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He’s responsible for some of the most memorable advertising campaigns ever. He’s created and recreated the image of the Italian family and worked for Richard Nixon.
Sardinia is the home of Gavino Sanna. Born in 1940 in the oldest district of Porto Torres, Sanna now lives in Alghero. Even from here, though, he is selling. “Now, I sell sunsets. I put some armchairs on the terrace, arrange some traditional Sardinian flatbread with some oil, some of our wonderful cheeses and a bottle of my wine,” he says. “Then my friends arrive, the sun starts to go down, the fire starts and the whole atmosphere enters through the eyes and into the heart.”
Gavino Sanna has revealed the secret of a happy life – the silence, smells, flavours and colours of Sardinia. “Sardinia is breathtakingly beautiful,” he says. “You land in Cagliari, open the door of the plane and the hot air and smell of the sea and flowers overwhelms you. You can just sit in silence and feel happy. It detoxifies you of all the superfluous things we believe we need in life.”
Making the trip from Cagliari to Sant’Anna Arresi, in the heart of the Sulcis, south west of the island, how does he feel? “Can I take a step back and start this journey in my youth? My parents sent me to the Art Institute of Sassari. I was bad at school but I was good with a pencil. One day I saw paintings by Filippo Figari, a late 19th century Sardinian artist. It was extraordinary, his colours were so strong and true.
“Figari painted Sardinia in the way that Michelangelo would – with a blinding intensity, because Sardinia is such a force of nature, so powerful. So here’s my tip for travellers – look at the colours: the light and dark blue and purple sea; the infinite shades of colour of the salty water; pink, purple and red oleanders.The endless green from olive groves to the large leaves of agave and the generous foliage of the pine trees; the black trunks, stones, sand and sky.”
Yet Sanna chose black and white for the front of his house. Why?
“I wanted to reproduce something like the island’s Nuraghi: the pre-historic homes with their huge walls and tiny windows to spy on the enemy. I find the Sardinia that I love most of all is the austere, proud, black and white island: as white as the traditional women’s headgear and as black as the velvet jackets worn by the men. Men and women, day and night, hard as stone and sweet as honey.
So, Sardinia, in short, offers him the wherewithal to be true to his roots and to be so happy? “Some time ago, during my career in advertising. I created this slogan for my land: ‘At the first sign of a cold, go to Sardinia.’ Sardinia is the antidote, the remedy, the elixir, the aspirin and the magic formula to cure everything.”