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Mirto: A Taste of Sardinia on the Way to Saint James

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea –after Sicily, and before Cyprus. Mentioned in Platonic dialogues and countless mythological stories, Sardinia has played a crucial role in the historical development of maritime routes –the Way of Saint James included.

The Way of Sant Jacu, as Saint James is known in the local Sardinian language, traverses the island from south to North –that is, from Jerusalem to Barcelona, and then to Compostela. An Armenian Breviary compiled for the Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1054 clearly includes the island as part of the Apostle’s itinerary: Salió el glorioso Apostolo Santiago del puerto de Iaffa y vino a la isla de Cerdeña; y de allí a España  (“The glorious Apostle St. James left the port of Jaffa and came to the island of Sardinia; and from there to Spain”). This trail takes pilgrims through plenty of historical, cultural, and natural Sardinian landmarks, providing a rather enlightening perspective on the island’s significance in the broader Mediterranean context –and in this legendary pilgrimage path in particular.

Indeed, Sardinia’s strategic location made it a hub for commercial and pilgrimage routes since early antiquity. The island’s ports have been vital for maritime trade, connecting diverse cultures (from the Phoenicians to the Aragonese) and fostering the exchange of goods. From this constant trading activity Sardinia’s spiritual heritage was born. The island has thus attracted traders as much as pilgrims, making it a junction for those journeying towards sacred continental destinations like Santiago de Compostela.

As pilgrims traverse the Camminu Santu Jacu, they also encounter Sardinia’s culinary treasures. Among these, Mirto Sardo stands out as a symbol of Sardinian tradition and hospitality. Mirto is a liqueur made from the berries of the myrtle plant, which is quite abundant on the island. Its bittersweet flavor offers weary pilgrims a taste of the island’s tranquility.

Before pilgrims embark on the final leg of their journey to the mainland, through the bustling city of Barcelona, they are encouraged to savor at least one glass of mirto. The drink is one of the many Sardinian contributions to the Mediterranean routes: it is indeed a comforting pause before the spiritual odyssey continues.

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This post is also available in: Español

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