I start from the Agriturismo Su Connottu and for the first time I pedal on country roads, among the Mandrolisai vineyards. The air is warm, enough to warm the head of some dogs that pounced on me, thankfully from over a well-built net!
The road is slightly uphill. I cycle through the woods but the landscape and the vegetation are starting to change. The Barbagia and the mountains are a thing of the past. I am definitely in the hills now.
I arrive in Ortueri and immediately notice the trachytic stone with which many houses are built, although granite is also present. A beautiful aristocratic building on the right, just after a votive chapel on the edge of the road built by a survivor of the First World War.
I head to the Town Hall. Ortueri has no mayor, so I meet Laura, one of the guards, who welcomes me and tells me a little about the village and things I can visit. We go to greet the teachers of the local school, and then I have a few hours for myself before lunch.
I follow Laura’s advice, and I ride my bike up to the Mui Muscas natural reserve, houses of a colony of Sardinian donkeys. The climb is very hard, in the woods, a climb in height of 350 meters. I stop halfway to breath and eat some corbezzoli.
At the top I have to go through two gates (‘Make sure you close them well so that the donkeys do not run away!’). And I enter the field, covered with pine needles (result of reforestation) and ‘traces’ of donkey.
I see them in the distance, shy, eating the grass. I get closer. As soon as they notice me they stiffen a little and keep looking at me. Two donkeys approach me, they seem threatening at first but they are just curious and stop two steps from me. I caress them, I move away but they move closer.
I stay a bit to contemplate the donkeys, melancholic, placid, to caress them, and I taste the sense of peace that this place transmits.
The descent is very fast, twenty minutes to go up, three to go down. At lunch I am kindly invited by Teresa, a municipal employee, to eat in her Agriturismo Su Creccu, located on a hill where you can enjoy a beautiful view.
When I go back to the Town Hall, I discover that there is a grand piano in the council chamber! It’s a miracle! The first piano I find on this trip.
I ask to stay a bit here and I take this opportunity to play and record some fragments (the Orgosolo one and today’s one).
After a few hours I am joined by Nicola Loi, a trunfa player, with whom I play for half an hour. What a musically rich day! Nicola writes poetry too, and he sends me a lot of them on Whatsapp.
I end the evening with Roberto, owner of the Irish Pub here. Roberto has kindly taken charge of my hospitality at the Sa Funtana hotel, and with him and other friends we spend a few hours talking about Ortueri, the musicians who now all have other jobs, the rains that have ruined the production of this year’s wine, and Brexit!
The cry of donkeys.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Angela greets me at Sa Funtana hotel. She makes me unload the bags inside and put the bike in the garage. We enter the dining room, with a nice fireplace, and Angela advises me to take advantage of the pizza tonight, made in a wood-burning oven.
Before bringing the bags up to the room, Angela calls her mother, Antonella. ‘This gentleman lives in England and is now touring Sardinia by bicycle’. Antonella lights up. ‘How beautiful. My son too lived two years in England, to learn English, then he decided to come back to Sardinia … eh … unfortunately the Lord took him away … ‘
I stay in silence for a moment ‘Ah … I’m sorry, what happened? When was it? ” Eh, sixteen years ago, he was only 26 years old. He came back to Ortueri and worked in the fields, one day the tractor overturned and he was crushed underneath. At this point, Antonella’s expression changes, a little grimace and her eyes fill with tears.
So are those of Angela, who promptly decides that it’s time to take me to the room. When I settle, I think back of the donkeys this morning, sad and melancholic, maybe they too are still crying the death of this man.