A slight climb in the direction of the Giara quickly takes me from Barumini to Gesturi. Here I am welcomed by Veronica, originally from Villacidro but based here, who followed my project and together with the Ciclisti per Caso (Cyclists by chance) association organised my day and my stay at the Antica Locanda b&b, a traditional house owned by Rita and renovated with a beautiful courtyard that looks like an ethnographic museum for all the objects of the past it contains!
We meet at the Bellavista bar for a coffee, and where the owner Mauro will also offer us lunch, and we immediately begin the visit of this village that gives its name to the whole basaltic plateau behind it and from which ironically I will leave in the next few days, having had it in sight for nearly two months!
The historic centre, despite having undergone a profound building transformation since the postwar period like many Sardinian villages, preserves intact historic houses, stone portals and the beautiful Parish church of Santa Teresa d’Avila, built in the eighteenth century in late Gothic style, with a very high bell tower and a sober facade but with important details in the portal.
We then head to the first iconic place of this village, the birthplace of Fra Nicola da Gesturi. It is the second home of a “blessed” I visit on this trip (the first was that of Edvige Carboni in Pozzomaggiore). We are welcomed by a lady who shows us the different rooms of the house, which preserve objects and images of the Capuchin friar who retired to the convent of Buoncammino in Cagliari and who is buried there in the Capuchin church together with Saint Ignatius of Laconi. This place is still a pilgrimage destination from all over the island and beyond.
On the edge of the village is the Santa Barbara Park, with the homonymous church in the Romanesque style of the fifteenth century, built using your types of predominant stone of this area, light sandstone and dark red basalt. Not far away is what must have been the Sanctuary dedicated to Fra Nicola but whose works have unfortunately stopped for some time.
The afternoon is dedicated to the Giara di Gesturi plateau. I have already climbed here from several municipalities and this will be the last time I come here on this trip, a not ideal season to admire the colours and the explosion of life that it shows in spring.
In this season the lakes, called pauli, are almost all dry, and the famous little horses must all be grazing in the wild somewhere else. We visit the Bruncu Madugui nuraghe, interesting because it is actually a protonuraghe, therefore with a corridor architecture made of huge blocks of basaltic stone, and large in size, inside which different rooms and wall niches are still visible.
Not far away are the remains of what used to be the village. Huts with a perfect circular plan, of which only the bases remain and in some even the traces of the ancient fireplaces. Some of the huts were rebuilt in wartime and it appears that some people lived here for several years.
We arrive up to an open space where there is a camper. It belongs to Antonio, an inhabitant of Gesturi who has decided to live here, the only company the cats, where he collects bicycles and rents them “on offer” to those who want to take a ride on the plateau! And later I discover that the bicycle has a special meaning in Gesturi.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Veronica, Gianluca, Rita, and the guys from the Ciclisti per Caso association, Giacomo, Gianmaria and Alessio organised a dinner (minestrone, but not only, for me!).
I discover that recently the climb that leads from the town to the Giara plateau, about four kilometers, is named after Michele Scarponi, a cyclist from the Marche who died prematurely hit by a truck during a training session.
So Michele’s brother tells in an article:
“Up here Michele, in the last Giro di Sardegna, a race that appeared and disappeared, now sacrificed perhaps forever by the great cycling , wrote a love poem with his legendary two-wheeled pen . Verses never forgotten by the locals. ”
The story continues with the description of what, in the last kilometers, became a challenge with team mate José Serpa Perez who, however, succumbed to the last meters, letting Michele pass the finish line lightly.
Marco Scarponi continues:
“In Gesturi, from that day on, a group of friends got on their bikes and they don’t seem to want to get off any more. They climb smiling up to the Giara plateau, have fun, experience the bicycle lightly, without fanaticism “.
They are the Ciclisti Per Caso, who decided to name the climb after Michele, La Salita dell’Aquila (the eagle uphill). Everyone was present at the inauguration, the Scarponi family, the municipal administration, even the family of Fabio Aru who came from Villacidro.
Marco Scarponi concludes:
“At the top of the Salita dell’Aquila, on a stone, between the cork oaks and the free horses, there is forever written the name of my brother, who every night will laugh in the face of the stars and it will no longer be so easy for anyone get lost on the Giara … ”
Post Scriptum. Every year an amateur ride is organised on the uphill and in 2021 the first edition of the Michele Scarponi Cronoscalata started, organised by the BikeTour4Mori and Ciclisti Per Caso associations, the Michele Scarponi Foundation, the Municipality and the Pro Loco of Gesturi.