“Red Edge” in Quartu, a bad winter day, the same place where more than a year ago, on some beautiful summer days, I planned this crazy trip. A lot of tiredness now but I have the last flash of adrenaline and energy. I slept well. Quite different from the night before departure in Nuoro in which I hardly slept.
Luggage always with me, ukulele included, I cycle for the last stage, to my hometown, a journey that I have already imagined hundreds of times fantasising about my arrival. I cycle along the Poetto beach, the enthusiasm rises, I arrive at the Cagliari entrance sign, last time for the 377 sticker, and the enthusiasm rises again, then the Molentargius and Saline area, salt pools, canals, and in the distance the limestone hills of Cagliari, Sella del Diavolo, Sant’Elia, Monte Urpinu, and in addition to enthusiasm now I start to get emotional. Along the way some friends joined me and all together towards via Roma for the last, but really last, and exciting stretch.
Via Roma, fortunately the corner traffic light is green and I don’t have to stop, with people outside the Town Hall already cheering, and I pass them all, an amazing welcome with the shout of “well done Seba!” and a “cut your beard!”. Family members, close friends, and friends accumulated while traveling, people from all over Sardinia, Cardedu, Furtei, Dorgali, Pimentel, Seui, Sant’Antioco, Pattada, Capoterra, Narbolia, Ozieri, Santa Giusta, Morgongiori, Serri, Oristano, Sadali, Tula , Quartu Sant’Elena, Perdaxius, Austis, Villaputzu, Siliqua, Orosei, Serrenti, Marrubiu, Guspini, Silius, Decimomannu, Mandas, Guasila, Norbello, Uta, San Nicolò d’Arcidano, Villa San Pietro, Nule, Monastir, San Gavino Monreale, Nuoro, Gonnesa, Cabras, Berchidda, San Sperate, Seulo, Nureci, Sardara, Donori, and who knows how many other people coming from other villages escape from my memory or I have not even seen, and obviously many from Cagliari.
And photographers, journalists, and the champagne opened as a winning formula one grand prix, and the beard to be cut watered with bubbles! And then the splendid welcome of the administration of the Municipality of Cagliari, from the Mayor Paolo Truzzu, to the Councilor Alessandro Sorgia and the other Councilors, they are all there and I shake hands with mine wet of champagne, and the representatives of the Metropolitan City, I smile at everyone, I greet friends, I make endless statements and selfies, I enjoy it all!
Then in the main Council Chamber, sat on the Mayor’s throne, speeches, applause, journalist Giacomo Serreli and questions answers, applause, music alone first and then with musician friends Tenores Antoni Milia from Orosei and Fantafolk, Andrea Pisu on launeddas and Vanni Masala on the accordion. And gifts, and still applause and then a nice refreshment offered by Coldiretti where I can greet and thank all those who have come from afar to enjoy this moment!
And finally, when everything calms down a bit and people go away, I can relax with some friends who will then follow me in the last part of the day, the tourist walk in the company of Roberto from the Cagliari Turismo office, who tells us some facts, characters and secrets of this city, the city of sun which has come out but that will soon set. From the beautiful Town Hall, together with a large group of friends, we go up to Piazza Yenne and listen to the story of the statue of Carlo Felice, who once pointed his finger towards the port, the beginning of the “Carlo Felice” highway, but then they turned it when the finger pointed only to public latrines.
Then up between the shops in Via Manno, one of the sides of the historic Marina district, and the entrance to the Castello district from the Gate of the Two Lions, the Civic Theater without coverage, the Boyl palace with cannon balls set in memory of the bombings by the English, Spanish and French, the Bastion, its small D.H. Lawrence Square, from the terrace of which I see the places I know so well, the neighborhood of Villanova, San Benedetto, Monte Urpinu, at the foot of which I was born and raised.
We go up along via Canelles between plaques and tower houses, some still in ruins by the American bombing of almost 80 years ago. More panoramas, the white limestone everywhere, and the arrival in the Cathedral from the portico on Via del Fossario, the entrance to the beautiful church, the descent into the incredibly decorated crypt which contains the relics of all the martyrs from Cagliari. We exit and it’s already dark and when returning to Piazza Yenne we skirt the ancient Town Hall and the Palazzo Regio, we arrive up to Piazza Indipendenza and the Porta Cristina, with the beautiful illuminated tower of San Pancrazio and the Archaeological Museum now shut, then down towards Via La Marmora and in Via Santa Croce, passing by the Jews Ghetto, now an art space which currently hosts a beautiful photographic exhibition that we do not have time to see, and the Bastione of Santa Croce, overlooking the lights of the other historic district, Stampace, with its many churches including the one that houses the iconic Sant’Efisio.
Once out of the Elephant Gate, with its homonymous tower on one side of which is the white limestone elephant, we return down the Santa Chiara stairs, and we realise that the tour that was supposed to last an hour actually lasted almost three hours, for my still insatiable desire to know more, to stop to greet people and talk to this and that person. In Piazza Yenne we say goodbye and now I really have come to the end of this fourteen-month adventure, about 5000 kilometers of pure freedom in magical places, the close embrace of an island and its 377 communities, thousands of people met, hundreds of experiences, dozens and dozens of new friends. I feel satisfied. I’ve done it. But it’s not over …
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
How to summarise Cagliari in one day? Impossible. So for the last of the “The Great Absents” series, here is what I could not see of Cagliari today, but fortunately I know all these quite well and I invite you to visit: the Poetto beach, for some summer swims, and walks and coffees in its countless kiosks in winter, the old village of Sant’Elia and the Lazzaretto, the basilica of Bonaria, with its necropolis, and the monumental cemetery, the necropolis of Tuvixeddu and the Grotta della Vipera, Monte Urpinu, the hill of San Michele with its castle, the Roman Amphitheater, all the museums, the Archeological Museum, the Citadel of Museums, the Public Gardens and the Municipal Art Gallery, the San Benedetto market, a show at the Teatro Lirico, a walk in the commercial streets, a dinner in one of the hundreds of restaurants in the historic center. And if you can get to Cagliari by ship, do it. From the plane, coming from the sea, it’s true you can almost touch the white limestone hills and the city, but from the sea you will seem to “enter” into the bowels of this beautiful city.