I feel guilty for having spent half a day on the island of Asinara, part of the municipality of Porto Torres, and to devote only half a day to Stintino. But after all, Stintino was founded as a fishing village by some inhabitants of the island (45 families) who abandoned it in 1885, while others chose Sassari and Porto Torres, opposed to the transfer of ownership to the Italian state after centuries of feudalism.
On the 200th day of the journey (the 100th was Burcei) I disembark from the ferry from the Asinara island in the marina, where fishing boats are still moored in addition to the most modern boats. I cycle on the coastal road to get to one of the most iconic places of Sardinian summer tourism: the Pelosa beach. Unfortunately I am loaded and it is not possible for me to get down to the famous wedge-shaped beach, but I stop on the rocks to admire the scenery in front, the Isola Piana, with its Spanish tower, which was once a transhumance destination, with cattle transported on boats, and in the distance the Asinara, which now seems a distant land, ancient property of the people of Stintino.
I stay a while to enjoy this paradisiacal scenario, before heading towards Capo Falcone, taking one of the steepest climbs of this trip. Below the road is the Torre beach, named for the presence of another tower, della Pelosa, on a small promontory. From here up the view is even more impressive.
I cycle back to the village where I wait to be contacted by Giuliana, a tourist guide who should help me find accommodation for the night. I pass the small marina that creeps thinly into the village, and I arrive at the centre, well cared for, where here and there you can admire on the walls of the houses part of a traveling exhibition that portrays the fishing communities from the origins to more recent times.
I then go to the MUT museum, the Tonnara Museum, museum of tuna fishing, where I look back at the history of one of the main activities of the fishing communities of these areas through panels, photos, videos and objects. The museum is divided into six rooms, just like in the real tonnara, and when it comes to the “death chamber” the images are impressive. At the museum there are also works by artists who have portrayed scenes from the Tonnara delle Saline, to the south of the village near the Casaraccio pond and the Saline beach (I will pass by tomorrow).
Finally I meet Giuliana, returning from a trip with a group of tourists, who takes us all to the b&b Mr Carubo owned by Claudio, on the road to La Pelosa. I will be a guest here. After settling in, I accept the invitation to go to dinner with the group of tourists: Paolo from Forlì, Davide from Roma, Valentina from Riva del Garda, Francesca and Maria from Schio, Barbara from Milan, Francesca from Castellanza. We spend a nice evening and in the end they don’t allow me to pay my share for dinner … so it’s not just the Sardinians who are hospitable!
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
Tuna fishing and tuna plants in Sardinia have a history that is lost in the mists of time. Legend has it that two fishermen, Pietro and Antioco, taught the population about tuna fishing, an activity carried out by different populations in the Mediterranean, by the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans, and above all by the Arabs, whose language gave the name of the head of the “tonnarotti” (tuna fishermen) the rais, still used today.
In Sardinia, over the centuries, there were many tuna traps, above all concentrated on the north coast and the western coast where the tuna passes. At the end of the nineteenth century there were more than 20 tonnare that supplied 4/5 of the Italian tuna production. The only tuna that remains active today is that of the Island of San Pietro. Among the important tuna traps there are those of Portoscuso, whose remains I visited during my day in the town, of Porto Paglia (near Portoscuso), of Perdas Nieddas (Calasetta), of Flumentorgiu (south of Capo Frasca), of the Saline at Stintino, of Trabuccato (on the island of Asinara), of Cala Agostina, Predas de Fogu and Vignola (between Sorso, Castelsardo and the Bocche di Bonifacio).
The tonnara of the Saline in Stintino closed in the seventies, but in 1997 it was put back into the sea by a crew commanded by the last rais Agostino Diana, to try to restart the activity and encourage the passing on of the knowledge related to tuna fishing. This initiative led to an important scientific study with the participation of various universities and researchers: in 1998 a tuna marking campaign began with the “pop-off satellite tags” technique. The first tags released, after about 14 days, transmitted to the satellite their location in the Tyrrhenian Sea, east of Sardinia and Corsica. This means that the tuna had traveled a distance of about 100 miles, passing through the Strait of Bonifacio. The second tags started broadcasting after 25 days, near the Tunisian coasts.