After the summer storms of the last few days, the weather has improved and the heat of the sun accompanies me on this mainly downhill journey.
I’ve been waiting for this day for months. Nothing will stop me from dedicating time to myself. In Fordongianus I will stay at Susanna and Lello’s house, who kindly offered to host me. But most of the day I will spend it alternating visits to places to diving in the hot thermal waters of this territory.
Stage number one is the municipal thermal baths, on the banks of the Tirso river, which here begins its final stretch from the Eleonora D’Arborea dam in Busachi, slowly towards its mouth in the Gulf of Oristano. With a few euros I have a room with a tub of very hot water all to myself and a window overlooking the Tirso. Half an hour of relaxation to start the day. When I go outside it is already just as hot, and I find shelter in the shade of trees on the banks of the Tirso, where I take the opportunity to write a little.
From here I move to the beautiful archaeological site, the Roman baths. The Mayor Serafino, who knew of my arrival, kindly advised the guides, who do not charge me for admission. I walk among the remains of what was once a Roman wellness center, walls, arches, floors, frescoed rooms, pools for the frigidarum, tepidarum and calidarium, the spectacular swimming pool with steps leading inside from all four sides and hot water that rises from several points and is conveyed to other pools.
I leave the site and go to the banks of the Tirso, and I approach the waters that flow towards the bridge that leads to the village, which still rests on the base of the old Roman bridge. Thermal waters gush out on the shore. I can hardly touch them with my foot, they are very hot. But a series of stones circumscribe sort of pools in the river, where the hot water mixes with the cold waters of the Tirso.
I’m not sure if bathing is allowed here, but the idea is too tempting. I leave my bicycle on the shore and enter the waters of the Tirso, which for me at this moment is like the Ganges, sacred and purifying. I stay here for a while, enjoying the warmth of the water with its regular cooler bursts, admiring the green of the trees that stand out against the blue sky.
Once out, I return to the village to have lunch and take the opportunity to take a tour. Almost all the houses are of trachyte, mainly pink, but there are also other varieties, of a more intense red, gray, greenish, coming from the surrounding quarries and skilfully modeled in the shape of blocks by skilled local stonecutters. I pass by the parish church of San Pietro, beautiful, in Gothic-Catalan style, two-tone, with alternations of red and gray trachyte and an elegantly decorated facade.
I spend the afternoon still immersed in the warm waters, this time in the wellness center of the Sardinia Grand Hotel Terme, on the other side of the Tirso, which I reach after crossing the bridge and tackling a steep but short climb. Swimming pools, water jets, saunas, jacuzzis. I enjoy the last moments lying in the deckchair thinking that after almost a year of travel I deserve all this.
I go back to the village to visit the seventeenth-century Casa Aragonese, where the staff of the Forum Traiani Cooperative is waiting for me. The house is located on the same street as the parish church, recognisable by the beautiful portico and the Aragonese-style windows of red trachyte. It was inhabited until 1978 and today it is a museum where handicrafts are exhibited. We walk through its rooms, characterised by fascinating architectural elements such as doors (one of which is in a corner), decorated windows, emblems, and the large fireplace. At the back of the house, the vegetable garden is also visible from the inside through a window with an inflected arch.
The sky is covered again. At the end of the evening I am invited to the rural church of San Lussorio for the celebrations of the homonymous saint and Archelaus, another martyr like Lussorio. Here the Mayor Serafino invites me to join his table in one of the cumbessias (or muristenes) that surround the church square, filled with tables. A sudden and violent downpour forces everyone to clear the outside tables, but only for a short time. As soon as the rain stops, the square comes to life again, thanks also to Giansilvio’s accordion, which I met and played with during my day in Zeddiani.
PS in the morning return to the church of San Lussorio. While the square is cleared and cleaned up, I manage to visit this Romanesque church, under which there is an area with burial tunnels and crypts where the remains of Lussorio are supposed to be, and an ancient Basilica under the current apse. There is a decidedly air of oppression of the Romans against Christianity.
Roman memories (drone with ‘bena’ by Michele Loi from Ula Tirso)
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
S.P.Q.R. Today I crossed the ancient borders between the lands inhabited by the Civitates Barbariae and those controlled by the Romans.
Here passed one of the main communication routes of the time, the “131 highway” of the Romans, almost coinciding with the current one except for this stretch, which from Caralis (Cagliari) led to Turris Libisonis (Porto Torres).
The presence of the River Tirso and its thermal waters made this area ideal for a settlement, initially called Acque Hypsitanae, then under the Emperor Trajan elevated to the rank of Forum and changing its name to Forum Traiani, administrative seat of the entire surrounding area.
Here commercial streets crossed and Forum Trainai became an important trading center, as evidenced by its forum and market in the remains next to the spa complex. But important military roads also passed through here, allowing constant control of the borders with the kingdom of the Civitates Barbariae.
Subsequently, under Justinian, it was promoted to Oppidum and equipped with a city wall. When it became a bishopric, the main task was to convert the inhabitants of Barbagia to Christianity. Among the converts there was also Lussorio, for this martyred and subsequently sanctified and remembered with a church in the presumed place of his martyrdom.
The richness of this place is then testified by the name it assumed under the Byzantine rule, Chrysopolis that is “golden city.” From then on the remains of this flourishing period have slowly disappeared, fortunately not entirely, but the warm waters continue to gush exactly as they did millennia ago.