Summer is ending. This morning a very violent storm prevents me from leaving. Later in the newspaper I read that in Sardinia 14,000 lightning strikes fell in one day, the record in all of Europe. So I wait for the rain to stop in the Town Hall, in the company of the Mayor of Ula Tirso Ovidio, but at one point, since the rain doesn’t seem to stop, I decide to leave anyway.
Fortunately, the road is short and I quickly arrive in Busachi where I will be a guest at Francesco and Antonietta’s house. Once I arrive, I change from wet clothes, despite the waterproof equipment, and go to the Town Hall where the guys from the Civil Service, Piera, Sara, Francesco, and Oriana have made themselves available to show me around the village.
In the council chamber of the Town Hall there are copies of paintings by Filippo Figari, who lived here a few years, which portray women in traditional dress. Busachi has remained one of the few towns in Sardinia where women still wear the traditional daily dress, and the special one on Sunday for mass. So today I hope to be able to meet some of them.
The guys from the Civil Service immediately take me to the nearby church of San Domenico, with its austere facade, now deconsecrated and home to a permanent exhibition of traditional dresses. The internal architectural elements are magnificent, the vaults, columns, chapels and niches, and also the display of the clothes is very beautiful, and goes around the space.
Once out, the guys explain to me that Busachi is divided into three districts, ‘e susu (above),’ e josso (below) and Campu Majore. We go to the upper part, where the Collegiu is located. This was a monastery of the Jesuit monks, built in the sixteenth century. It is in excellent condition after the renovation, and the spaces are very impressive. We wander around the cloister, in the colonnade, then inside to see the spaces where novice friars and pupils lived, the refectory and the lodgings, consisting of very simple and spartan cells. Today in these spaces exhibitions and events are held, especially during the Sagra di Su Succu, the typical dish based on tagliolini, meat and cheese, all immersed in saffron.
We resume the tour around the village tiny streets, where the houses are all in pink trachyte. We pass by the parish church of Sant’Antonio, with a beautiful decorated facade and a high bell tower, and then we stop at a house which garden has some domus de janas.
Tzia Chichina lets us in and takes us to the back, where their vegetable garden is. On a small rocky ridge, steps carved into the stone lead us to the opening of a tomb. Tzia chichina says that at the time of the Second World War the whole family slept in there, with four mattresses. Then in the 1960s the tomb was walled up and transformed into a water deposit to make up for the lack of water.
After saying goodbye to Tzia Chichina, we go back to the centre village, where I am shown a space where old prisons were located and where the condemned were executed outdoors and in public. When we reach Busache ‘e josso we find the church of San Bernardino, from the 16th century, with a well-plastered façade, but still with elements of pink trachyte in sight, a double bell tower, and an imposing dome covered with red majolica.
In the afternoon we go to the countryside, to the novenary of Santa Susanna, which look as good as the nearby San Serafino in Ghilarza, Santa Cristina in Paulilatino, or San Salvatore in Cabras, not only for the vast village of houses all around which you can access through a Spanish portal, but above all for the ancient church. At its entrance there are beautiful ceramic decorations and inside there are nineteenth-century frescoes depicting episodes from the life of the saint.
We stroll through the alleys and houses of the village before returning to Busachi. Here I say goodbye to the guys of the Civil Service and meet Mario who has made himself available to accompany me to visit the area around the Eleonora D’Arborea dam, the Tirso dam that replaced the old Santa Chiara dam that I admired yesterday in Ula Tirso and that creates Lake Omodeo.
Mario drives to the edge of the lake and, after having traveled a steep stoney road, we arrive right on the shore just before the barrier, whose dimensions are impressive even on the upstream side. The water in the absence of wind is a mirror, on the banks there are trunks and dry trees still standing, and the lack of light from the sun just set gives the place a somewhat ghostly air.
We proceed by car to climb a hill and admire the dam from above. At the top we start looking for the nuragic village of Santa Marra, but we cannot find it due to the presence of the luxuriant vegetation. Having jumped a dry stone wall, I reach the edge of the hill to photograph the dam from above. The view is impressive and extends as far as the Oristano area, where I can see the waters of the gulf and the Cabras ponds sparkling on the horizon. I have completed the whole of the upper half of Sardinia and am finally heading south and towards Cagliari where my journey will end in four months.
The women of Busachi
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
I have been looking for women in traditional dress all day. Here is the result:
Woman 1. Once out of the Collegiu, we spot a woman in traditional dress returning home. We stop and, while the boys greet her, I manage to take pictures of her. Maria Peppa agrees to be photographed. Black skirt, white shirt, floral bodice with blue and purple back and black bonnet.
Woman 2. We go to Geltrude’s house. The lady opens the door. At my request to take photographs of her in traditional dress she tells me that she does not feel beautiful and in good shape but that I can certainly photograph details without taking her face. So I photograph the beautiful golden and ornate button that closes her finely decorated white shirt.
Woman 3. Another Maria Peppa lives next to Francesco and Antonietta’s house. Apparently she wears the traditional dress during the day. We go and see her and she too, like the other Maria Peppa, agrees to be photographed … this time posing, on the beautiful portal of her house, surrounded by pink trachyte. On her skirt she wears a light blue apron, a sign of the housework she was doing just before I arrived. Not far from Maria Peppa’s house I had spotted a beautiful noble house with a portal surmounted by a marble slab that indicates “Casamento del Signor D. Emanuele Oastejon Matarez”, the Spanish nobleman to whom this house belonged. At my request, Maria Peppa also has herself photographed in front of this beautiful door, and while she is going away to her home, I photograph (in secret) the back of the dress, this time with an entirely red bodice.
Woman 4. Giovannangela is Oriana’s grandmother, one of the girls of the Civil Service. Although she was not wearing the traditional dress in the morning, she agrees to get changed and let us return in the afternoon. She too is happy to pose next to the plants at the entrance to the house. Then she takes us inside and makes coffee. She apologises for asking us come back and explains that nowadays there are few women who wear the dress every day, especially in summer. She too, over the skirt, wears an apron, white, the bodice is dark with colored floral designs and also the bonnet is black with colored designs. She wants to show me another one of her skirts. She unrolls it on a table and proudly shows me the wonder of the ornaments, colored floral bands, woven thread with very fine decorations, gold, bronze color. I am delighted by the beauty of these artifacts, which in real life have a complete effect different from what an image on a book page can convey.