I leave from the Pausania Inn together with foreign motorcyclists (poor people, perhaps they did not expect such cold and wet holidays in May!) and I cycle towards Aggius. The sky is cleaning up. The last part is uphill, among the cork oaks, and as I approach Aggius granite peaks appear, rugged and imposing mountains, which watch over Aggius.
The entrance sign reminds me that I arrived at an Authentic Italian Village and Orange Flag of the Touring Club. And I notice it as soon as I enter, a well-kept village. I head to the home of Gabriella, a local weaver and aunt of Marco, an ethnomusicologist friend who moved to the Cagliari area and who left me the keys to his home to stay. While picking up the keys I also admire the works of Gabriella, who still works, together with a young helper, on the old wooden frames. This is one of the most important centers for traditional weaving.
I walk around the town, even here the houses are almost all in granite, like the parish church of Santa Vittoria on the main street, with a tall bell tower all in granite. Before lunch I meet Councilor Andrea for a local Vermentino aperitif, after which we go to lunch at the Il Mosto restaurant, a beautiful historical place, where I can taste excellent local products, including Timballos, a typical dessert, all accompanied from good vermentino.
In the afternoon Andrea takes me around the village, among its narrow streets and houses in granite, decorated by a beautiful permanent exhibition of contemporary open-air art, real street art, called AAAperto, 14 looms by Maria Lai placed on walls outside of houses that were part of the exhibition ‘Being is weaving’. We pass several hanging frames, some murals, street paving with artistic stone drawings that recall the traditions, arriving at a panoramic square with the reproduction of Maria Lai’s Flight Game.
We then head to the I.S.O.L.A. center where I can admire many real looms, carpets and other works, many still under production by some inhabitants of the town. From here we then reach the Museum of Banditism, in the old district court. I am guided through stories and material regarding the most important and infamous Sardinian bandits, and above all one, the famous Mute of Gallura, whose crimes upset the territory of Aggius in the mid-nineteenth century.
From the village we take the car to visit the area. Andrea describes me well all these mountains that surround the village. First of all the Mount of the Cross, with its demonic 666 meters high. Legend has it that it was inhabited by the devil, who appeared on stormy nights at the top of the mountain, taxiing on a stone drum reciting the anathema: “my Aggius, the day will come that I will take you away”, until a cross placed by a missionary drove the devil away forever. We climb up to a road that run alongside Monte Fraili, the granite massif I saw this morning, and Monti Pinna, next to it, and the view from here is exceptional. We see a ‘conca fraicada’ like the one I saw in Calangianus, a cavity in granite partly walled up to make it habitable.
We continue to drive, arriving at the Valley of the Moon, not to be confused with that at Capo Testa in Santa Teresa di Gallura. This is a flat expanse of granite rocks scattered among the vegetation, and a very long straight road cuts it in two, making it resemble an American landscape. We arrive as far as the white country church of San Pietro di Ruda, as if we were almost on the border with Mexico, and indeed there is a mountain nearby nicknamed Lu Messu because here bandits used to assault and rob the tax collectors. We return to the village passing through the Santa Degna park, a beautiful and well-kept green oasis with three connected ponds.
Once back in the village we go to the place I have been waiting to visit for some time, the Etnographic Museum Olivia Carta Cannas MEOC. The venue is beautiful, in some renovated historic buildings, around a courtyard that includes natural granite outcrops. With great surprise they welcome me with works by Gianni Polinas, an artist from Bonnanaro known in Olbia. In addition to containing interesting exhibits of objects of ancient crafts, reconstruction of ancient living quarters, an important exhibition of carpets, works by Maria Lai, a documentary by the artist Vittoria Soddu, the MEOC contains a section on the singing of Aggius, curated by my ethnomusicologist friend Marco Lutzu, among other things, author of a recent study on the number one love song in Sardinia, No Potho Reposare, which I often play with the ukulele on this trip.
Here I spend a good deal of time listening to the various songs, many ‘a tasgia’, the typical style of these areas, a bit like the Gallurese equivalent of ‘a cuncordu’ or ‘a tenore’. The Aggius choir was the first Sardinian choir to perform outside Sardinia, in 1920 at the Quirino theater in Rome. The multimedia display is exceptional, and even here, as I have already done for Santu Lussurgiu for the ‘cuncordu’ and for Bitti for the ‘tenor’ I can isolate the individual voices and understand the secrets of this song.
This long day ends with a very good pizza in company, and then a performance at the Banda di Aggius, where I join in playing the ukulele by doubling the baritone sax. Upon returning to Marco’s home, the illuminated night streets bring an atmosphere of mystery … and I seem to hear a drum playing in the distance on the mountains.
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
‘The voice of the drum’ is the title of the documentary by Vittoria Soddu on display at the MEOC. The main element is the granite boulder of Monte della Croce, hovering above a high, which is constantly moved by a person, emitting a rhythmic sound that looks like the sound of a grave drum, a sort of bass drum. Legend has it that this stone drum was played by the devil.
Returning instead to frightening realities, the Mute of Gallura really existed, this Bastiano Tansu, derided and marginalised from childhood to be deaf and dumb, that he started a terrible feud to avenge a slain aunt. Bastiano then fell in love with Gavina, a girl from Avru, today a mountain hamlet of Viddalba, and was killed right here while he went to visit her. These events were narrated by Enrico Costa in his historical novel The Mute of Gallura, from 1884. And finally to keep the memory alive there is a farm called Il Muto di Gallura not far from the village.