From Allai to Samugheo it is almost all uphill but I enjoy the landscape around me on a warm sunny day.
I enter the village and immediately head to the home of Caterina and Antonio Maria who will host me. Caterina sings in the female choir Armonie and tonight I am invited to join the rehearsals.
One of the most important places I wanted to visit today, the MURATS, the Unique Regional Museum of Sardinian Textile Art, is closed, and despite my contacts having done everything possible, we could not find anyone who would open it for us.
But luckily I am still able to admire the art of weaving for which Samugheo is famous, by visiting Isabella Frongia’s traditional weaving workshop. Isabella kindly welcomes me and shows me products and looms.
In one of these, antique and entirely made of wood, sits Isabella’s mother, Mrs. Susanna, 87, who continues to work here with passion and dedication. I pause to look at the gestures of these arms and hands that time has marked, while slowly the thread passes through the warp to complete a geometric design in black and white.
Claudio joins me for lunch. He hosted me in Aidomaggiore and directs the choir here. We are invited to the home of Emanuele and Rosalba, another chorister. We eat and chat before starting the visits again.
Emanuele and Claudio take me by car to discover this territory. We pass several “pinnatzos”, a sort of fin with a stone slab roof, which I have already seen in Meilogu, Banari and other neighboring villages.
Gradually we enter an increasingly inaccessible area, until we reach a valley that narrows into a gorge. On a rock overlooking the Rio Araxisi valley are the remains of the Castle of Medusa.
We go up to the remains of the walls, and we look out over the cliff. The view is incredible. The Rio Araxisi winds below us, and to the side a series of overhanging walls of ancient limestone that are used as sport climbing walls by climbers from all over the world.
Back in the village I am taken over by Luciana, Lisetta and Rosina, three members of the female choir. We meet in the square where the parish church of San Sebastiano is located, with a sober façade in red trachyte and inside which there is an altar of beautiful marble and precious wooden altars in the various chapels.
We take a walk through the streets of the town. As in other towns in the area, pink trachyte dominates here too. Low houses, small buildings, ancient portals. We stop at the furniture shop, where all the items are entirely handmade by Giovanni.
Then we get to Pinuccio’s house, who lets us in and shows us what he has collected in a lifetime. More than a house this is a museum, full of objects of all kinds and from all eras, radio, TV, coins, medals, silver, tools! And in the garden there’s a loggia with the things that cannot fit inside, military equipment, engines, and much more.
At Casa Serra, an old manor house made up of different rooms overlooking a large courtyard with an ancient well, we meet Ilaria and Gianluca, two guys from the folk group who kindly donned the traditional dress to be photographed! All around us, a group of kids, whom I persuade to take a selfie with me.
We conclude the evening at the old elementary school building where Claudio conducts the two choirs of the town, the female one, the Armonie Choir, and the male one, the Polifonicu Samughesu Choir. The environment of the musical rehearsals is familiar to me, I follow the rehearsals with interest and sit between the basses to strengthen the lines with my nasal voice. And the day ends in the joy of notes and yet another selfie.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
In the morning, before leaving Samugheo, Antonio Maria provided me with an important document attesting to the events in the church of San Michele. This intrigues me, since today I have not seen any church with that name.
I open the pdf file and read the title: “Memoirs on the parish church of Samugheo, collected and published by Don Bernardino Guirisi”. The preface shows the love that Guirisi professed for his village with the publication of these memoirs in 1886.
And in the first chapter there is also the interesting hypothesis about the name of the town: “It is a constant tradition that the Church dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, located in the south-west of the populated area, was the ancient Parish of Samugheo. As well as the popular belief that the name of the municipality derives, due to language corruption, from San Miguel or San Muchen, owner of the ancient parish, is also rooted in the people. Whatever it is, it is certain that the church of San Michele is the oldest, since until the sixteenth century it was honored with the parish title.”
And the publication continues citing a series of documents that testify to the various stages of restoration that the church, of which unfortunately only ruins exist today, has had over the centuries, and the alternations of parish priests, rectors, archbishops and administrators who attempted with their work to preserve the church from abandonment.