first few weeks I am just observing and not teaching, but because the pupils are so lovely and actually want to learn English which I really did not expect. All of the language assistants in Italy had to attend a training event in Turin in September, so I got to meet up with the other four assistants from Glasgow, as well as meeting some other assistants who I am planning to travel around Italy with.

The most obvious difference between Glasgow and Alghero is, of course, the weather. It’s a well-known fact that Glasgow wins when it comes to rain, with more days of rain per year than the rest of the country. Here in Alghero it has only rained once in my first month. How Sardinians react to the weather is evidence of the vast difference; 26°C in my books is most definitely ‘taps-aff’ weather, considering back in Glasgow as soon as it hits double digits everyone flocks to Kelvingrove. So most days after work I have been making the most of it and hitting the beach in an attempt to get a tan. When I told my students this, they were shocked that I would wear a bikini and not a coat to the beach when it was so “cold”!

One of the main things that I adore about Glasgow is that there is always something going on, throughout the year (not just in one month like some other cities – yes Edinburgh I’m talking about you). There are multiple festivals from beer, to music, to wine, to films, everything is celebrated in a fun festival format and that’s the same here in Alghero. Since I’ve been here there has been a festival for the patron saint, Sant Miquel, which was celebrated with parades in the streets, fireworks and lots of free music events. Festivals in Alghero – and similarly in the rest of Italy – mainly celebrate saints or biblical events but some celebrate some other crazy things, like sheep and artichokes!

As I am only contracted to work 12 hours a week, I have plenty of free time which I have spent attending regular classes at the school that I teach in: very interesting, but equally challenging. Otherwise I look forward to exploring the rest of what Italy has to offer.

Ciao for now.


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