Two hundred and sixty-eight is not an important number, but today it is in some ways. For the first time in my journey I will cross my path again, I will cut that red line drawn that on 25 November 2018, day 31 of 377, connected Ghilarza to Norbello, and then continued the next day towards Abbasanta (I did very little cycling in those days!)
So, today I consider it a “key” day. Not only for the journey, but also for the re-encounters. In the morning I am joined in Aidomaggiore by Massimo, with whom I spent the day in Bonarcado. We leave quite early and after taking some photos of Nuraghe Jua we begin the ride towards Norbello. Shortly before the hamlet of Domusnovas Canales, in a beautiful descent, Enrico, who hosted me in his b&b in Ghilarza, joins us.
After a light ascent, past the suggestive hamlet, we enter Norbello and stop for a coffee with Alberto who hosted me here, and Daniela with her dog Lola, who guided me to the MIDI, the Museum of Image and Interactive Design, and around the village. It is always a joy to meet again people who have helped me, but unfortunately we have to leave again because they are waiting for me in Paulilatino and there is still a little way to go.
This is one of the tracks where, to avoid the 131, I have to stretch the route a lot, and unfortunately I have to go through a stretch of provincial road I will have to retrace tomorrow to go to Ula Tirso, in contravention of one of the rules I imposed on myself, that is to never pass on the same road twice. We cross the green countryside of cork oaks and very dark basalt dry stone walls, and finally after the last climb we enter Paulilatino where I say goodbye to Enrico and Massimo with a coffee on the square where the nineteenth-century Cantaru Mannu fountain stands.
I go to the Town Hall where refreshments have been set up for my arrival. The Mayor Domenico, the Deputy Mayor Serafino, and various employees welcome me, together with Gianfranco, a distant cousin from Oristano who, on my day in Zeddiani, unexpectedly showed up in a house to meet me, having searched for me all over the village! Among cakes, pastries and glasses of wine I tell about my project and listen with interest to some facts about this village, planning what to see during the day.
It is already time for lunch and I am a guest in Gianfranco’s family home where his cousin Patrizia with her husband Giorgio awaits us. We are in the historic centre, right on the square of the parish church of San Teodoro. The streets and the square are still in “impedrau” (local cobblestone) and almost all the houses made of very dark basalt (I would swear that even the plastered ones have the same type of stone underneath.) Even the parish church is completely plastered with pink and only allows a glimpse of the light stone of the entrance portal and the edges of the high bell tower in red trachyte.
Gianfranco’s old family home is beautiful, an old manor house, large entrance hall with floor still in original stone slabs and frescoed arches, a staircase leading upstairs and large rooms with frescoed vaults and still original furnishings from other eras. After a very abundant lunch they show me the courtyard, with stone troughs and other remains of past life, overlooked by a series of structures that were animal lodgings, the area with the bread oven, an area for making oil, one for the wine. In other times, those who could produce everything were able to sell or give to the rest of the population.
In the afternoon, I take a tour to capture some glimpses of the village, I pass the Grazia Deledda municipal theater, the Atzori noble palace which houses the ethnographic museum, and many churches, that of the Souls, of Santa Maria Maddalena and Nostra Signora d’Itria. Here too, as in the surrounding towns, the dark basalt dominates, broken only by the red trachyte decorations.
At sunset, I meet Gianfranco, Patrizia and Giorgio again. Although the territory of Paulilatino is very rich in archaeological sites, with important nuraghi and tombs of the giants, we decide to go to the place I have long wanted to be part of this project, the archaeological area of Santa Cristina. We arrive at the edge of the sacred well, one of the most iconic places on this island, and it is here that, between the curious eyes and ears of some tourists on a visit, I perform a few tunes on my ukulele, on the steps leading to the water. The light is the one of the setting sun, making everything a beautiful reddish, and the sound bounces off the basalt coming out from the small upper opening of the well. I had been waiting for this magical moment for a long time and I savour every moment of it.
After the impromptu performance, we take a walk through this beautiful area surrounded by centuries-old olive trees and oaks, where there is the church dedicated to Santa Cristina surrounded by “muristenes” which, as in other novenaries in the area, form a real village. Not far away are the remains of a nuragic village, with a nuraghe and several huts, and a long stone structure of uncertain dating and mysterious function.
The night ends with a nice event called Bisos Social Eating, a project carried out by Chiara and Giulia, who manage the Bisos b&b, which involves six families from the village who host the guests of the b&b for dinner, included myself. In a beautiful garden of a house, tables have been set up where we eat and drink local gastronomic products cooked by the families, and we socialise. At the end of the dinner, the audience listens to my stories and my music played on the ukulele and the children are already asking their parents to buy a ukulele … mission accomplished!
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Bisos (which in Sardinian means dreams) is a beautiful b&b in a noble palace in the main square of Paulilatino, Su Pangulieri, belonging to the Urgu family and expertly restored by one of the heirs, the architect Francesco. The interiors are beautiful, characterized by precious floors, frescoed vaults and furnished with taste and with materials that recall Sardinia. Bisos is the first eco-sustainable historic residence in Italy. The restoration of the building took place preserving all the original architectural features, using ecological materials, and its management takes place with a zero fossil energy consumption, without dust and CO2 emissions, and soon, with the photovoltaic system, it will be almost passive.
At the end of the day, when I go to bed exhausted, I find a rolled up sheet on the bed and held in place by a string. I unwind it and find an original “Goodnight Tale” given by Bisos. I report it here:
“The great village of Pauilatino presented itself to me as one of the most singular villages, among those I have already seen. The village is built entirely of black basalt and precisely with blocks as massive as those of the nuraghi. In many houses, the door is also perfectly similar to that of the ancient monuments, that is, made up of two vertical blocks of basalt, on which a third rests horizontally, true cyclopean architecture. Even the church seems not to have escaped the influence of that shapeless way of construction and that dark and melancholy material. Although in its main features it presents the style of the last century, even I could hardly escape the impression that here I was dealing with a modern edition of a nuraghe, all bare, black and unadorned in its interior and its exterior. Inside there were some poorly furnished altars, and here and there even some bad images, but the black basalt predominated with its dark color and its coarse and massive essence, since the interior space of that House of the Lord was not whitened. Entirely in harmony with this dark outline the scene was presented, that is, the peasant women dressed in black shortened on the floor, the faces of which could be seen just under the dark handkerchief and the black skirt overturned and thrown on the head, which took the place of the mantilla. I say shortened on the floor, since this seems to me to be the most expressive expression, although it does not fully explain the thing: the posture was rather a halfway between kneeling and lying, that is what would be assumed by a person who, tired of kneeling, wanted to make herself comfortable without getting up from the ground. It is in this position that the peasants of Sardinia are accustomed to attend the sacred functions, since in no village church there are chairs or supports, and they are not happy to stay upright for so long”.
This is how I discover yet another nineteenth-century foreign traveler who tells about Sardinia, the German baron Heinrich Von Maltzan. For health reasons Maltzan was forced to travel and spend long periods in countries with a mild climate. In 1868, he visited Sardinia and described its history, life and customs, reserving parts for poetry, geology and mineralogy, flora and fauna, publishing everything in the work “Reise auf der Insel Sardinien nebst einem Anhang über die phönicischen Inschriften Sardiniens “.