Today’s route enters the top 10 of the deadly ones. Not only do I have to retrace a V with 400 meters of elevation gain in 3.5 kilometers that from Esterzili brings me back to the state road 198, but then, after a slight climb and the descent through the woods first and the descent that takes me to bridge del Medio Flumendosa Lake, I have a massive climb towards Villanova Tulo. It kills me, also with the heat that still continues at the end of September !
Arrived in town, Massimiliano comes to meet me, a friend of Stefano’s, met in Lodè, who in turn was brother of Tore, who hosted me in Nulvi. The network of contacts increases. After leaving bike and luggage at his house we take the car to go and visit the nuraghe Adoni. We arrive at the top of the wooded mound, where Alberto welcomes us and guides us through the remains of this beautiful nuraghe.
All around there are the remains of many nuragic huts. Alberto recounts that in one of these, remains of food were found including the only grape found in this period, probably Cannonau grape. From the top of the nuraghe we can enjoy a spectacular view over the whole territory, on one side the Giara di Gesturi, on the other the mountains of the municipalities I have just visited, Seui, Seulo, up to the Gennargentu.
Back in the village we take an aperitif at the bar where I meet Emilio, who follows me on Facebook and who has taken care of booking a b&b for my stay. Emilio also gives me a gift of a book, Po Cantu Biddanoa, bilingual novel (Sardinian with Italian translation in front) by Benvenuto Lobina, a local writer. For lunch we return to Massimiliano’s house where his wife Sara has prepared a lunch of vegetables and fruit from the garden (hurray!)
In the afternoon, I rest at the b&b Le Rose before Massimiliano picks me up to visit his Su Pranu beekeeping company. Here I am shown the whole process of producing various types of honey, and after having dressed in overalls, gloves and a mask, we head towards the hives, where Massimiliano shows me around and tells me about the life of bees, an incredible world. I listen fascinated, but also a little in tension for the bees that occasionally buzz around my head. Returning (without any stings) to the laboratory Massimo gives me a Millefiori honey jar and honey candies as gifts for the winter that will come soon.
Back in town Emilio is waiting for me with the deputy mayor Alessio, who take me around to see the many murals that adorn the country, some by Pinuccio Sciola, and many which portray scenes and characters from the novel by Benvenuto Lobina. We climb up to the little church of San Sebastiano in a pine forest above the village, with an incredible view of the narrow valley of the Flumendosa River, almost 400 meters below, which enters the Medio Flumendosa Lake, right where I passed this morning.
We end the tour at the parish church of San Giuliano from where we admire a beautiful sunset over the town, and a pre-dinner aperitif at the bar. Back to Massimiliano’s for dinner, I have a nice soup, so much desired and prepared by Sara. I go to bed happy!
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
This morning Alberto, the guide to the nuraghe, when he learns of my trip, asks me what idea I had of depopulation in Sardinia. It is a theme that I often think about on this trip and I happen to face in talking to people from many villages which suffer from this phenomenon. Although the reasons are probably many and even complex, and go beyond my capacity for analysis, I can try to give my own interpretation, or at least explain why I myself would not live in certain small realities, even if they paid me ( just in these days among other things I read about the residence income established by the municipality of Villasalto).
In order, perhaps of importance, here is a list of points that I consider crucial to understand the depopulation phenomenon:
1. Mobile telephony and internet networks. A journey like mine has brought to light this very serious shortage in most of the Sardinian territory. Although most Sardinians do not suffer from this problem (because in the cities and in the larger villages services are actually decent), most of the Sardinian territory is a victim, or rather the inhabitants of most of the small villages of Sardinia (few in regional percentage.) Internet on a landline is non-existent or travels at a speed that I remembered in Cagliari in the nineties, when it took several minutes to send a photo of a few megs. Speaking with many public administrations, I realise how much the offices of the small Municipalities are penalised, having big internet browsing problems. But even mobile data networks are no different. For this trip I had to buy sim cards with all the main telephone operators to ensure some data coverage everywhere. Yet most of the territory does not even have 3G (and here they even want to protest for the 5G … give us at least 3 or 4G everywhere!) And finally, there are many villages where even telephone reception is scarce or in many cases non-existent. Paradoxically (due to the physical conformation of many mountain villages) the telephone signals are non-existent or scarce in the center of the village while they reappear in the suburbs or on the high areas. A mayor told me that, not having phone reception in the Town Hall, he must always go to the small square behind, a little higher up, to make phone calls! The obligation of electronic invoicing (also for shepherds) or the obligation to send documents of guests by accommodation facilities is almost impossible to follow for many local realities, or in any case with great difficulties and long waits. Let alone those who, for example, wanted to work with the media, images, audio, video … literally impossible.
Indeed I could stop here, because I believe that this point alone is enough to explain why young people want to leave certain villages. But I list some other points that I consider important too:
2. State of many roads, especially provincial roads. Just think of the recent resignation of a mayor for failing to obtain the reopening of the most important access route to the village, which is only accessible by two roads (which I have covered) that give me the creeps, craters, null telephone signal.
3. State of public transport. Let’s talk about coaches. The priority seems to be students. In the months in which the schools are closed the frequency of some lines is very scarce or non-existent (on Sundays many villages are excluded from any service). Do we also want to talk about territorial continuity? Better to avoid.
4. Energy costs. Especially to warm up the old stone houses of many villages. Argument too long and complicated to deal with ‘en passant’ but very important.
And finally, some very delicate points, which unfortunately I regularly observe in my journey:
5. Envy. Those who, with great difficulty, puts up important realities for the well-being and development of the territory are often opposed in various ways and seen badly by many, often by those who can only criticize rather than do.
6. Beauty. Maybe I will face the theme of the “unfinished” in another article, but the building havoc have so devastated certain territories, urban spaces as well as extra-urban ones, that I don’t struggle to believe that someone wants to surround themselves with a bit of beauty in life. The eye also wants its part.
7. Culture. I find places where almost nothing is invested in culture. Why would anyone want to stay?
PS and the lack of jobs we talk about so much? In my opinion this is not a real problem for depopulation. Work is not lacking anywhere, but it is created. I see that in many villages there are so many opportunities that are not seized, where there would be so much to do, but there is no one who wants to make an effort. Work is expected to be “granted” in a world where this model almost no longer exists.