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OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

Travel Experiences from the Experts

PLACES

Silk Weaving in Sardinia

With Angela Corrias of Travel Calling

Angela Corrias, traveller extraordinaire and writer of the Travel Calling blog, was adamant that Sardinia had much to offer, particularly a treasure unique to the region: the ancient art of silk-weaving.

“Sardinia is well known for its pristine landscapes and sandy beaches, but only recently in-the-know travellers have been really appreciating its ancient traditions. The whole island exudes culture.

One of the treasures Sardinia can boast is the unique art of weaving sea silk. Coming from the Middle East and dating back thousands of years, the weaving of the byssus is an endangered form of art, and today is practised only in Sant'Antioco, a small island facing Sardinia's southernmost coast.

The byssus is the velvet strand secreted by the noble pen shell, or pinna nobilis, a mollusc that lives in the Mediterranean Sea bed, and Chiara Vigo is the only woman on earth who still weaves it, embroidering the golden thread into canvas and creating pieces of art worth hundreds of thousands of Euros that are displayed in the most important museums in the world, from Rome to Paris to New York.

As a result of the relationships Sardinia had in its ancient past with Middle Eastern and North African populations, this rare thread cannot be sold: ‘All masters must take the Sea Oath and be loyal to it,’ Chiara Vigo told me. ‘The byssus is not for trade because there are things more important than money, such as the perpetuation of an art.’”