These are the last days I will spend in Barbagia, then I will descend towards the Sarcidano. I enjoy the journey between Seulo and Seui, in the middle of the woods. In the last stretch I fly on the downhill bends admiring Seui lying on the side of the mountain, this village halfway between Barbagia and Ogliastra.
Fabrizio, from Cagliari but native of Seui, welcomes me and will host me in his family home. In the morning Fabrizio puts me in the hands of his friend Luigi, who takes me to visit the circuit of museums in the town. The first stop is at the old Spanish prisons, which remained in operation from 1647 until 1975. The last caretaker was Luigi’s uncle. It seems that during the Spanish years the prison saw the death of about one hundred inmates.
We visit the caretaker’s apartment, then the cells, the only female one (it is said that in the 1940s in this cell fifteen women, miners’ wives, were closed) and the two male cells on the lower floor (a bit the same organisation as the old prisons I saw in Aritzo).
Leaving the prisons, we pass the house of Filiberto Farci, an important journalist, writer and politician, co-founder of the Sardinian Action Party together with Emilio Lussu, whose rooms contain both memories of his life and documents, and objects from past life, exhibited in a sort of ethnographic museum.
We walk along the main street (sometimes I don’t even ask the name of the main streets of the towns, a bit like in England where everyone refers to them as “high street” not knowing their real name), passing numerous historic buildings, and I admire a series of graphic works in black and white representing jazz musicians. They are works by Luigi, where well-known names such as Miles Davis and Chet Baker appear, and Sardinian musicians, among which I recognise Adriano and Carla Giulia, old acquaintances of this journey.
We arrive at the beautiful Liberty House which was once the Town Hall, but which is now the headquarters of the Seui museum circuit. Inside there is a beautiful exhibition dedicated to the railways and the Green Train, with various reconstructions, models, and documentation. In addition to a series of archaeological finds, there is also a section dedicated to the Bissiri brothers, originally from Seui. One of them, Augusto, emigrated to America and in 1922 in New York he patented the ancestor of the cathode ray tube.
We conclude the morning at the current Town Hall building, which elegantly stands out on the main street. Inside there is a beautiful private collection of seventeenth-century paintings, exhibited in the beautiful council chamber, an exhibition of traditional Sardinian clothing and an exhibition of contemporary works of art.
After saying goodbye to Luigi, I rejoin Fabrizio for lunch. The day is still long and in the afternoon we go out of town to visit two fascinating sites. The first are the Fundu ‘and Corongiu mines, surrounded by greenery close to rocky walls, where anthracite was mined. The site stopped producing in 1958 and has been completely abandoned since then. We approach the large building of the former washing plant. We move cautiously between collapsed walls and narrow passages and we manage to enter the building, majestic and, in its own way, fascinating. Silence reigns and I imagine it as a movie set.
Leaving this site we drive until we arrive at what is perhaps the most incredible site I have found on this trip. I have already passed this way when from Ussassai I took the so-called “Tonneri” road to go to Villagrande Strisaili. At the time I stopped only briefly to admire the view of the Gennargentu Mountains, but today’s visit is truly special. Mountains and valleys as far as the eye can see, no signs of civilisation, on one side the Gennargentu, you can even glimpse the village of Ruinas, on the other side the Perda Liana, the valley of the newly born River Flumendosa.
We go up to the Nuraghe Ardasai. This could be a movie set. And in fact, the main scenes of the short film Nuraghes S’arena by Mauro Aragoni were shot here. 360 degrees of nature. I take this opportunity to play the ukulele, which spreads pure notes at 360 degrees. The moment is truly magical.
Back in the village we have time to take a tour of the historic centre, whose buildings illuminated at sunset take on a particular light. Here too, as in a few other towns in the area, there are some rare wooden balconies, now almost completely disappeared. Many narrow streets, almost all uphill (or downhill), very steep, are still made of stone, paleozoic schist being the dominant lithology of the walls. The light goes down and sunset is the best time for musicians, especially jazz musicians … the party begins!
Live at Ardasai
BREVI NOVELLE SARDE
Fabrizio and Luigi are the creators of the Seuinmusica festival, which reached its sixth edition in 2019. I had the opportunity to discover it in the summer of 2018, when, before leaving for this trip, I decided to test the hospitality of Sardinian towns without having any contacts.
My curiosity about this jazz festival led me to Seui with my motorbike. I had no intention of returning that night. I met Fabrizio and Luigi on that occasion, and it was not difficult to confirm the sense of hospitality when I was offered food and sleep together with the artists who performed at the Festival.
Seui was used to marking the most important moments of the community to the sound of music, during parties, processions and even funeral marches (just like in New Orleans!) In fact, in 1922 the historic musical brass band ‘Gioacchino Rossini’ was born, which has forged musicians of many generations.
Today, thanks to the initiative of the youngest, the band has also evolved in the experimentation of new genres, funk, rhythm and blues, jazz and thanks to the work of Adriano Sarais and Francesco Oppes another beautiful reality was born, the Seui in Street Band, a real “marching band”.
The idea came during Su Prugadoriu, the festival that takes place between October and November, when the ‘Large street band’ from San Miniato, in Tuscany, performed in Seui. With the inspiration and the will to create a similar reality, Seui’s new street band debuts in 2019 in Castelsardo on Easter Monday, animating the historic centre and entertaining the public.
Today I am lucky enough to meet them. In the headquarters of the band there are at least thirty people, many very young, with all kinds of wind and percussion instruments. Adriano and Francesco conduct music and choreography. One, two, three, four… BOOM, I’m inside the music, with them, to follow rhythms and chords with my ukulele, and above all to follow the dance steps while playing! A crazy energy is released that subsides only later, when this very long day in one of Sardinia’s “music towns” finally ends in the pizzeria.