Weaving the Silk of the Sea in Sardinia: Preserving an Ancient Art

It’s difficult, even odd to imagine weaving with materials of the sea. Angela Corrias challenges the imaginary with the real on her trip to Sardinia, where she discovers the ancient art of weaving byssus. Corrias gets a deeper perspective when she meets Chiara Vigo, a master of this craft dating back tens of thousands of years.

Weaving the byssus in Sardinia. Photos by Angela Corrias.

A popular summer destination, thanks to low cost flights from the main European capitals, Sardinia is increasingly appreciated by in-the-know travelers. Although globalization’s waves have been striking the main cities, the island can still boast a remarkable resistance to the winds of change.

The tangled past of this Italian island makes it a fascinating cluster of heritage sites and ancient traditions, proudly protected by its inhabitants, adults and children alike. The region is imbued with an atmosphere that allows prehistoric spots to blend harmoniously with Moorish culture, Roman settlements and Aragonese architecture.

After witnessing reckless horse races and 2000-year-old propitiatory [appeasing the gods] rituals, I decided to make my way to Sant’Antioco, the tiny island opposite Sardinia’s southernmost coast.

Approaching the bridge connecting the two islands, the unfolding panorama calls to mind a smaller version of Montecarlo: a picturesque hamlet in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, that reflects itself on the calm lagoon dotted with sailing boats.

At first sight, Sant’Antioco appears to be nothing more than a fishing village naturally fated to become a hot tourist spot in the high season. Looking deeper inside the town, however, it’s possible to track the connection with ancient civilizations.

Weaving the silk of the sea

With all this in mind, I was ready to meet Chiara Vigo, the only woman in the world who still works the byssus, better known as the silk of the sea, the same way women in ancient Mesopotamia used to weave it in order to make clothes for their kings.

Weaving the Silk of the Sea in Sardinia: Preserving an Ancient Art