I have only a few kilometers to do and they are all uphill. But the effort is rewarded by the incredible view. I pass by the calcareous Tacchi (‘heels’) and on the other side the immense valley, with the village of Gairo in front. I arrive in Ulassai and it is a continuous stop and go to take pictures. The village nestled between two Tacchi, on the edge of the mountain. One of the most picturesque places I’ve seen so far.
I cycle along the main road and arrive to the Town Hall to take a pic, then I head to the bnb Charlie Sardinia where the owner Laura and Federico are waiting for me. We remain for a while on the fantastic terrace overlooking the valley, and I still find it hard to get used to the grandiose view on both sides, the sea in the distance and peaks of rock overhanging the village on the other.
After a coffee we head to the Art Station, the old Jerzu train station converted into a museum dedicated to the artist from Ulassai, Maria Lai. Here Claudia is waiting to guide us through the exhibition of many works, divided into thematic areas called “stations”. I am fascinated by an artist who is a source of great inspiration for me, especially for this project. There are so many works, the alphabet to interpret art, the 5 S to make art, the 4 decks cards, the series of ‘frames’, the ‘geographies’ and many others and I don’t have time to assimilate their beauty and meaning. We watch a video about the famous 80’s performance in which Maria Lai joined the whole country with a blue ribbon, including the mountain behind with the help of some German climbers! Works can also be found outside the building, in the area around, which overlooks the valley. I would stay here for hours, but I understand that there is so much more to see and a day here is not enough.
In the afternoon we go to visit the Su Marmuri textile laboratory, where the owner Maria and the employees illustrate various weaving procedures and techniques, on looms of at least 100 years. Beautiful products, rugs, bedspreads, pillows and many others. On all the graphics the little goat reigns, a drawing by Maria Lai, by now an unmistakable symbol of her art, of her person, and of Ulàssai (I finally discover by the locals that the accent goes on the first a!).
We have to go to visit the various sites of the Open Air Museum, a series of works by Maria Lai scattered throughout the village and the surrounding area: the Game of Flight of the Goose in the courtyard of the kindergarten, the Wash-house which also contains works by Nivola, Strazza and Veronesi, the Via Crucis inside the church of Sant’Antioco, where, however, the mass is in progress and the old ladies who turn to look at me prevent me from freely go around to admire all the stations. Driving towards the mountain we find The Cliff, The House of Inquietude, The Wall of Mess. The eyes are unable to get used to the sight of art set in scenarios that cannot be described. We arrive at the entrance of the famous Su Marmuri caves which unfortunately are closed.
We are very close to a canyon between the Tacchi, whose walls are armed for climbers. This whole area is in fact frequented by climbers and there is a dedicated facility for their reception, the Nannai Climbing Home managed by Paolo and Sophie, a Turinese and a Belgian. Unfortunately we don’t have time to go into the canyon. Instead we choose to drive along the road that will take us to the rural church of Santa Barbara.
Here too, a work of art by Maria Lai, The Road of Ritual, many small sculptures attached to the side wall of the street. We seems to drive through an American landscape, valleys surrounded by Tacchi, impressive. We pass the Lequarci waterfalls, which at this moment are empty, but they show me a video of last November, when they almost looked like the Niagara falls! In the distance you can also see the wind turbines, halfway with Perdasdefogu, which have drawn a bit on the economy of the country.
Once back, we conclude the evening in company, aperitif, pizzeria and final treat to the club with a touch of brandy and honey, the famous ‘miscuglio’. I go to bed still stunned by the magnificence of art and landscapes that I experienced today.
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
At the Su Marmuri textile workshop I see a light blue ribbon hanging on the wall. I ask the owner Maria if this is what I think, and she confirms to me that this is indeed a piece of the original tape of the Maria Lai’s performance ‘Legarsi alla Montagna’ (Tied to the Mountain). Maria tells me that by now there is very little left, even if many inhabitants of the town have a piece of it.
During the visit to the laboratory I expose to Maria my idea of making a textile product that represents my journey. I show her some pictures of an experiment that my sister is doing at the same time as my journey progresses. Maria is very intrigued and shows me some ways in which a carpet could be made, or a tapestry.
Before leaving, Maria pulls a small roll of light blue ribbon out of the drawer and tells me “this is one of the last remaining rolls, we give it only to special people, the last piece we gave to Mrs Boldrini (president of the Italian Senate)”. She takes a piece of it, cuts it with scissors and hands it to me saying “I want to give you a piece”. I am moved. I take the sachet with the tape and keep it as if it were a relic. The spirit of Maria Lai will accompany me throughout the journey.