It is a radiant day and I confidently face the gentle climb that leads me from Ales to Morgongiori, on the green and luxuriant south-western slope of Monte Arci. The town is silent, with its houses in trachyte and basalt, lava materials from the millenary activities of what was once a large volcanic complex.
Arrival at the church of Santa Maria Maddalena, built in 1673 as evidenced by a stone carved in one of the side chapels. Not far away, in the beautiful building that once housed the Town Hall, is the MuVat, Living Museum of Textile Art.
Two girls from the Civil Service welcome me and guide me through the rooms that contain tapestries and carpets made on antique looms. The centuries-old weaving techniques, handed down from mother to daughter, are different from those I have seen so far: here the processing is “a briabi” or “a lauru“. Both give rise to unique designs, which unfortunately I cannot capture on photos due to the prohibition to take photographs The girls explain to me that the weavers of Morgongiori do not want their designs to be copied and used in the creation of “fake” products.
Leaving the museum, I stop in a small square-playground from where I can admire the panorama of the Alta Marmilla that slopes down towards the Bassa Marmilla, bordered by the Giara di Gesturi.
Through word of mouth I managed to have a contact, Marco, who lives in Cagliari, but whose parents live here and are happy to host me. So I arrive at Alfredo and Carla’s house just before lunch. The menu consists of lorighittas al sugo, the traditional local handmade pasta. I am lucky because we also manage to visit the neighbour who is patiently wrapping the double strands of pasta in the typical ring shape.
In the afternoon Alfredo sets in motion his “super-Spartan” jeep to take me to visit the territory of Monte Arci, part of the Geomineral Park of Sardinia, a real naturalistic jewel behind the village. We walk along a road that passes near Sa Scaba ‘e Cresia, one of the most evocative archaeological sites, because, as in the village of Tiscali, to get there you have to do some ups and downs.
This Nuragic temple is in fact inside the cave de is caombus (of the pigeons), a large crack in the volcanic rock, and due to a collapse to access it one must be accompanied by speleologists. So today I can’t see the basaltic staircase built by the Nuragic people, set millimetrically in the crack and leading to the well temple. I put this site in the list of the “great absentees” of this trip, places to see later, with absolute priority!
The climb to the top of the mountain is surrounded by holm oaks, cork oaks, Mediterranean scrub and hackberry trees, spontaneous trees also called “stone breakers” for their ability to take root even on rocky terrain. At the top we cross a stream and reach a flat area where the vegetation is rarefied and the trachytic rocks form an almost lunar landscape: it is the plain of Is Benas.
Not far from here, surrounded by greenery, is the Le Sorgenti community, for the recovery of drug addicts. A vast pine forest, a sign of recent reforestation, reminds us of the great fires that devastated the woods of this area in 1983, Morgongiori, Ales, Pau, Villa Verde. While a series of white poles that point high towards the sky remind us of the project for a wind farm that never materialised and that left these horrible witnesses.
We arrive at the lookout of the Conca Mraxi forest, which dominates the entire southern slope of the mountain. The guardian makes us go up and once again, with the strong wind that upsets my beard and hair, I can contemplate the territories that await me in the last months of travel. We then drive to the base of Trebina Longa, the highest peak of Monte Arci which exceeds 800 meters above sea level, one of the rocky spikes visible even from 131, from where they seem to emerge like logs from an expanse of green.
Sa Trebina Longa, as the Sa Trebina Lada and Su Corongiu de Sizoa, is an old fossilised volcanic conduit. Literally, the lava solidified in the mouth of the volcano, and the latter then eroded and left these neck-shaped structures in evidence, and for this reason called neck in geological jargon. Not far from here, a large rocky area constitutes one of the strategic American military bases for the use of radar correlated with the Capo Frasca base, even if it has not been used for some time.
From the Trebina Longa we travel through the Capu d’Aquas valley which descends towards the territory of Marrubiu. A narrow and bumpy road winds through the woods full of springs on one side, while the other is rocky and bare of vegetation. The light of the sun that sets in the direction of the Gulf of Oristano filters into the woods, illuminating everything with a strong orange, and reminds us that it is time to return to the village.
We stop only in the vicinity of a disused pumice stone quarry. Alfredo shows me a tunnel dug by hand some time ago by a man who was convinced he could find gold there, while at the base of a quarry front there is a shooting range made of metal cans, where a memorial was held for two years for a girl who died in a car accident. Finally, at dusk, we arrive exhausted home after this incredible ride, a ring that in my head has exactly the appearance of a lorighitta!
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
My beard, despite the “trim” given to him months ago in Orotelli by Franco, is long and messy, but I intend to keep it until the end of the journey. But it’s nothing compared to Alfredo’s white one, the longest beard I’ve seen in my life. Alfredo hasn’t cut it since he was eighteen. He made it grow immediately, when he was a teenager, but his mother convinced him to shave it for the final school exams.
He hasn’t cut it since. Not even once. I ask him how he manages it and he tells me that simply by dint of growing at a certain point the ends of the hairs weaken and fork until they break on their own. A method of natural “trimming” then!
Alfredo was born in Genoa. After graduating from high school and that traumatic beard trim, Alfredo began the long struggle of conscientious objectors. In 1974, after several back and forth, he managed to avoid military service by choosing Morgongiori as the destination of his civil service (then still not formally institutionalised). Until January 1976 he managed the Popular School, proposed by himself to the Ministry of Defense. It was a self-managed civil service. “Those were good times”, recalls Alfredo, “when it was possible to achieve things that were unthinkable today, just by fighting. But then it was just after the 1968 revolution happened”.
It is here in Morgongiori that he began to fall in love with this territory, with Monte Arci, and to dedicate himself to the preservation and enhancement of these territories. And once he met Carla and started a family, Alfredo chose Morgongiori as his final destination. He would often return to Genoa, including for the G8 in 2001 to participate in the protests.
I couldn’t have a better guide today. Alfredo was part of the teams that opened all the trails currently existing on a large part of Monte Arci. Before leaving, he gives me a naturalistic map of the park, in which creation he participated, and greets me with these words: “I recommend you, do not listen to others, do not give in to temptations, even after the end of this journey … do not cut your beard!”