I leave Aggius with the sun. A bit of a climb is waiting for me, to go back towards Tempio Pausania, and then I dive into a massive downhill on the SS127, skirting the narrow and very green valley that opens up in the distance on the Perfugas plain. However, I get to the junction for Bortigiadas and three kilometers of very hard climb await me, relieved only by the beautiful wooded landscape that I cross, passing also the railway and the old train station of the Sassari-Tempio-Palau line, now used only by the Green Train.
I arrive in the centre of Bortigiadas where Councilor Pier Paolo is waiting for me in front of the Town Hall. We go up the building, and I finally meet the Mayor Emiliano, who, as President of the ANCI (National Association of Italian Municipalities) Sardinia, has contributed a lot to make this project of mine known in the media. We go back down to the square, which overlooks the magnificent valley, and we take a coffee at the bar before starting the day’s activities.
The first stop is at the schools, together with the girls of the civil service, to tell the children about my adventure, to play the ukulele, hoping that this story “of other times” as someone has defined it, pass on to them the values of commitment and determination, the importance of art, beautiful things and respect for nature.
Immediately after, right next to the schools, we visit the Mineralogical and Earth Museum, containing a rich collection of minerals coming both from this territory (interested in the past by mining, less known than in other areas of Sardinia) and by neighboring municipalities and further away. In the same building there are some beautiful terracottas by the artist Pinuccio Sciola, figures that represent characters of village life, men in a ‘berritta’ (typical hat), women with headdresses.
For lunch I am a guest of Maria Viola, city councilor, who has also taken care of my accommodation. In the afternoon I meet Emiliano again, who takes me by car to the hamlet of Figa Ruja, in a narrow valley that goes towards the territory of Viddalba, to see an activity I have heard so much about, but of others times, like my journey, and of which very few examples exist today: the production of coal made by the Carbonari. We arrive in a land where Antonello and Mario have just turned off a “chea”, the typical pile of wood covered with earth, inside which the material that will become very high quality coal burns slowly. The pile is still smoking, around a few pieces of “almost” ready coal. Antonello and Mario invite us to drink a glass of wine and tell about this activity, which for centuries has been going on from father to son, and that all in all still makes sense to continue, because of the quality of the product, nowhere to be found in commercial products.
Back in town, Emiliano leaves me with Maria Viola and Marcello, another municipal councilor, to go to the center of the elderly. Here, as in schools, I bring my experience as a musician-traveler, this time to the other end of the spectrum of human existence, and, having pulled the volume up to its maximum, I play several songs on the ukulele, arousing the interest of a very long-lived public.
Left the elderly center, we take a tour of the village centre, full of characteristic views, and embellished by the beautiful photographic panels depicting the Sciola terracottas inserted in “village” situations. I visit the church of San Nicola, with the facade built strictly in granite blocks. Not far from here a beautiful granite wash-house, and the small church of Santa Croce, also in granite. We cross the entire historic center, through narrow lanes, to reach the other end of the village, where there is another beautiful wash house from the 1950s, on the road that leads to the country church of Santa Lucia.
Eventually Marcello takes me by car to visit the heights behind the village, not only to admire the wind farm and the panorama that stretches from here to Tempio Pausania and the Limbara mountains, but above all to show me the climb that I will have to face tomorrow to get to Bonaita, fraction of Aggius, in the direction of Trinità d’Agultu. I conclude this rich day at dinner with Maria Volta, and as a miracle I can go to bed early!
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
On this trip I happened several times to cross the narrow gauge railway lines, once Ferrovie Complementari della Sardegna, today ARST, of which a good part is used only for the Green Train, a tourist service. Thanks to the crossing of incredible landscapes, these lines were also beaten by foreign travelers: Sea and Sardinia by the English David H. Lawrence describes his journey on the Cagliari-Isili-Sorgono line (“We take the train of the Secondary, … wherever it goes” ).
I crossed these lines already at stage 19, in Sorgono, terminus of the Isili-Sorgono line, the last stretch of the line that once started from Cagliari, now partly replaced by the light rail up to Monserrato. I met them again in Ogliastra, the Mandas-Arbatax line, with the fine little stations met in Ussassai, Gairo, Ulassai, Osini, Elini, Lanusei, Tortolì.
Today I run into the Sassari-Tempio-Palau line, already crossed in Calangianus, Luras and Tempio Pausania. Here we find a peculiarity: a “helical” tunnel, where a stretch of railroad is screwed onto itself, covering two ellipses of about 1000 meters in the shape of a snail, of which 525 are in the tunnel, to overcome a height difference of 70 / 80 meters in a short space. Besides this gallery there is only one other similar one, near Lanusei on the Mandas-Arbatax line.
In recent years the lines of the green Train have suffered partial closures, due to problems on the track and slow or never performed maintenance. This has led to the decline in tourism, especially in some small towns. It is hoped that the managers and regional authorities will be able to remedy this situation as soon as possible, to bring all the lines back to the efficiency and exploitation of their enormous potential.