the conference in sardinia was the main point of this trip to italy. it was the 7th international gramsci society conference, and was celebrating 70 years since the death of the italian marxist philosopher, antonio gramsci. the conference was supported by the sardinian government, and ALL the gramsci luminaries were there. i am a bit of a gramsci upstart, and gave a conference paper called “hegemony, subjectivity and subalternity” which argued for a more nuanced reading of gramsci than traditional marxists allow (there were grumbles of discontent). but the shop talk stops there. this was an amazing trip, not a place i would ever have thought to go to but im glad i did.

sardinia is a fairly large island in the meditteranean, but because we were in florence, we couldnt fly direct there. so we took the train from florence to livorno via pisa

and then waited around in livorno for the overnight ferry. it didnt arrive till after midnight, and by the time it had let the entire population of sardinia back onto the mainland, it was close to 130am before we set sail.

and 6am when we sited the coast of sardinia

i didnt book a cabin, but it wasnt busy so i had a whole row of seats to sleep on. in retrospect, probably not a great idea, because we then had to catch a train from olbia in the north,

down the entire length of sardinia to cagliari the capital, in the south.

by the time we found our hotel, i was a wreck, and barely registered the presence of the mediterranean out my hotel window.

we were only here for one night before the conference started and we moved into the centre of cagliari for 2 nights at the all expenses paid 4 star T Hotel.

apparently this was originally designed as an office block for italian telecom, but they decided not to move operations to sardinia, so a hotel it became. a very nice place for day one of the conference, and conference dinner. cagliari itself was just mostly a large seaside town, very similar in look and feel to wollongong, but not as impressive on the beaches front, in fact there was almost no waterfront access because of the port but the seafood was great. on day two of the conference, we were all put on a bus

and driven through the sardinian countryside,

up into the hills of oristano province, to the town where gramsci mostly lived and worked. this is ghilarza.

it was beautiful, so picturesque and charming, with a little taverna (local patrons appeared a tad bemused by all us academic types from around the world)

beautiful little streets

and the conference itself held in a kind of old watch tower.

there is a gramsci museum in ghilarza, which was also gramsci’s house,

complete with bedroom

and back garden.

this was very touching, it was really moving to be among his things and see his letters and hand writing,

and the loving way he was remembered by his home town, (he did, for a short time, become president of the italian communist party before mussolini had him imprisoned. he died shortly after his release into a sanitorium), complete with street names and grafitti

the local historical society was very good to us and put on a beautiful lunch every day, and at the end of each day, we took the bus again further up into the hills to our accomodation: an amazing health retreat in the middle of nowhere.

i did perhaps make a couple of comments about the irony of all us marxists paying homage to gramsci in 4 star comfort paid for by the same state that had him imprisoned, but people just mumbled and shuffled off to find another glass of grappa.

the last day we were put on the bus again and taken to a tiny little village called arles.

this is where gramsci was born, and there is a memorial to him, and a chapter of the gramsci society put on some speeches and some music, and  on the way back to cagliari  we stopped for lunch at an organic farm, where we were treated to an amazing feast of antipasto, vegetables, pasta, lamb and potatoes, suckling pig (oh. my. god) and chocolate. apparently the suckling pig is a traditional sardinian honour, and i was suitably impressed. we stayed one more night in cagliari, i had a lovely little room in a quaint hotel right on the waterfront called the Hotel Miramare

before we flew back to rome, and then on to hong kong,

and home. what an amazing trip. i cant wait to get back to italy, but next time it wont be for work!

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