I pedal through the hills of the Trexenta, slightly uphill, to then descend to the Rio Mannu (one of the twelve in Sardinia) valley, and enter Gesico crossing the bridge over the river that divides the village in two.
I do not know why the name of this town reminds me of the Middle East, perhaps the assonance with Jericho, although the probable origin is from the Latin cessicus, a territory that was given in concession to some Roman landowners.
Upon entering the village, I pass the playground and stop in the square where the market is taking place. I buy some apples and sit down to eat one. Today I have no contacts here and no plans.
I never look up in advance what there is to see in the places I visit, and today, while eating the apple, I search online for some information. Here in Gesico the Snail Festival takes place in October.
Gesico is also known as the “village of the seven churches”. I decide to look for them all. The first is the parish church of Santa Giusta, with an interesting sober Gothic stone facade.
From here I then head to the outskirts of the village, along a narrow alley that takes me to the Nuragic complex of San Sebastiano. I proceed next to the huge boulders that must have formed the towers and the surrounding wall of the site, and I see the ruins of the church of San Sebastiano built over the central tower of the nuraghe (the same old story of Christianity that tries to obliterate previous pagan cultures.)
I cycle back, skirting a small square enriched by some murals, and arrive at the Romanesque church of Santa Maria d’Itria, whose facade is made up of at least three different types of stones.
After crossing the Rio Mannu I start looking for the ruins of the church of Santa Lucia, which I find incorporated in a green area in the middle of a residential area of modern houses.
From here I head out in the countryside, pedalling for a while until I see the church of San Mauro on the mountain of the same name. It is not that close, and I decide not to go also because the sky is clouding over.
So I return to the centre and, before leaving, I cycle along the steps leading to the church of Sant’Amatore, an African bishop exiled to Sardinia and martyred here. Past the cemetery, I walk slowly pedal the slope that leads me to Mandas, where I will be staying tonight.
But … something doesn’t add up … I only counted six churches, some still active or reduced to ruins. What about the seventh? I discover that it was the church of San Rocco, somewhere inside the village, but it had completely disappeared as early as the nineteenth century.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
On the website www.contusu.it Alessandro Rugolo, after having told us about the healers and the various “medicines” against various types of “diseases”, widespread not only in Gesico, but largely if not in all the towns of Sardinia, tells us an anecdote from Gesico:
“There was a time when the sheep
they were sick with a plague that made them die,
the pastor then turned to the priest
who told him he would do everything he could.
The priest took some holy water and went to the shepherd
who took him to where he had his flock.
The priest blessed the flocks and then tied a thin one
strip of skin around a sheep’s neck.
The pastor hoped that all was well but it was not.
One day, seeing that the sheep kept dying
he took the strip of skin that had been tied around the sheep’s neck
and he found an inscription that said:
The one who dies dies, the one who lives lives