Short ride, a few kilometers, passing through San Vero Congius and arriving in Ollastra where Giampiero from the Pro Loco is waiting for me. We have a coffee in a bar in one of the oldest buildings in Ollastra, renovated, and then we take a stroll around the center, where there are still many old houses built in mud bricks, many now ruins, and many ancient stone portals.
We pass by the square with the church of San Sebastiano. Giampiero tells me that this was the first reconstructed nucleus of the village, after the old one was flooded and destroyed. Legend has it that oxen were freed from the old village and after a while of wandering they stopped right here where there was an olive tree, hence the name of the new village.The place was initially called Ollastra Simaxis to distinguish it from another Ollastra (the current Albagiara) and because it was a fraction of the nearby Simaxis. Since 1991 it has been called only Ollastra.
Sandro, also from the Pro Loco, joins us and we drive by car to see the Santa Vittoria dam on the River Tirso, which I saw from the other side a few days ago in Zerfaliu. Here the river is harnessed and the water slowly released towards two large canals that lead it to the entire Campidano di Oristano for agricultural use, one on the west side and the other in this eastern part of the Campidano, called the Arborea canal. In these area there was a small church, now disappeared, a sign of a possible village that no longer exists.
We take the car back to go up towards the hilly / mountain side of Ollastra, the one that reaches the foot of Monte Grighini. We cross a territory rich in spontaneous myrtle plants. They tell me that large quantities of berries are harvested from here for the production of liqueur, and the myrtle festival has been held in Ollastra for many years. We arrive at the San Martino park, a green area equipped for snacks. We stop for a while to admire the beautiful cork oaks and enjoy the coolness under the trees before returning for lunch.
Lunch was organized at the home of Vittorio and Margherita who, together with Ester, Sandro’s wife, are preparing a festive day lunch, appetizers, malloreddus cooked in sheep broth, roast pork and sheep, all accompanied by the delicious Vernaccia produced by Vittorio, ending with coffee, myrtle (also self-produced) and Sardinian sweets.
In the afternoon Giampiero takes me to the small church of San Marco, on the outskirts of the village. The most interesting part is the crypt under the church, a large space divided by columns, which served as a burial place. It seems that under the floorboards there are still all the remains of the burials.
At the church of San Sebastiano, where we go on foot, a large group of people awaits us. Here I tell about my project and play some songs, and then listen to two talented and very young musicians, Marco on keyboards accompanying the beautiful voice of Monica. I manage to join them on a couple of songs including Non Potho Reposare.
We conclude the day by visiting two other churches. Santa Severa, on the main street, has a simple facade and red trachyte ornaments. I am struck by a ceramic bowl set on the facade, certainly a sign of divine anger that in the past hurled on the churches, as I also found the other day in Siamaggiore.
We then arrive at the rural church of San Costantino, which is located next to the large space where the San Marco cattle fair takes place annually, one of the oldest fairs in Sardinia. We enter the church of Sant’Agostino at just the right time: the setting sun enters through an opening in the shape of a cross, and the light is projected right behind the statue of the saint, making this end of the day mystical.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
My journey is made up of encounters, sometimes organised but mostly random. Not just with people from the places I visit. Often not even with residents in Sardinia. Sometimes they are tourists. Sometimes they are people who for some reason are temporarily in Sardinia. Sometimes they are Italians, sometimes foreigners.
That’s how I met Kristina Jacobsen, an American, this summer at the Time in Jazz festival. After a chat where Kristina tells me what she came to do in Sardinia, we promise to get in touch again for a musical collaboration.
Kristina is an American researcher and singer-songwriter who is carrying out a collaborative project with local musicians. She came to Sardinia to stay for a year. She took up residence in Santu Lussurgiu and here, in addition to learning about Sardinian musical realities, she also learned a lot of Sardinian language and the typical lifestyles of this island.
Working on this collaboration while on the road seemed impossible. Instead Kristina decided to join me somewhere to start work together, and it happened just today here in Ollastra.
Giampiero made the crypt under the church of San Marco available to us. So we spend two hours discussing music, inspiration and composing a new four-handed song, music and words.
Post Scriptum: it is only once my journey is over that with Kristina we are able to work in depth on the song written in the day in Ollastra, unfortunately at a distance since Kristina has returned to the United States. We managed to record it remotely and Kristina’s disc, containing this track, three others where I contributed with the double bass, and others written together with other Sardinian artists, should be out soon… stay tuned!