An entire blog would not be enough to describe Villamar … or at least for how Gianluca, president of the Pro Loco, described it to me, together with Mauro, Giampiero, Angela, Salvatore and Pietro of the Villa Chiara Cooperative (so called because the mothers of the partners coincidentally are all called Chiara). Today they host me in a beautiful accommodation facility, the former podestà’s house, completely renovated and managed by them.
Villamar, once called Mara Arbarei, has a historic center rich in history. The so-called “Majorcan quarter” was created by merchants from the Balearic Islands who traded wheat in the Mediterranean.
Little Davide (son of Giampiero, member of the cooperative) guides me to the parish church of San Giovanni Battista through the wonderful chapels, such as that of the Madonna d’Itria, of which it is said that one of the earrings of the statue, coming from the homonymous country church, it moves for no reason.
Then there is the chapel of souls with strange frescoes depicting skulls; or that of the Rosary with a beautiful retable. But it is certainly the impressive retable by Pietro Cavaro, commissioned by Salvatore Aymerich in 1518, that is the attraction of the place.
We visit the former convent with a beautiful portal and windows in Aragonese style; the small church of San Pietro, dating back to 1250, on the external wall of which you can still see the particular marks in the form of footprints left by the pilgrims; the Majorcan manor house with a beautiful courtyard with an oven, the former stables and the granary.
After passing the former wheat bank, symbol of one of the most important territories of the “granary of Rome”, we head to the outskirts, towards the hill where the church of Antoccia is located, built on an old temple. The whole area around is full of gardens and vegetable gardens. Here once passed the Flumini Mannu, the one that flows into Cagliari, then diverted, on which there were mills and norias (some sort of bucketed water wheels). Today there is a playground here and, not far away, the Cooperativa Sardo Sole, a flour and pasta supply chain.
Outside the village there is an old Roman bridge with the buried remains of some thermal baths, and further away, on a hill, the remains of a castle that marked the border between the Giudicato of Càralis and that of Arborea. And then many remains of nuraghi and rural churches, such as that of Nostra Signora di Monserrato, today called Santa Maria de Sinnas de Mara, inside the homonymous park with an area equipped for picnics; or that of the Madonna d’Itria, where a legend says that here the oxen pulled the cart that carried the statue (which I saw at the parish church and which was originally intended for Pauli Arbarei) stopped. There was no way to move the oxen so it was decided that the statue should remain here and a church was built.
Back in the center of the village, we walk through the alleys of impedrau (cobblestone) and the houses of sandstone and ladiri (mud bricks) with their beautiful portals until we reach the site where the remains of a Punic necropolis are located, right in the centre of the village, important because one of the few traces of the Carthaginians in inland areas of the island.
The rest of the walk is a proper mural tour. This street art tradition, started here by Antioco Cotza in the seventies, continues flourishing to the present day. From the first murals, which are hardly seen anymore, we move on to the more recent ones by Manu Invisible, passing an incredible range of styles and colours.
The jazz player Antonello Salis, born here, is well represented, but there are also other characters from Sardinian history and culture, and important historical and social issues addressed by various local authors, the youngest of which is Silvia Cara.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
We go to visit two interesting characters: the first is Antonio Sanna, artist of many murals in Villamar. His house is teeming with his works. In particular, I am struck by the painting that portrays the flooded village (a reference to the “Mara” or “-mar” deriving from the word sea) and the painting entitled “If Villamar were a city.” But the most incredible thing I see is when Antonio opens a trap door in the center of the living room: not even a meter below opens a well from the 6th century BC!
The second character is Luigi Murgia, artist producer of barrels converted into furniture, but not only. His house is full of various objects he created, in wood, with a “Sardinian” taste. He proudly shows us polished sticks, painted pumpkins, object holders, trays and much more. And the exterior of the house is also very special, with wrought iron objects and an old well at the entrance.
An entire blog really wouldn’t be enough to describe Villamar… yet a blog about the village exists! It is that of the local writer Albertina Piras. If you are still curious to discover curiosities about this place on the border between Marmilla and Campidano, you can browse her blog (in Italian) HERE.