I leave the bnb Gairu Nou and it is very cold but the clear view of the Rio Pardu valley satisfies my senses. I swoop down from the bends going back to Gairo Vecchio, and once past the bridge I resign myself to slowly climb the hairpin bends that lead me to Gairo Taquisara. From here on it is flat for a while, I pass the railway and shortly afterwards a spectacular descent begins amid the woods and the limestone of the Tacchi. Across the Rio San Girolamo, and the last climb to Ussassai.
On the other side of the valley the village seems very big, but then I remember that it has only 500 inhabitants and I sense that there must have been a high rate of depopulation. When I arrive, I meet Chicco, president of a local association, who will host me at his bnb Gennarcu. We have a coffee and get in the car with his partner Monica to visit the area.
First stop is the rural church of San Salvatore, also called San Gerolamo, although this was an ancient church existing outside the town, of which today there is no trace. However, here they continue to celebrate both saints. From here the view on the calcareous heels is magnificent, one also sees Perda Liana, and they say that this landscape influenced Tex Willer’s cartoonist for his scenarios. Not far from here we arrive at the Milisai spring source. From here Chicco shows me some peaks where there are remains of some nuraghi, and reminds me that Ussassai also participated in the manifestation of Jerzu‘s nuragic fires.
We take the car again, and arrive at the area called Niala, where there is a nice refreshment point immersed in the woods which is now closed and no one knows if it will reopen. This in fact served all the tourists who came here with the Trenino Verde (the Green Train), which no longer passes through this section for some years now. Walking a short distance from here there is a beautiful bridge, which we cross on foot, under which a beautiful river flows with crystal clear waters. In the distance you can see what was the little station of Niala. We are very far from the village. The Ussassai station is even further away, I saw it coming this morning. I can’t believe that in the old days you had to walk for hours and hours to catch the train, crossing valleys and rivers! Not far from here, we go down to the valley floor walking in the woods. This stretch of the river is beautiful, rich in features in the rock carved by the flow of water, called Tuvunieddu, a large natural pool.
We go back for lunch and I dedicate myself to some work before resuming my visit to the historic center of the town. Many houses are in schist stone, some abandoned, some simply not inhabited. From many spots you can enjoy the beautiful landscape with limestone walls in the distance. There are many murals, dedicated above all to centenarians, abundant in this country as in almost all of the Ogliastra region (one of the 5 Blue Zones in the world).
We conclude the evening with a dinner of pork, with some friends.
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
Visits in the dark 2. When the sun has already set, Chicco and Monica take me to a place outside the village. I fear another visit in the dark, like the many already made on this trip (described in the Short Stories of Terralba). We arrive at a place called Su Casteddu, because actually the limestone spikes form ridges give this remnant of ‘heel’ the appearance of a castle. From here you can enjoy an incredible view over the whole valley of the Tacchi behind Ulassai and Osini.
We climb along a path. And having arrived at the base of the rock, Chicco looks for a specific position and asks me to place myself there and look towards the edge of the wall. A single rock stands out from the others, and its profile is unmistakable, that of Dante Alighieri! The sun is now down and it’s getting dark, but the colors, the moon and this profile make this moment magical. We must be careful to walk back the path almost in the dark when we return to the car, but this visit was really worthy it!