70/377: Sant’Antioco



Today, no trip by bike. Not even an inch. Maybe it’s better this way because the day is awful. So, I immediately go to the Town Hall where the Mayor Ignazio welcomes me, with the Councilor for Culture and Sara, responsible for tourism and cultural services, who will accompany me throughout the morning in three places, each more interesting than the other.

Place 1: the catacombs under the basilica of Sant’Antioco Martire (patron saint of Sardinia … black … came from Africa …) They are vast, planted in a Punic necropolis, tunnels that wind for tens of meters under the houses of the new town! We arrive at the alleged room where the doctor Antiochus (later become Saint) received the sick to cure them, hidden by the Roman guards. Back in the church I admire the bone remains of Sant’Antioco, inside a glass case, returned from the church of Iglesias that had kept them for a long time.


Place 2: the hypogeum village. Not far from the basilica there is an area of ​​the town that is unbelievable. The excavated rocks were also here a Punic necropolis, whose cavities with the centuries began to be inhabited. Until the eighties of the twentieth century! Real caves. Postcards from the fifties portray families at the entrance to the caves, with the words: ‘Isola di Sant’Antioco. Troglodyte cave’. In some of these homes, some family environments have been rebuilt. An old lady who was born and lived here came to visit them, and described exactly the rooms where she lived and the arrangement of the furniture!


Place 3: the archaeological museum. From the Palaeolithic to the Romans, passing from Nuragic and Phoenician-Punic, Sara describes to me the wealth of discoveries in this area, a real city that today is still under current homes. Often those who dig in their houses find archaeological remains, it is said that some have the cellar in old tombs or cisterns. Inside the museum there is also a beautiful exhibition of reconstructions of nuragic costumes by Angela Demontis. Outside the museum, unfortunately today in the rain and a furious wind, I quickly visited the reconstruction of the Tophet, with the typical terracotta pots and saucers, once containing the bones of dead infants.


For lunch I am a guest of Marina, and her kids Elio and Anita. Together with them the dog Camillo and a bevy of cats! Finally a 100% vegetarian lunch (including soup!) After lunch we take the car (today you can not go by bike) and we head in the south-east coast, passing from Maladroxia, reaching up to Torre Cannai, from which you can admire all the small islands south of Sant’Antioco, the Cow and the Calf, and a little further away the Bull. Also here (as in the side of Calasetta) the rocks are volcanic, but crossing the center of the island we pass by an area of ​​Mesozoic limestone very clear and much older than the lavas that have incorporated them. Upon returning, Marina takes me to her optical store and makes me a sight test  … the annoyance that lately I feel in reading closely turned out to be hypermetropia … NOOOOOO !!!

I conclude the evening at dinner guest of Antonello, owner of the beautiful restaurant L’arco del Moro. Antonello, a native of Domusnovas, shows me with pride some photos of the first congress in Sardinia of the young Craxi, to which my grandfather Sebastiano was certainly present, which Antonello remembers well! Before going to sleep at the bnb of Massimiliano (today the list of those who took care of me is really long!) Antonello leaves me with the phrase that one of his teachers said: the adventure is dangerous, but the routine is deadly. I fall asleep peacefully, happy to run dangers and still be alive!



Byssus lullaby.




My friend Giuseppe from Villacidro has booked me a visit to Chiara Vigo’s, one of the few woven byssus weavers (the ligament of the Pinna Nobilis shell) left all over the world. Chiara welcomes me and Elio and makes us sit in front of a table where the granddaughter is handling the byssus still dirty with shells. She asks me a little about me and my adventure, then she starts to tell about the art she has learned from her grandmother, and in the middle she throws in stories of the Egyptian and Jewish cultures. Actually, looking around, I notice a seven-branched candlestick, and then an Egyptian tunic. Chiara also talks to her granddaughter, asking her what she is doing, letting her transfer the fine linen from a basket to a beautiful glass container, which shortly afterwards the girl will break! Chiara does not break up, picks up the pieces and gives her granddaughter a new container, this time made of wood. Then she takes a bit of fine linen and slowly, with a tweezers, begins to pull off specks of dirt, to comb it, and to separate the good material in a basket. After this contains a good amount of fine linen, a good 40 minutes later, Chiara asks me to close my eyes and open my hand. I do it. When Chiara tells me to open my eyes I see the fine linen inside my palm … I have not noticed anything, without weight and without friction! Chiara continues her patient and slow cleaning. After another long time she has obtained another good quantity of fine linen. She asks me again to close my eyes and open my hand. At my reopening the thread of fine linen in my hand is much more substantial than before, and yet I have not noticed anything! Happy with the quantity, Chiara begins to spin the byssus, twisting it with an old wooden tool, and begins to sing. Simple melodies, words in Sardinian, then other melodies, then she sings an opera air, and some sort of lullabies. Elio and I are there watching. The girl continues her game with the byssus, she cleans it a little from the shells and puts it in the wooden container. Since we entered she did not say a word. Finishing to produce a long enough thread, Chiara takes a glass container with a yellowish liquid, I do not dare to ask what it is for fear of interrupting this that I now understand to be a ritual. She dips the thread in the liquid and places the mouth in the container, blowing into a single note chant. When she pulls out the thread, she holds it between her two hands and asks me to ‘pinch it’. I execute the order and … pling pling pling … the byssus sounds! Chiara pulls it a little, releases it a little, and the note changes. Then she asks me what my favorite color is. I answer blue and Chiara takes a thread (which she calls ‘from the earth’) of a beautiful cobalt blue and wraps it on the byssus rope. ‘So now it is a bit stronger’ she says, ‘you can try to mount it on an instrument and play it, but as soon as I have time I’ll do one with more calm’. I can not believe it. We have been here for almost two hours and from the first moment everything was aimed at producing this gift for me. Before leaving, I heartily thank her and show her my enthusiasm for this almost mystical experience. She tells me ‘the important thing was not this, but that’ and she points at the little girl, who is still handling pieces of byssus.