Wandering Sardinia

Horses are very much a part of Sardinian culture. L'Ardia di San Costantino is a celebration of faith and humanity's long relationships with horses.

L'Ardia di San Costantino

Updated Feb 02, 2019

ardia of sedilo picture
L'Ardia di San Costantino, Sedilo, Sardinia

One of my all time favorite festivals in the world is coming up. It’s the Ardia held in the little town of Sedilo, where I spend several summers working on an archaeological project and slaving away in the kitchen for the crew.

The picture you see up on the right is special to me. I got up for the early morning race, the one they run for the locals, and positioned myself right outside the gates to the Sanctuary of Constantine (a saint in Sardinia) and waited for the horses to race down the hill toward this dangerous entrance to the grounds. I set my shutter speed low. I was planning to do the sort of pan shot I did when I photographed auto racing. Cars are one thing, horses? Well I expected the hooves to be a blur, because they move in many dimensions, not just in the panning direction. That was fine with me. The danger of this spot deserved a menacing speed blur.

The picture actually turned out just the way I planned it. But I’d taken the film to the local Sedilo shop, and the guy at the desk, who’d been used to telling people what was wrong with their photos, told me there was a problem. My heart lurched, thinking the picture was lost (Oh, those days of fragile film!) He showed me the picture. While I admired it, he started telling me why it was crap. He hated the blur. He told me I had to use a very, very high shutter speed to capture the horses in focus.

I didn’t know what to say (or how to say it in Italian). I finally mumbled a curt, “grazie” and grabbed my prize from his hand.

Art. It’s a personal thing I guess.


To find out more about the actual running of L’Ardia, see: L’Ardia di San Costantino. The sacred race is held in early July. Its running in the future is in doubt, as animal activists have made some political rumbles about how cruel it is to animals. Several people have died in the race as well, often at the spot I photographed from. You can’t get many racing horses through that narrow slot, I can tell you.

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