I leave in the early afternoon cycling along the few kilometers that separate me from Gonnoscodina where, arriving at the Town Hall, I meet Delfino, an old gentleman who will guide me around the area, and who welcomes me with my grandfather Sebastiano’s book in his hands!
After leaving bike and luggage, I get in the car with Delfino who immediately reveals the historical memory of these places. We set off outside the village, in the countryside, where Delfino begins to tell me stories and anecdotes of crimes, poisonings, vanished lawyers, rigged elections (Gonnoscodina is the first municipality in Italy that has canceled a municipal election), mysterious facts and legends, and for every place visited there is one!
Since we are so close, I ask him to accompany me to the little church of Santa Maria in Atzeni, which I could not visit on my day in Baressa. From here, we follow the course of the Rio Gotzua which collects the waters of the Giara and flows into the Rio Mannu. In this area there was the old village of Gocciula, with the small church of Santa Margherita, now disappeared. Passed a spike of rock Delfino tells me its name Su Corongiu de Concu Sanna and tells me that a big piece collapsed on a man from Baressa, crushing him. Someone says he is still down there.
We arrive at the Roman bridge over the Rio Mannu but the sign puzzles me, the age is indicated as XVIII century … Roman? Delfino explains to me that the bridge was rebuilt, reusing material from the old pre-existing Roman bridge. He also shows me some traces of stone with the grooves of old chariots but in restoration these stones have been randomly repositioned. There are many eucalyptus trees around and Delfino complains that they consume too much water, leaving everything dry. While there were once many eels in the river, today they are no longer visible.
We drive inside a valley between round hills, with prickly pears grown on the rock, the best ones according to Delfino. Among these hills a headless horse was often sighted. For a long time Delfino dedicated himself to reforesting the area, he worked so much that a friend told him “now it’s you spotted here instead of the headless horse!”
We arrive at the final part of the valley, where there is a reforestation. Delfino tells me that in 1935 a man set fire to the wood and destroyed it. Then the village gave the land to the inhabitants, in strips, to cultivate. Later everything was abandoned and the land replanted in woods. A little higher up was the old village of Funtana, where it seems that skeletons of giants were found. In this valley several bandits were hiding, who used to leave from here to go for their raids. One day they went to Gonnostramatza. A gentleman, hearing noise in the village, looked out on the balcony with a little light, and at the shout of “fire to the light!” the bandits killed him.
Back in the village Delfino tells me that Gonnoscodina was the poorest country in terms of wood because it was all used for the production of tiles. People had to go and fetch wood from Morgongiori with the donkeys. Here around the land is fertile, but so small that “if one lies down the head lies on one neighbour’s land and the feet in the other neighbour’s”.
We arrive at the San Daniele park, with the church of the same name on a small hill. Delfino tells me about an uncle who cleaned lentils at the entrance during the local fiesta. Suddenly a whirlwind rose up that scattered all the lentils in the park, “it was not a place to clean lentils” Delfino added. Inside the church some ladies are cleaning and tidying flowers and statues. Delfino shows me a picture of a woman who was killed by her husband “because she talked too much with her mother”.
We arrive at the beautiful church of San Sebastiano, with an ancient organ, next to the old Monte Granatico, now the public library, where some people begin to arrive to hear my story. The Mayor Pierpaolo arrives, whom I already met in Albagiara, and who will host me for dinner and to sleep in the house of an uncle. When Delfino leaves I seem to return to the real world, having spent the day in a legendary world.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Some time after my visit to Gonnoscodina, I recognise a picture of Delfino Porcu on the Unione Sarda newspaper, to which a beautiful article is dedicated that begins: “He was born May 17, 81 years ago. But at the registry office they recorded it on the 18th, because 17 is considered bad luck. He has the name of two animals (dolphin and pig) and lives with 6 greyhounds and a sow”. In the article, titled “I planted 12 thousand trees”, they talk about the rich life and activities of Delfino, his knowledge of nature, the territory and not only Sardinian stories and legends, but also of other civilisations.
Among the numerous stories that Delfino told me today there is one about his aunt Onoria. When she returned home late her father asked her where she had been. She replied that at the fountain (not far from the shore of the Rio Mannu where we passed today) she met a gentleman who held her. When asked who this man was, she replied with a name, but this gentleman had died many years before. A week after the story of this lie (or truth?), Onoria died. She was buried outside the church of San Bartolomeo, where now only beautiful arches remain. It is said that many years later the remains were pulled out for work in the square, but seeing her body intact and without the signs of the time, they put it back and covered everything in a hurry.