In my now tired zigzagging through the last part of this journey I move away from Campidano once again to return to the Bassa Marmilla, pedalling along a steady climb on the hills that divide the two areas.
Entering Villanovaforru I immediately recognise a house that once belonged to a family friend, in which I spent many days as a child. Incredible how the visual memory is reactivated making me identify the portal, over which there is courtyard, where I have vague memories of the killing of the pig, with a coming and going of people and a deafening noise, courtyard that was then transformed in a swimming pool!
Arrived at the Town Hall, Mayor Maurizio welcomes me and stays with me for the morning. We go to the archaeological site of Pinn’e Maiolu, from the Nuragic era. Excavations are underway and we take the opportunity to have a chat with Giacomo, the archaeologist in charge and director of the archaeological museum.
While some workers carry away wheelbarrows of earth, Giacomo illustrates the excavations, which have brought to light various nuragic structures, which seem to reach the houses on the edge of the village, slipping under them. There is still a lot of work to be done, the site was discovered a few decades ago and the excavations were slow and stopped several times.
Back in the center Giacomo guides me through the beautiful Genna Maria archaeological museum, located in a beautiful building in Piazza Costituzione, which also overlooks the parish church of San Francesco and the Town Hall. The museum not only preserves the finds from the important site of Genna Maria, just outside the village, but also those of the neighbouring municipalities, becoming a real territorial museum.
After an excellent lunch at the Funtana Noa restaurant, kindly offered by the Pro Loco and the Tourism Association in Marmilla, I spend the afternoon with the councilor Eliana.
The first visit is to the countryside church of Santa Marina, from 1300, although an inscription on the stone provides the date of 1100. The saint is Spanish, unique in Sardinia, and she is felt by the community more than the patron Saint Francis.
From here we first go to the Acqua Frida wood, where I can admire the crystalline water that flows from the fountain of the same name into old stone basins, the “laccus“. Then we finally head to the nuragic village of Genna Maria where Vilma is waiting for us for a guided tour.
The site, whose original name was Genn’e Mari, the gateway to the sea, is made up of the low remains of a central nuraghe surrounded by the village huts. It seems that this village was only inhabited for a hundred years, when a terrible fire destroyed it completely. However, this event allowed many finds to be perfectly preserved under the ashes. The site was then repopulated in the Punic and Roman period.
Walking along the external perimeter I can admire the stone rafters that once supported the roof of the nuraghe towers, neatly arranged in a row, and partly repositioned to show their function.
Back in the village Eliana introduces me to some artistic expressions of Villanovaforru. We walk along a street, where the walls have been covered with murals by local artists, who have represented numerous episodes in the history of Pinocchio in various styles.
We visit the Funtana Manna, once the village washhouse, today a monument with two nineteenth-century fountains on a staircase, which look like a sort of altar. On the streets of the village there are many houses with ancient stone portals and walls of clear marly sandstone typical of the area.
Then we go to visit Cesare Cabiddu, a wood artist with the Inwood brand. In his workshop I am shown a whole series of wooden works, from objects to panels, completely in wood, or made with other material, almost always found on the beach, such as polished juniper logs or the typical perforated floats of fishermen’s nets.
The last stop is a visit to the archaeological restoration laboratory, which is located in a municipal facility where I will be staying tonight. Here, in a series of rooms, there are numerous shelves with an immensity of boxes, numbered, cataloged, which contain archaeological finds from all over the area. I enjoy reading the labels to look for the sites I have already visited and the ones I will still have to see.
In addition to the rooms with the finds, we visit the actual laboratories, where the teams of archaeologists use to work at the restoration of the finds. Inside the structure there are also numerous works by artists who have left their commissioned works for temporary exhibitions, then scattered throughout the laboratory, the Town Hall and the museum.
In Villanovaforru, art immerses itself in archeology. To find out more about this village, there is also the blog Su Biddanoesu (in Italian), edited by Franco Farris and Sergio Vacca.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Archeomeet is a public meeting-debate that takes place in Villanovaforru between archeology scholars and local communities, in order to create a dialogue between professionals and citizens concerning various themes of Sardinian archeology.
The publication of the 2018 edition that was given to me on the occasion of my visit, is edited by the mayor Maurizio Onnis himself and by the archaeologist Giacomo Paglietti who guided me today, and contains the four interventions of the meeting.
The interesting introduction, entitled Towards an “Archeopensiero”, presents us with a problem in the discourse on archaeological issues, something I realised on this trip. With the growing interest in archeology, especially prehistoric and protohistoric, by what is called “archeo-community”, teachers, employees, workers, professionals, artisans eager to know more about the ancient history of Sardinia, the information is mainly mediated by associative structures or by those who move independently with the reading of scientific texts or publications with the most ordinary and accessible language.
Unfortunately, many authors of research, also motivated by personal interests, stand as holders of truth or revealers of sensational discoveries, others propose new and revolutionary hypotheses, not supported by scientific data, while scholars continue to publish works that are not very accessible from the point of view of disclosure to communities.
And with the flourishing of social media and the sharing of archaeological data and theories on them, this “archeo-community” does nothing but transform debates into discussions that often lead to personal and not very civil discussions.
The one who pays the consequences of this is Sardinia itself, whose archaeological heritage should instead bring the island back to the attention of scholars and the Italian and international media, demonstrating that “today’s Sardinia is an evolved nation that has nothing more to fear, which collects records to replace the old labels and which overwhelmingly wants the right recognition in the history, art and architecture books”.