ANSA/Tourism: A whole other Sardinia with Airbnb Experiences

New sector kicks off, with young entrepreneurs, old traditions

(ANSA) - Oristano, June 27 - The island of Sardinia has much to offer tourists, from its postcard-perfect azure sea to its luxury summer locales, which are full for three months every year.
    However, this island of the Nuraghe and of myrtle-scented sunsets has much more to offer, and the discovery of its endless flavors and culture can be enjoyed 365 days a year with the people who live in its small towns.
    This is where a small inland farming business can become a unique tourist experience, thanks to the spirit of young entrepreneurs such as Mario, a 21st-century winegrower.
    He is the fifth generation of his family to work among the vines, and now the family is looking to international markets.
    In Sorso, in the island's north, Marco is one of the first Sardinian hosts in the Airbnb Experiences programme, a new sector that the online lodging giant is launching across Italy.
    The programme is dedicated to activities that tourists can share with people who live on the island.
    It's an opportunity to travel in a new way, discovering cities, small towns, and the countryside, choosing from over 1,500 proposals involving nature, sport, art, entertainment, artisan handicrafts, and food.
    In fact, food is one of the "musts" in Italy, with 57% of bookings in the sector tied to food and wine experiences.
    Mario, who has a long hipster beard and his clippers always at the ready along with his ever-connected smartphone, told ANSA he began working full-time in his family's business in 2015, after he graduated university.
    "I chose to work here, despite the difficulties, because I believe that this place deserves to be shared through a different point of view, a younger one, one that's open to the future and has a different economic outlet," he said.
    The first big change was moving from just cultivating grapes to bottling wine.
    "My father, Leonardo, is 60, and at his age he likely would have liked to avoid a new challenge," Mario said, smiling.
    "But results came right away. We produce 20,000 bottles a year between Vermentino and Cannonau, which they love as far away as England," he said.
    "The second step is towards innovation, the Airbnb Experiences, to bring tourists here to see in person what it means to grow grapes and produce our wine".
    Getting to know this corner of Italy hasn't always been so easy, but now all it takes is a click from a smartphone or tablet to book Mario's Airbnb Experience "Sorso Dopo Sorso", a play on words on the town's name which also translates aptly to "Sip By Sip".
    Another choice is available in Paulilatino, a tiny little town in the countryside of Oristano, where centuries-old traditions are still alive and well.
    Chiara was one of the first Airbnb hosts there.
    "I was working as a flight attendant until a year ago, but I decided to change my life and come back to my hometown, which I'm very attached to," Chiara said.
    "I wanted to find a way to manage to come back at any cost," she said.
    Chiara is now also offering an Airbnb Experience, which lets her live out her dream of sharing with others the world she grew up in.
    She does this on her grandfather's farm, now managed by her Uncle Giuseppe, who raises Sardo-Bruna cattle and runs a small family-owned dairy.
    "I think it's important for my guests to get to know the area and see that Sardinia isn't just the sea," Chiara said.
    In Chiara's Airbnb Experience, guests first go to the pasture and then make (and taste) two of the house specialty cheeses: Casizolu del Montiferru, which is a Slow Food Presidium, and Sa Fresa. "I was the one who proposed the Experience, because my uncle is 70 years old and he just bought his first smartphone a few months ago," Chiara said, smiling.
    "There's no way he would have been able to create an Experience by himself!" she said.
    Chiara also offers another Experience, held under the shade of a fig tree, in which guests can learn about traditional Sardinian recipes.
    "I teach my guests 'wedding bread'," she said.
    "It's a traditional decorated bread, that you make to wish for happiness and prosperity. I learned to make it as a child from my mother's aunt, who is 92 years old now," she said.
    She transforms the bread dough into shapes such as birds, flowers, and leaves, and in so doing, produces new economic opportunities, and more.
    "For me, bread is a magical food. And I really want people who aren't from here to experience its magic," she said.