Here I am, the penultimate day, I try not to think about the arrival but to dedicate as much as possible to Quartu Sant’Elena, the third largest city in Sardinia (after Cagliari and Sassari). It is impossible to think of seeing everything but I decide to focus on two aspects: the historic centre and the naturalistic and coastal areas.
So I get on my bike from Pizz’e Serra, a suburb of Quartu, to symbolically head to the Town Hall, even if no one is waiting for me (except Cagliari, all the main cities did not respond to my email, perhaps due to too many commitments , perhaps for not being interested in my project).
There is a lot of movement, car traffic, people going here and there, and I’m not used to all of this anymore. I’m so scared of driving cars that I decide to get out and walk on the sidewalks pushing the bike by hand. And I arrive at the Town Hall square, which immediately strikes me with the presence of some works of art on the facades of tall buildings which without these works would certainly have been sadder. One, beautiful, made of glass shards, I discover is by the artist Rosanna Rossi. Another one made of brick shards, ceramics and pieces of metal, I don’t know whose it is.
Opposite here is Sa Domu ‘e Farra, a historic Campidanese house that belonged to the ‘knight’ Musiu who recently died. I enter the beautiful courtyard, with the central well and the rooms all around. Beatrice and Stefano, from the Il Dado d’Arte association that manages the structure, welcomed me and guided me through the spaces. There is a bit of everything, an exhibition of paintings, traditional clothes, a beautiful photograph dedicated to archaeological sites in the area, which are numerous and which unfortunately I will not see. It serves to remind me that the Nuragic people had reached this far, as demonstrated by the Nuraghe Diana in Capitana, on the coast.
And then the historical section, with the description of the coastal towers, that of Mortorio, of Cala Regina, and that of Poetto, now collapsed and half submerged by the water, but which in not very old photos appeared standing and on the beach, around the which we had our picture taken. Then the history of the three villages Ceppola, Quarto Jossu and Quarto Domino. The description of the churches, many of which (given the infinite quantity of churches I saw on this trip) I doubt I will be able to visit.
Then a bit of more recent history, 1889, “s’annu e s’unda” (the year of the wave) when a flood devastated the territory and the town and after which a series of canals were built. The story of Eligio Porcu, medal for military valor, who died in the First World War. and the history of the pillboxes of the Second World War, and of the structures such as the stepped military barrier in the last part of the salt pans, still visible, to avoid landings from the sea.
After leaving Sa Domu ‘e Farra I take via Eligio Porcu, still walking with the push bike, I enter the courtyard of the ancient Casa Olla, where a Christmas market is set up (and who is thinking about Christmas!) and I arrive at the central Piazza Matteotti. On one side, the beautiful gardens overlooked by the back of the small church of Sant’Agata and the adjoining former convent of the Capuchin friars, now the Civic School of Music.
On the other side a series of old houses, some with noble features but now half abandoned. And a little further on, the imposing parish church of Sant’Elena. Unfortunately there is cleaning in progress and I can’t visit it but by looking out slightly I can glimpse the splendor of the marbles that cover all the walls.
I take one last walk before lunch, through the innermost streets, where it is very easy to get lost. Narrow streets, with sinuous paths, which sometimes end in nothingness, and where even a geologist like me completely loses all sense of direction. Many houses in Campidano, with lemon trees sprouting from the surrounding walls, walls often made of mud bricks, entrances with large wooden portals, new and very old. And I reach the border with Quartucciu to visit the former site of the Fornaci Picci, today a site of archaeological-industrial interest, with its warehouses and chimneys, which produced bricks until 1985.
I dedicate the afternoon to sites outside the city. Unfortunately, due to a matter of time, I will not be able to visit the beautiful coast that extends from the Margine Rosso to Terramala, passing through Sant’Andrea, Flumini, Capitana. I am content to pedal around the Quartu ponds, skirting the pools where the pink flamingos are not intimidated by the traffic and eat calmly with their heads immersed in the water.
All these wetlands fall within the Molentargius Park. I cycle along a dirt road that runs alongside the pond and the canals, stopping at a lookout for bird watching: on the horizon I see the limestone hills of Cagliari, the Devil’s Saddle, Monte Urpinu where the journey of my life began. Tomorrow, with the number 377, a circle closes.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Today, I’ll sleep at my friend Gianluca’s house, in Margine Rosso, the same one where, more than a year ago, I spent the last few weeks planning my departure. It comes to mind how the name Margine Rosso (red border) is a clear example of the bad translations of many Sardinian toponyms, forcibly “Italianised”. Of course, here we are on the “edge” of Poetto, its eastern end. But why red? The truth is that this place was once called Margiani Arrubiu, the red fox, due to the presence of an endemic species of fox.
And so, if you do some research, you find that Golfo Aranci (gulf of the oranges) was once called Golfu di li Ranci, which in Gallura dialect means gulf of crabs. Just like the Isola dei Cavoli (Cabbage Island), not far from here, which was called Isula de is Càvurus, once again crabs.
The island of Mal di Ventre (stomach ache), off the coast of Oristano, was once called Malu ‘Entu, bad wind.
Then there is the Island of Asinara, whose name seems obvious given the presence of white donkeys on the island, although it seems that the name may derive from the ancient Roman name “Sinuaria“, which indicated its sinuous and elongated.
Genn’e Mari, the door to the sea, which the Christian attitude of the Sardinians transformed into Genna Maria. And many other lesser-known ones that can slowly be discovered only by visiting the territories extensively, talking to people, and doing in-depth research.