The weather is worsening, in the sense that it is getting hotter, unbearable since early morning. I leave Ploaghe and throw myself downhill in an internal road from where I see in the opposite ridge the villages that I have visited in the last few days, Florinas and Codrongianos. I travel in a plain, in an almost African atmosphere. By now the colors of a few weeks ago have completely changed and the countryside has definitely turned yellow. I see Ardara on the top of a hill, the church on the ridge, and I slowly climb the hairpin bends, in total heat … “burning (ardere in italian) in Ardara”.
I get to the Town Hall where the Mayor Francesco welcomes me. He tells me some facts about this small municipality. First of all, the important activities on which the local economy is based, a municipality where there does not seem to be much employment crisis. Thanks to some important milk companies (unique in Sardinia together with Arborea) and to many artisans, such as blacksmiths, who also produce and sell on a national scale. And then there are the quarries, mines to be precise, even if they are excavated in the open.
After an aperitif (unaware of how the day will end …) we head together with the Municipal traffic warden to the Svimisa mines, where Riccardo, the site manager, welcomes us and guides us through the various excavation fronts, the separation and washing machinery, and the laboratories. Here, in fact, quartz sands are mainly excavated for the production of high quality ceramics, exported all over the world. Another type of material is also excavated which is used for the completion of the Sassari-Olbia highway which passes not far from here.
Back at the Town Hall, Francesco proudly shows me several paintings acquired over time, by Mario Gaspa, Lina Mannu, An Fossi … some of which are truly beautiful. Then I admire the remains of the Castle from the window, with its white and black stones, on top of which this Town Hall was built. I pick up bikes and luggage and settle at Marco and Andrea’s Adelasia b&b, before going for lunch at the La Locanda restaurant with Francesco and Luigi, an employee of the Town Hall. The highlights of the lunch are lard (fine cut that melts in the mouth) with pistachios, broad beans with bacon, and of course wine.
After lunch we head to the Irish pub for a coffee … followed by “ammazzacaffè”, literally “coffee killers”, that’s a very strong sort of grappa … that never ends. Customers and glasses increase. Sergio, a Roman who has lived here for more than thirty years, tells me about when he worked in Poltu Quatu, surrounded by characters such as Paolo Villaggio and Vittorio Gasmann, of whom he also saw moments of sadness, in which they told him that they would have liked to be in his place, no fame, simple life.
It is late, Francesco and I head to the most important monument in Ardara, the church of Nostra Signora del Regno, all in dark basaltic stone. When I think I have already seen the most beautiful things on this trip, I am wrong. Once entered the church I am literally open-mouthed in awe. Then I will also understand why. First of all, the beauty of the aisles, three, separated by frescoed columns, and basically what is considered the second largest altarpiece in Europe. The guide of the church shows me all the paintings, then Francesco takes me behind to see the structure. And in the sacristy he shows me the panel that controls the lighting, a very expensive system which can highlight different sections of the church. Francesco tells me about his idea of bringing to light a part of the crypt, now covered by a fairly recent pavement, where several Sardinian judges should be buried.
Left the church, we walk up the steps, which last year saw an impressive number of people who came to see Ludovico Einaudi’s concert for the Time in Jazz festival. To the side of this tree-lined avenue there is a park with a beautiful amphitheater for events. We turn the narrow streets of the orderly historic center, between floral decorations and the square with a beautiful olive tree in the center. Then we enter a bar to say the least particular. Objects of all kinds, memorabilia, odds and ends, really everything, reminds me of the Erula museum, except for its Mussolini related objects. We have a coffee with which I try to sedate the various aperitifs and coffee killers … but it’s too late now, alcohol has taken over and I just have to go back to the b&b, where I fall asleep … to wake up at midnight completely confused asking myself what happened!
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
Once again, after my day in Arborea marked by a serious road accident, I arrived in a small community that is upset and in prayer. Maria Pina, 19, is in a coma after a terrible road accident and her life is hanging by a thread. The Mayor Francesco made me spend a nice day, discovering the area, but without any fuss, without any event organised for my passage, respecting this situation, which I embraced from the beginning, entering this country in tiptoes. We dedicated one of the many toasts to Maria Pina, so that she can recover soon, and inside the magnificent church of Our Lady of the Kingdom I address a thought to the life of this girl.
PS While I am publishing this article, I know that Maria Pina has left the coma and is recovering!