© iStock/Isaac74
© iStock/Isaac74

Sant' Antioco and the last lady of the "sea-silk"

3 minutes to read

Sant’Antioco is an island located in the south-western Sardinia, in the Sulcis-Iglesiente region, about 90 kilometers from Cagliari. It is connected to Sardinia through an artificial isthmus, built by the Punics and later perfected by the Romans. In fact, in the past, Sant'Antioco was a Phoenician-Punic colony, then a famous Roman city, and today it is a fascinating seaside village.

Sant’Antioco is very famous for its beautiful beaches, but its historical center is also fascinating. Among the churches, in particular, the Basilica of Sant’Antioco Martire is worth mentioning. The Torre Cannai and the Forte su Pisu are also worth a visit.

© iStock/Marco Pusceddu
© iStock/Marco Pusceddu
Basilica of Sant'Antioco Martire
Basilica of Sant'Antioco Martire
Piazza Parrocchia, 22, 09017 Sant'Antioco CI, Italia
Torre Cannai Sant'Antioco
Torre Cannai Sant'Antioco
Strada Comunale Coaquaddus, 09017 Maladroxia CI, Italia
Forte Su Pisu Sant'Antioco
Forte Su Pisu Sant'Antioco
Via Castello, 17, 09017 Sant'Antioco CI, Italia

The archaeological sites

The Island of Sant'Antioco is an authentic corner of paradise, where you can spend a Caribbean vacation in absolute relaxation, without giving up the discovery of extraordinary archaeological sites, linked to different periods. (Like those of the Nuragic and pre-Nuragic ages, with different nuraghes; the Nuragic village of Grutti Acqua, the Punic necropolis, the Roman bridge).

Nuraghe Grutti Acqua Sant'Antioco
Nuraghe Grutti Acqua Sant'Antioco
Crisionis, 09017 Sant'Antioco CI, Italia
Necropolis Is Pirixeddus Sant'Antioco
Necropolis Is Pirixeddus Sant'Antioco
Via Giosuè Carducci, 09017 Sant'Antioco CI, Italia
Roman Bridge Sant'Antioco
Roman Bridge Sant'Antioco
09017 Sant'Antioco CI, Italia

Most of the population works in agriculture and has been able to transform the island's land into rich vineyards -also famous outside Sardinia. Fishing is another important area. The working of the dwarf palm has created an economy in continuous development, while there is another significant tradition, which is the processing of byssus for the production of sea-silk.

The sea-silk

The sea-silk is a fiber of animal origin extracted from the "pinna nobilis." A bivalve mollusk, in danger of extinction, secretes some "gold threads" on the seabed. Also called "the silk of the sea," the byssus requires a delicate treatment, with a long and complicated method of processing, unchanged over the centuries.

The sea-silk is not sold or bought. Sea silk works can only be donated or received. A Master of sea-silk lives on offerings (Chiara Vigo)
© Chiara Vigo
© Chiara Vigo

In Sardinia, this traditional process has been widespread due to the presence of several laboratories in Alghero, Bosa, Cabras, and Sant’Antioco- an exclusive reserve of this unique method nowadays. Currently, in Sardinia, there are very few people who work the byssus, since the pinna nobilis is endangered and fishing it is prohibited. One of the world's leading teachers is Chiara Vigo, who learned from her grandmother the techniques of working and weaving the precious fabric.

© Chiara Vigo
© Chiara Vigo

Chiara Vigo's work can be admired by visiting her laboratory after making an appointment. Today's laboratory is the same room used in the past by her grandmother. It is also just a few steps away from the Basilica of Sant 'Antioco.

Chiara Vigo's Laboratory Sant'Antioco
Chiara Vigo's Laboratory Sant'Antioco
Vico I Regina Margherita, 09017 Sant'Antioco CI, Italia

A lot of people from all over the world, curious, enthusiasts, tourists, but also students, scholars, and academics, go to Chiara Vigo's laboratory every year. Her works have been exhibited in museums all around the world- including the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London. Her works are a unique cultural heritage for the world; excellent like the land she represents.

© Chiara Vigo
© Chiara Vigo

Visiting a country or being a tourist does not only mean getting to know new places but also understanding people, who tell us stories, legends and pass on their traditions. Our wealth and our duty are to pass on these stories further, so that they are not lost. The lady of the sea-silk will show you how her hands transform the gold threads from the bottom of the sea into wonders.

© Chiara Vigo
© Chiara Vigo

The author

Mara Noveni

Mara Noveni

My name is Mara, I am Italian, born in Rome and raised in the wonderful Tuscany. Always in love with reading and writing, I completed this way of expressing myself through photography, especially street and travel photography. Thanks to my many and long travel experiences, I have enriched my mind and my inner life.

Stories you might also like