I cycle a few kilometers, passing under the 131 motorway and I arrive quickly at Palmas Arborea. The village is very quiet, well cared for. I arrive quickly to the square with the church of Sant’Antioco, the only one in the village, with a simple and well-restored facade. I cycle to the Town Hall, all surrounded by palm trees and go back to the main street where I settle in a bar to do some backlog work.
In the afternoon Raffaele Cau will join me. He will host me for the day. After a nice coffee we take the car and together with his companion Irene we visit the territory of Palmas. Not far from the current village there is an area called Cuccuru Is Serras, where it seems there was the first settlement of Palmas, then abandoned by the inhabitants. We continue passing near the town of Tiria, a hamlet of Palmas, and we head towards the border of the municipal territory, right on the slopes of Monte Arci. We enter the forest called Mitza Sa Figu, with beautiful oaks and a stream of pure water that flows into the valley. We can find some fragment of obsidian, which abounds in all the area of Monte Arci.
We continue in the territory of Villaurbana to climb the nuraghe Bad’e Mendula, from which you can enjoy a fantastic view of the entire territory of Pamas, including the Pauli Maiori pond not far from the village, up to the Gulf of Oristano and the mountains of the Costa Verde.
Returning to the village, Raffaele decides to take me to Oristano to see the Diocesan Museum. I am always reluctant to move to another municipality in the same day, it seems almost a betrayal, but after I see the two beautiful contemporary art exhibitions at the museum (Ecce Homo by Antonio Amore and the collective Oìkos by Sardinian artists), and after Raffaele leads me to the top of the bell tower of the cathedral, from which you can enjoy a beautiful night view of the city, I return to Palmas Arborea fully satisfied.
Inspired by the tranquility of the village.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Raffaele, 46 years old, like me from 1972, is a curious by nature, like me. A few years ago, when I was doing genealogical research on my Dessanay ancestors, someone gave me his name as a genealogy expert. After some exchange on Facebook one day I went to the diocesan historical archive of Oristano, where I met him by chance. I immediately took advantage of his knowledge to try to interpret the possible origin of the surname Dessanay. Raffaele, as a good archivist and genealogist, is also an expert on Sardinian surnames, has published several books on surnames from different Sardinian villages, and his version on the origin of the surname Dessanay, which he tells me after dinner, is the one that convinces me the most (see below).
With Raffaele we have always met by chance. During my tour I met him in a country church in the tiny town of Bidonì taking photos at sunset (the probability of meeting there was really very low!) Raffaele is also a connoisseur of the history of Sardinia and in this day around Palmas Arborea first, and then Oristano, he tells me a lot of stories and gives me lots of news about places and characters.
The flowerbeds of this house garden are full of beautiful sandstone sculptures, made by him. Youth works, he tells me! Then at home I see his pottery, just as beautiful. After dinner he makes me taste his delicious dried figs with walnuts. I wonder what else Raffaele knows how to do that I do not know yet. Surely I will find out in the next casual meeting around Sardinia!
‘Sa naj’ in Sardinian means ‘the ship’, a figure associated with the peoples of the sea, the Phoenician-Punic. It seems that there were places in Sardinia called Sanaj, probably villages on the old Phoenician-Punic settlements now disappeared. The first traces of the surname appear in Laconi at the end of the 16th century as Sanaj, and then De Sanaj, probably the one who came from a place called Sanaj. Then joined in Dessanaj, with the final j then taking the form of i or y.
PS I recently read a bizarre thesis on the fact that the term ‘Janas’ of Domus de Janas, the houses of the fairies, or ancient burial sites, in reality it would be read inverted as Sanaj, and therefore Domus de Sanaj, or place where they wore the sick people to be cured, healed (‘sanaj’ in Sardinian), or Domus de Sa Naj, or place of the ship, where they put the dead to be ferried in the other life. Well … sciencefiction-etymology/archeology … but intriguing!