Today is Sardinia Day (Sa die de sa Sardigna in Sardinian language, La dì di la Sardigna in Sassarese, La dì di la Saldigna in Gallurese, lo dia de la Sardenya in Algherese, Il giorno della Sardegna in Italian), also known as Sardinian people’s Day (Giornata del popolo sardo), a holiday in Sardinia commemorating the Sardinian Vespers occurring in 1794–1796.
In the last decades of the 18th century following the Savoyard take-over of Sardinia, discontent began to grow among the Sardinians towards the Piedmontese administration. Sardinian peasants resented the feudal rule and both the local nobles and the bourgeoisie were being left out of any active civil and military role, with the viceroy and other people from the Italian mainland being appointed in charge of the island. Such political unrest was bolstered further by the international situation, with particular regard to the ferment developing in other European regions (namely Ireland, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, and Tyrol) as well as the episodes leading to the French revolution.
In 1793, a French fleet tried to conquer the island along two lines of attack, the first one across the Southern coast in Cagliari, and the other, led by the young Lieutenant Colonel Napoleon Bonaparte, in the nearby Maddalena archipelago. However, the locals managed to resist the invasion by the French, and began expecting the Savoyards to acknowledge the feat and improve their condition in return. The Sardinians thus demanded most of the offices be reserved for them, along with autonomy from the Savoyard ruling class.
The king’s peremptory refusal to grant the island any of these wishes eventually spurred the rebellion, with the arrest of two notable figures of the so-called “Patriotic Party” (the lawyers from Cagliari, Vincenzo Cabras and Efisio Pintor) being the final spark of unrest amongst the populace. On 28th April 1794, known as sa dii de s’aciappa (“the day of the pursuit and capture”), people in Cagliari started chasing any Piedmontese functionaries they could find. Because many of them started to wear the local style of robes in order to blend into the crowd, any people suspected to be from the Italian mainland would be asked by the people to say “chickpea” (nara cixiri) in Sardinian: failure in pronouncing the word correctly would give their origin away. By May, all the 514 Savoyard officers were put on a boat and sent back to the mainland.
Encouraged by what happened in Cagliari, the people in Sassari and Alghero did the same, and the revolt spread throughout the rest of the island in the countryside. The uprising was then led for another two years by the republican Giovanni Maria Angioy, then a judge of the Royal Hearing (Reale Udienza), but it was later suppressed by the loyalist forces that were bolstered by the peace treaty between France and Piedmont in 1796. The revolutionary experiment was thus brought to an end and Sardinia remained under Savoy rule. A series of other major antifeudal revolts arose again in 1802, 1812, 1816, and 1821. The actual date of memorial was chosen in 1993 and public events are annually held to commemorate the episode, while the schools are closed.
Zuppa gallurese is a famous Sardinian dish that started out life as a cheap, peasant dish, but is now a universal comfort food. It is made of layers of bread and melting cheese, soaked in rich broth and baked. There are numerous variations depending on the kinds of bread, cheese, and broth. Here’s some Sardinian cooks giving a basic version: