I wake up in Mandas, a guest of the Antica Locanda Lunetta, an old manor house that the owner Barbara has converted into a beautiful and elegant hotel. After a hearty breakfast well served in a warm and welcoming environment, I head towards the Town Hall.
Marco, the Mayor, but above all my former student colleague at the geology faculty in Cagliari, is waiting for me. Marco has organised a series of events to fill my day. The first is a nice bike ride with the guys from the Mandas Bike group who start arriving at the Town Hall.
We get into the saddle in a slightly covered morning and head out of town. I make up for the pedalling I didn’t take today to get here: a few kilometers through the surrounding countryside, all hills and an impressive series of ups and downs!
We stop right at the rural church of San Giovanni and then return to the centre of the town. Here Marco is waiting for me again to take me to visit the middle schools, the now welcome stimulating and inspiring appointment that some administrations have wanted to give to the children of their municipality.
For lunch I am a guest at Antonello’s Osteria La Forchetta, where lunch is absolutely beautiful to look at and amazing to taste!
In the afternoon I am accompanied by Marika and Giada through a series of important places of this town, once a duchy established by the Spaniards and historically the granary of Rome.
The first stop is at the former Franciscan convent, dating back to 1610 and built exactly like a convent that was in Spain. The building is located on the outskirts of the town and from its terraces where you can climb through the stairs that face onto the loggia you can admire an incredible view of the Trexenta.
Next to the convent is the Peregrinatio Fidei sacred art museum, inside a deconsecrated church once dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and then to San Cristoforo. I am guided through a whole series of sacred objects in an environment of soft lights that make a medieval atmosphere!
Not far from here is the parish church of San Giacomo. The interior is truly impressive, with important marbles, including the grey one from the quarries around Mandas that forms the altar balustrade. And so it is also from Mandas that the Santu Jacu Way passes, the “Sardinian Way of Santiago” of which I have already spoken in other articles.
We then visit the beautiful library in the now deconsecrated church of San Francesco, and after we head to the old town hall, a beautiful building now used as a civic school of music. After passing the former Monte Granatico we arrive at the Sa Lolla de is Aiaiusu ethnographic museum where, like so many other times on this journey, I am catapulted back in time by a series of tools and objects from the ancient daily life of the town.
We close the tour to the fascinating medieval complex which is accessed through a stone arch, where the church of Sant’Antonio is located, built around the thirteenth century on top of the remains of a Roman road.
Before returning to dinner at the La Forchetta restaurant (where I am already looking forward to the food, hoping it will surpass that of lunch!) and settling to sleep at Maria’s b&b il Melograno, I visit the exhibition on the Trenino Verde which is located in a room on the main street … and it is here that, seeing stations and trains in miniatures, my mind begins to travel again.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Mandas is a main hub of the historic railway line of the former Complementary Railways of Sardinia, today the Green Train line managed by ARST.
David Herbert Lawrence traveled on this line, a journey that inspired the writing of his Sea and Sardinia. The fourth chapter is dedicated to the journey to Mandas. Here is a fragment:
“What is there to do in Mandas?” “Nothing! In Mandas nothing is done. In Mandas you go to bed when it gets dark, like chickens. In Mandas you walk along the road like pigs that go nowhere. In Mandas the goats are smarter than the inhabitants.” “In Mandas we need socialism… ”.
And in Mandas today the DH Lawrence Travel Literature Festival (PS in 2021 arrived at its XIV edition) takes place, a series of literary initiatives such as book presentations and readings.
The 2012 film Cadenas by the Milanese director Francesca Balbo focuses on the theme of traveling by train, even if experienced on the other side of the windows. It tells the story of the women stationed at the level crossings along the entire train line to close the passage to the vehicles with the chains, also a symbol of a kind of slavery to which these women were subjected, with rigid schedules and enormous responsibilities.