52/377: Uras



Before departing, I go back to the central square of Terralba, full of Christmas stalls, where some ladies recognise me as ‘the one who goes around Sardinia by bike’ and offer me a coffee. I start energised, I leave the village and take an internal country road to avoid the 131 motorway. On the left side fields and the view of Monte Arci, on the right side rows of eucalyptus. Shortly before entering Uras, shepherd dogs stop me, but luckily there is also a shepherd, with whom I stop to chat. We are on a bridge that passes over what now looks like a small river, but that, the shepherd tells me, years ago overflowed, devastating his farm and killing hundreds of livestock. That’s why now his flock of sheep is so small, he tells me.


I enter Uras from a secondary entrance. There is still the old sign with the name Uras, on which I attach my sticker. It starts to rain. Today is Sunday and the village is deserted. I cycle next to an original War Memorial. A little further on, a little boy with a bike joins me. I ask him where the Town Hall is. “Follow me, I’ll take you there”, the first time I’m escorted by a child! I get on the main street, Via Eleonora, and I immediately go to a bar to work and avoid the rain.


After a few hours of work and lunch, I take another tour in the village. Some old houses, with beautiful wooden portals and basalt stone walls. I pass by the beautiful church of Santa Maria Maddalena, whose bell tower is clearly visible from the surroundings, and I head to the church of Sant’Antonio. Here I meet a worker from the Town Hall who is mounting the Christmas lights, who gently opens the church to show me the interior, well restored, with a crib and the floor covering the ancient tombs. Outside there is a nice little square and a green lawn, under which many dead people rest. This was in fact the site of the old cemetery where my great-grandfather Pasquale Dessanai should also be buried.


I go back to Terralba for the night, where I meet the ‘gang’ from yesterday. We conclude with a very good dinner at Sa Cabixetta and I retire to the B & B Dente di Leone of Valentina and Marco, who kindly offer me hospitality for a second night.



Inspired by a poem by my great-grandfather Pasquale Dessanai.




(continues from yesterday …) The family of my great-grandfather Pasquale moved from Terralba to Uras between 1903, the year of my grandfather Sebastiano’s birth in Terralba, and 1906, the year of birth of his brother Delfino in Uras. Pasquale died in Uras in 1919. So the family lived here for at least 13 years. I want to know more. But today is Sunday, the Town Hall is closed and there are few people around. I see an open space with two gentlemen who accept donations for Christmas in exchange for some product. I stop to talk to them. I explain who I am and ask if they can show me some houses, those where the Dessanai family lived. “The house of Aunt Peppina X was that!” Says one “Nooo …” the other says “You’re wrong, the house was the other one there” and so on for a while until they agree. I have identified the house where my great-grandparents lived with their children, even though it was certainly rebuilt and enlarged. The two gentlemen are too young to remember my great-grandfather Pasquale, but they remember my grandfather Sebastiano who came here to hold political rallies, often “fiercly” they tell me.


Then I want to visit the place where my great-grandfather is buried. Unfortunately, the old cemetery stood outside the church of Sant’Antonio. Not too long ago, all the square was redone, the tombstones taken away, and now only a nice lawn remains. Almost certainly the bones of Pasquale are below but it is impossible to know where. I go to the new cemetery. In the surrounding walls there are some gravestones from the old cemetery, but there is no trace of Dessanai.

The next morning, I return to Uras before heading for San Nicolò d’Arcidano. The Mayor Anna Maria is waiting for me, she could not meet me on Sunday. She wants to help me gather some more information about my great-grandfather. She takes me to Ilario, a gentleman who collects documentation about the village, photos, postcards, letters etc. Ilario knows well the story of the Dessanai in Uras (also described by the scholar Francesco Sonis in one of his articles). And he reveals a very precious piece of information. “Did you know that your great-grandfather was also a photographer?” … “Photographer ???”. I knew that Pasquale was a municipal employee, besides being a poet for pleasure, but not a photographer! Apparently Ilario has stumbled on a vintage photo that represented an old Roman bridge just outside Uras, now gone. In the picture he remembers a stamp ‘Pasquale Dessanai photographer’. Now, this is really new to me! Unfortunately, Ilario does not remember where he saw the photo, and agrees to try to track it down. This photo hunt will also become the new mission of my genealogical research!