I cycle through yellowed and dry fields. I am returning for a while to the Campidano di Oristano, to visit the last villages remained in the area. After this, I will go up towards the mountains, along the last part of the Barbagie, Belvì, Seulo, and then I’ll zigzag between Sarcidano, Marmilla, Campidano, Trextenta, Parteolla and finally the municipalities of the metropolitan city of Cagliari.
I easily arrive in Zerfaliu and stop in the square of the parish church of the Holy Transfiguration, from the 16th century, next to which there is an arch and a bell gable which I later discover to be the remains of a previous 11th century Pisan church.
Today I am a guest of Dante, a friend from Zerfaliu, but a resident of Cagliari, who booked my accommodation and organised meals with his family and friends. I arrive at the b&b La Palma. The owners Piero and Fernanda welcome me warmly.
Piero is available to take me around. We drive through the countryside that stretches towards Paulilatino and we arrive at a flat area, a sort of depression, called Ungroni. In the center there is a small hill on which the Nuraghe ‘e mesu is located, completely dominated by vegetation. We make our way through the scrub to get to the massive basalt wall.
The whole territory is very rich in Nuragic remains that unfortunately I will not be able to see. The countryside is fertile and throughout the area there are farms, mainly farmers who came down from the Barbagia, mainly Fonni, as I also saw yesterday in Villanova Truschedu.
Back in the village, after an aperitif based on iced Ichnusa at the bar, I am invited to lunch. The menu is based on pork. Very fine sliced ham and bacon that melt in your mouth. Flame cooked sausage, in massive quantities, accompanied by red wine. It is here that for the first time in the journey, strange to say, a piece of ‘casu marzu’, the famous cheese with maggots, is opened before me. Maggots melt in my mouth.
After such a high-calorie lunch, I need to rest for a while at the b&b. When I wake up the weather is ruined and it has started raining. However, Piero from the b&b wants to continue with the visits. Closed in his car, we head towards the outskirts of the village to see the beautiful Romanesque church of San Giovanni Battista, whose variety of building stone gives a glimpse of the different phases of expansion of the building.
From here we continue following a road that coincides with an old Roman road, and we arrive at an important barrier of the Tirso, the Pintus dam which holds water upstream, crossed by a road unfortunately closed to traffic. We therefore continue to an iron bridge that crosses the river, surrounded by reeds (it seems to be inside the movie “The Bridges of Madison County”).
As the storm increases in intensity and lightning strikes a short distance from us, we get back in the car and, returning to the b&b, Piero tells me the story of the boatmen on the Tirso.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
In 1997, on the initiative of the Municipality of Zerfaliu, the bimonthly periodical “Zerfaliu. Stories in… comune” was created to inform citizens about the events, news and activities of Zerfaliu. Printed in 350 copies, it is delivered to residents and sent to emigrants.
In one of the issues an article published in the Sardegna editerranea periodical is reported in Sardinian language. It is focused on the Tirso river, highlighting the troubled relationship with the populations present near its banks and the difficulties of its ford, especially in the winter period when the bridges were either impracticable or did not exist at all.
The article talks about the terrible flood of 1860, “s’unda” (the wave), which reached Oristano. The wave destroyed almost all the bridges (large dams did not exist at the time) and the only way to cross the river in these areas in the winter was by boat. They were found in all the villages, Solarussa, Zerfaliu, Villanova Truschedu, Fordongianus, Busachi, up to Ula Tirso and Ardauli.
It tells of how only people and small animals, sometimes even sheep, could get on the boats, while the large animals were tied to a rope and dragged into the water, kept with their heads above water by the owner on the boat.
The latter was moved by the boatman by means of a rope fixed to the two banks of the river. Often the currents of the river were so strong that they tore the boat from the rope and the wrecks were often recovered from the bridge in Oristano.
In Zerfaliu the railway bridge that I saw today was built in the 1940s. When the railway route was changed, passing over a bridge further upstream, the iron bridge became pedestrian, putting an end, in the 1960s, to the crossing of the river by boat, and to the profession of the boatman, the last of which was Anzio Cera, who retired in the 1963.