Last night at sunset, I cycled the very short journey between Gonnosnò and Sini, at the foot of the Giara di Gesturi, and this morning I wake up already here, in the beautiful b&b Casa Susanna, an ancient house in the shade of a very tall palm tree visible from all over the district!
From the panoramic terrace I can turn my gaze to the basaltic plateau that is the Giara and look at the roofs of this village which is part of the National Association of the Cities of Oil.
After a good breakfast I walk the streets of the village until I reach the Town Hall where the Mayor Biagio, the Councilor for Sport and Culture Ottavio and the Councilor for the Environment Agostino are waiting for me, all ready to introduce me to their village and its territory.
We go up the Via Pozzo to arrive at the modern Parish Church of Santa Chiara, designed by the same architect of the much discussed parish church of Villa Verde. We continue along the ancient streets where the houses are built of clear sedimentary rock with sporadic dark basalts set here and there.
Here too as in many Sardinian villages, there are many murals that tell Sardinian legends and traditions. We get to the suggestive S’Uttureddu, a very narrow stone alley between the walls of the houses. Then we reach the square with an ancient olive press in the center, a true symbol of the village.
And further tools for the production of oil and much more I can admire in Sa Moba de Aiaiu (“the grandfather’s grindstone”), a real ethnographic museum, well-kept, with of course the olive grindstone and a series of related objects to the ancient crafts.
After going up the narrow via San Giorgio we arrive at the hill where the church of San Giorgio is located, to which the inhabitants are much more attached than to the parish church. On this hill there was once a nuraghe, visible until the 1950s, of which nothing remains today.
Gianni came to guide me, an expert in history and traditions of Sini, who by chance I discover is the father of Massimo, ex-mayor of the village, friend and singer in various musical groups and one of the first people I knew to have lived in Birmingham, England, before it became my place of residence for over eight years!
Upon entering the church, Giorgio shows me the beautiful statue of San Giorgio from the late seventeenth century, completely surrounded by objects, votive amulets of all materials, shapes and colours. For each of them Gianni tells me the meaning, and then shows me everything that hangs on the walls of the church, ex-votos and medals of the soldiers from Sini who died in the various wars.
But it is only when we get to a room on the side of the church that I understand the importance that this place has for the Sinese community. This is the so-called “pani ‘e saba” room (a typical local sweet bread). And I am told an interesting story. The church, built in the seventeenth century in a pre-existing place of worship, becomes the place where in spring, as a good omen for the summer harvest, the saint is celebrated. the celebrations used to attract thousands of people here. It is said that before the 1930s, more than two hundred ox carts from all over the Marmilla use to arrive.
Then a slow deterioration of the church begins to the point that, in the 1950s, some inhabitants work hard to restore it, the bishop replies “make it a pen for the pigs”. But the Sinesi are not happy with the answer. During the annual feast of St. George, large quantities of pani ‘e saba were historically prepared by the families of the village and donated to the saint.
After a few years, with donations, voluntary labor and the proceeds from the sales of pani ‘e saba during the feast, the Saint Committee managed to rebuild the church. And in 1993 the Pro Loco was born, which since then has organised the Festival of Pani ‘e Saba, particularly felt by the community because it is intimately connected to the restoration of the church, to the cult of San Giorgio, and to his feast which takes place on April 22, which reunites all the Sinesi scattered around the world!
We close the morning with a visit to an impressive thousand-year-old olive tree, in a road on the edge of the town where there are many examples of olive trees, if not millennial at least centuries-old.
For lunch, we get into the car on the side of the Giara di Gesturi and reach a picnic area inside an oak forest, where Biagio, Ottavio and Agostino promptly light a (safe!) fire to roast meat.
We eat the meal accompanied by a good locally produced wine, and continue further up towards the Cracchera Park, a wooded area of centuries-old holm oaks and oaks, where the vegetation is very dense and the sunlight is hard to penetrate. Nearby are the Su Strumpu waterfalls, unfortunately dry in this period, formed by the waters that descend from the top of the Giara.
We arrive up to the Scala Seremida, a path that climbs the ridge to reach the top of the Giara di Genoni. We don’t get to the top, but even from here you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Marmilla. On the way back we come across a lost kid chased by two little dogs who seem to want to protect him at all costs. After a couple of phone calls the administrators are able to trace the owner who will arrive shortly to fetch it!
We return to the village and after having rested at the b&b I head to the square where the Pro Loco headquarters is located, which organised my small performance for the population. As expected, at sunset, I tell stories and play music in front of a small group of curious inhabitants and children.
Before dinner Susanna takes me to visit Mr. Olindo, collector of antique cars, who takes me to his garage proudly showing me the Fiat 519, perfectly restored and which is occasionally used for weddings or for exhibitions.
We walk towards the b&b and Susanna tells me its story.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Casa Susanna b&b was originally the home of Susanna’s paternal grandparents, who lived here during their 64 years of marriage. On their death, Susanna’s father, the penultimate of the children and the only one not to have a home in Sini, inherited this late 19th century Campidanese house, already restored by his grandparents in 1925 (as shown by the front stone), and restored it further between 2002 and 2005 to make it into a b&b.
But it is only in 2017 that Susanna decides to take care of it. After a degree as a cultural tourism operator in Cagliari and a specialist degree between Macerata and Spain, in 2015 Susanna returned to Sardinia and met Enrico, an agronomist from Tavarnuzze, a village outside Florence, on the outskirts of the Chianti region. Enrico, passionate about viticulture, moved to Sardinia and worked for a while in the Olianas wine company in Gergei.
But the two decide to leave for Australia, where they have work experience for about six months. They decide to return to Sardinia because Susanna’s mother, from Villa Verde, had uncultivated land at the foot of Monte Arci and they decide to start a winery and take over the b&b.
Since 2017 Susanna has been taking care of the b&b full time. She tells me that from the day after the opening she started receiving guests from all over the world. Pedra Niedda Tenute was born in 2018, a name that recalls the black obsidian stone of which the soils are rich. They produce wines in purity, from native vines, a Cannonau red called Basca and a Semidano white called Tittia… which we do not fail to taste during dinner… exquisite!