335/377: Isili


Lake Is Barrocus

Another area of ​​Sardinia is completed. I move away from Gesturi and the Giara, leaving behind the Marmilla and the memory of its richness and variety. From today I am heading towards the last “high” areas of Sardinia, and this really means the last climbs of the trip.

And today’s is a nice climb, an internal road that goes up to the artificial lake of Is Barrocus, just behind Isili. Leaving Gesturi, I leave behind the church of the Madonna d’Itria, skirting the important sand quarries, then Sa Stiddiadroxia, a rock from which a waterfall descends, unfortunately almost dry today. From here I start to climb slowly as it starts to rain.

I skirt a wooded area, slowly the slope increases, until I find myself on the shores of the lake. I pass it, admiring the limestone islet in the center, with the church of San Sebastiano on its top, a magical place even if with these colours a little ghostly.

From here I then take the state road that enters the town, next to which the Sarcidano railway station is located, along the Trenino Verde line that connects Isili with Sorgono. The road crosses a suggestive valley famous for its limestone walls equipped for sport climbing, over three hundred bolted routes that attract professional free climbers from all over the world.

Nuraghe Is Paras

Before entering the town, right next to the sports facilities, I stop to visit the Is Paras nuraghe, one of the few in Sardinia built with limestone and therefore white. The guys at the reception guide me around this phenomenal monument. The interior of the central tholos tower is the highest in Sardinia, about twelve meters. The other three towers have collapsed, but you can clearly see the wall structure and the corridor that connected one of these towers to the central one. All around the remains of the village are still waiting to be excavated. But I’ll talk about the most sensational feature of this nuraghe (and many others) later.

Historic centre

It is already time for lunch and I finally enter Isili, a proper town in the Sarcidano area, which houses an important hospital and a penal colony outside the town. I head to the Nuova Godot bookshop where the owners Marcella and Gigi are waiting for me at the closing. They will host me for the day.

Autumn has arrived, I hope it is not like last, when I started the project, when the rain accompanied me for the first months of my journey. The day is gloomy, it rains, the sky opens up for a while then covers again, certainly not ideal for visiting the surrounding area.

San Giuseppe Calasanzio church and convent

After a delicious lunch at RistoBar da Pippo (Post Scriptum 2021: we were kindly served by Graziano, who recently passed away … RIP), Marcella and Gigi reopen the bookshop and I take the opportunity to explore the historic centre starting from the church of San Giuseppe Calasanzio, built between the end of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the will of the Piarist Fathers next to their convent, whose premises now house the important Museum for the Art of Copper and Textiles. As well as the outside, the inside of the building is beautiful, and the corridors and rooms are set up with the products of what has been an important production here, copper.

Tapestry with fabric and copper threads at the Museum for the Art of Copper and Textiles

Not only is the coppersmith’s shop rebuilt, with all the machinery and tools, but a whole series of particular and beautiful products are exhibited, which intertwine the fabric thread with that of copper, producing tapestries that shine with coppery reflections. These are contemporary works by the artist Dolores Ghiani that reinterpret tradition. One of them is inspired by the novel Maria di Isili by Cristian Mannu.

On the other side of the forecourt of the Museum is the Town Hall. And from today new genealogical researches begin, this time not of the Dessanay branch, but of the branch in my maternal grandmother Gherita Raspi. Nonna (Post Scriptum 2: 101 years during my trip, unfortunately passed away in 2020) said that her maternal grandfather, such Eugenio Mundula, was a notary in Isili.

So I go to the registry office where an employee does some research, finding lots of Mundula, almost all of them originally from Ozieri then moved to this area at the end of the nineteenth century, but unable to find Eugenio. Oh well, I will return more calmly, I hope to find something tomorrow in Gergei, where Eugenio’s children were born, including my great-grandmother Pietrina.

Casa Pisano ruins

Once the genealogical parenthesis is closed, I continue my tour of the village, crossing the alleys of the historic center and arriving at a block with a series of dilapidated but somehow ordered houses, which I discover to be the ruins of Casa Pisano, which the Municipality has “renovated” and made available for cultural events.

Copper objects in the workshop of Luigi Pitzalis

The last stop, the one that will provide inspiration and sound for today’s musical fragment, is from the last remaining coppersmith in Isili, Luigi Pitzalis. He welcomes me into his workshop where his son Andrea works with him, who will ferry this art to future generations. Luigi shows me the workshop, and how from the raw material they move on to processing.

And then he shows me the most fascinating part that makes these objects unique, the finishing of the details. He takes a pot that has a smooth surface, places it on a metal stand and begins to create the edges with the hammer. Then with millimetric precision, starting from the center of the bottom begins a constant beat and the slow rotation of the container. From the “anonymous” container we thus pass to a real work of art, which Luigi adapts today to modern times.

All ready for my show at the Nuova Godot bookshop

The day ends with my exhibition organizsd by the Biblos association at the Nuova Godot bookshop. There are many people, even familiar faces, and at the end of the stories and sound fragments the space is occupied by a table that keeps us busy eating and drinking until late. And not to forget the library and Isili I am honoured with a copy of Maria di Isili. But during my research on this town, I discover the existence of another interesting book.



Improvisation on Luigi Pitzalis’ hammer




Interior of the Is Paras nuraghe

It is impossible to condense in this short space the contents of the book The farmer indicating the moon by Paolo Littarru, almost three hundred pages aimed at narrating and supporting in a detailed and scientific way the theses of the the man called “the farmer-archaeologist from Isili” Mauro Peppino Zedda.

My journey is inevitably and deeply imbued with archeology, the official, academic one, the one told by professional guides, and then the unofficial one, told by enthusiasts, ordinary people, often without any scientific foundation, what is called “fanta-archeology “.

But Mauro Peppino Zedda’s theses are based on archeo-astronomy, or a series of observations on Nuragic archaeological monuments that would see them built and aligned according to astral criteria.

It is at the Is Paras nuraghe that Zedda observes the phenomenon of light that passes from the apical hole of the central tower (subsequently “plugged” by the Superintendency) and which, on the summer solstice, illuminates a specific point of the internal room. But this is only one of the phenomena, because during the solstices, as well as in the lunistices, the sun and the moon rise or set on oriented alignments of nuraghi along the entire Rio Brabaciera valley.

Littarru’s detailed study highlights how Zedda’s observations, which later became real scientific studies published in international journals (including the Journal for the History of Astronomy published in Cambridge) and presented at important archaeoastronomy conferences, supported as eminent scientists, would question the paradigm of the nuraghe-fortress, what Littarru defines as the Taramel-Lillian paradigm, named after his most famous supporters, the archaeologists Antonio Taramelli and Giovanni Lilliu. The nuraghe should no longer be considered a war construction, but rather a sacred one. This new paradigm is strongly opposed by academic archeology.

I intend to read The Peasant Pointing to the Moon more carefully, but I leave you with Littarru’s conclusions:

“The farmer from Isili founded a new paradigm, he literally pointed to the Moon but Sardinian archaeologists have been dwelling only on his finger for more than twenty-five years!
[…] Today Sardinian archaeologists need to give up sarcasm, break the silence on the ongoing paradigm change, take note of the unequivocal astronomical thinking of the nuraghi and pronounce themselves on the question of archeo-astronomy, the starting point for new studies. […] We urge them with a quote by Alberico Gentili: Speak, archaeologists, in a matter that concerns you.”