There is now less than a month to go until the end of the trip, but bad weather seems to be a constant. I pedal from Villamar to Sanluri in the pouring rain and I arrive soaked at the home of my friend Alessandro who will host me for the day.
After having worn dry clothes, we take a tour, equipped with an umbrella, in the centre of this town of just over 8000 inhabitants, one of the most important centres of the Campidano.
Among the many churches present, the most fascinating is the now deconsecrated one of San Lorenzo, from the late Romanesque period, built with various lithologies, with a portico covering the entrance and a small rose window. Inside there are important wooden furnishings. On Via San Lorenzo, right in front of it, a wall is embellished by the works of the artist Antonio Porru, who created several murals throughout the town.
Not far from here, next to the former slaughterhouse, is the church of San Martino, also from the Middle Ages and in Romanesque style. Here too the façade is covered by a loggia that runs around one side of the church.
Near the Town Hall there is the church of San Pietro. It was here that once stood a beautiful retable made by an anonymous artist called the Master of Sanluri, brought to Cagliari for a restoration and remained on display there.
Alessandro accompanies me to what are said to be the remains of the ancient medieval walls that once surrounded the town, now a stone pillar at the entrance to a house. There remain some doors that interrupted the walls. One of these is the one that leads to the most important symbol of medieval Sanluri: its castle. Alessandro leaves me here for a few hours so that I can calmly visit its rich interior and the exhibits that tell its history over the centuries.
The only inhabitable medieval Sardinian castle, it was built at the end of the 12th century on the border between the Giudicato of Càralis and that of Arborea. In 1355 it passed into the hands of the Aragonese who used it as a bulwark of defense against the attacks of the Giudicato of Arborea. The story between the two parts culminates with the famous Battle of Sanluri in 1409, where the Sardinians succumb in the countryside outside the village, exterminated in the area that is now called S’occidroxiu, the slaughterhouse.
But the history of the castle continues until the 1960s, when Count Alberto Villasanta inherits it and decides to restore it and make it accessible to the public. The resistance museum is set up, with objects that belonged to Garibaldi, and from the First World War, with a beautiful display of weapons and objects.
After the count’s death in 2015, the part once inhabited can also be visited today: the bedroom with nineteenth-century furniture, the study that showcases the count’s correspondence with D’Annunzio, the living room, the kitchen. In addition to reproductions of medieval clothes, there is an impressive collection of waxes, more than 400, with ages that go back even to the sixteenth century, and including some rare Mexican waxes.
The visit continues on the roof of the castle, where I can walk along the crenellated edge and reach the corner towers. The sun has set and the illuminated inner courtyard throws me back into a medieval atmosphere.
But Sanluri is much more. In the morning, before leaving, I manage to walk the steep climb that leads me to the Convent of the Scolopi, which I would like to visit, but unfortunately no one answers my ringing the bell. The other mention is for the Cantine Su’Entu which in 2018 received the Wine Landscape 2.0 award for their quality production of wine connected to the attention to the Marmilla landscape and which is attracting sustainable and quality tourism.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
My friend Alessandro hosts me in his house in Sanluri Stato, and while we pick out pieces of the delicious civraxiu bread typical of Sanluri, he tells me about the history of this hamlet in the middle of Campidano which is a few kilometers from the town, consisting of scattered houses, land , the small town of Strovina and the railway station, where once, as in other areas of Sardinia, there were only unhealthy marshes and malaria was at home.
Reclamation work began in the mid-nineteenth century, but it was only in the 1920s, under fascism and with the establishment of Mussolinia di Sardegna, the current Arborea, that the reclamation was completed. With the assignment of houses and land to settlers coming mainly from the Veneto, these areas are populated.
The plots of land and farmhouses have names that recall the geography of Veneto, and above all names of places linked to the First World War. Not far from Strovina, Alessandro’s parents live at Podere Settecomuni. Her mother Lina was born and raised in Sardinia, but her parents were among those settlers who came here from Veneto in the early 1930s. While Alessandro’s father, Vittorio, comes from the province of Mantua, but remained in Sardinia after his military service in Cagliari.
The next morning, when I leave Alessandro’s house, I pedal in the direction of Samassi crossing the whole reclaimed area, today crossed by important water channeling systems. I stop to observe the fields. As already happened during my visit to Arborea, here too there is an air of the Po Valley, not only in the geography and style of the landed properties, but also in the speech of the inhabitants, who certainly speak a good Campidanese, but their Italian has still a strong northern accent!