Years ago now and then we went out for two day hikes. We never slept in tent, trusting the Sardinian mild weather and our youth. We slept in the open air, or during winter in an old cuile. These are old shepherd shelters, scattered in the central mountains of the island. They were the places where men once lived, taking care of their grazing animals. Usually these buildings are far away from villages and in the past the shepherds spent days and days there, going back to the town only occasionally to sell cheese or other products or to spend feast days with their family or their friends.
When we began hiking, more or less thirty years ago, there were almost no shepherds living in this way. They were used to going back home, in the village, almost every evening, except for the birthing season, when kids or calfs born during the night were in danger.
So, there were plenty of cuiles to sleep in. They were our suites, not five star suites but suites with infinite stars! One circular room built with stones and covered with Junipers branches with a central fireplace, the little door opened south or east, to avoid chilly winds and enjoy the morning sun.
If the shepherd who lived there was lucky nearby there would be a spring. Otherwise we had to take more water with us, thinking about the harsh life men spent only some years ago. Somewhere hidden in caves, we found a jug put under water dripping from the walls. This was the only fresh water for the shepherds and was thoroughly guarded. I’m sure they were really aware of the importance of water!
Nowday a lot of these cuiles have been refurbished, preserving their features and more and more hikers and trekkers have learnt to sleep there. Usually you can find some supplies too, like salt, coffee, potatoes and a some cooking equipment if you need to cook something to warm you up.
I think I will never forget some roasted potatoes we cooked on a cold winter night: we ate them at four o’clock in the morning and they were a real comfort food!
If you want to learn more about Sardinian shepherd have a look at Barmen time.