8/377: Olzai


Work by Carmelo Floris. Detail

Today I leave early to avoid the rain. I fly downhill from Sarule to the junction for Olzai. I see the ancient olive tree visited yesterday. Then a short climb, rewarded by the incredible view of the valley.

Olzai is small and set at the end of a valley, at the foot of the mountains. I like it already. Here everything is granite like in Sarule. The embankment that conveys the waters of a stream runs throughout the village. The sound of water flowing and jumping downhill can be heard everywhere.

Historic centre

The country is semi-deserted. All at mass. Then everyone in the cemetery. It is the day of the dead. I am not intimidated. I want to visit. But it’s starting to rain. A lot. Then I decide to rest. I sleep for a long time. The tiredness of the first week.

In the evening I walk towards the only watermill existing in Sardinia, outside the village, a very steep climb. There were many along the embankment but the floods of 1921 had swept them all away, now only this one remains.

Water channel cutting in two the centre

I meet the mayor and the friends of the Proloco who found me the accommodation. They open especially for me the House Museum of the painter Carmelo Floris, who lived and died here. His studio, on the top floor, is full of inspiration, drawings, paintings, books, notes, sheets of paper, Floris drew everywhere, always had a pencil with him. I go away full of desire to write.

Carmelo Floris’ studio





Zia Peppina, 80, greets me in a wonderful house, with a wide stairwell, like those of the nobles, and shows me my room on the second floor. ‘The kitchen and my room are upstairs’ she tells me. On the third floor. Peppina makes the three flights of stairs every day, several times a day. ‘It’s nothing!’ she tells me when I ask her how she copes without a lift.

While we eat, Zie Peppina tells me dozens of stories about the village, how the flood had destroyed many houses, and the reconstruction of the embankment, how there were nine butchers in the village and now not even one, ‘there is not even a hairdresser!’. She also tells me about Carmelo Floris, about the Mesina sisters, so rich that one of them sat next to the King and Queen of Italy on a visit to Nuoro, of Doctor Dore, the first Sardinian deputy in parliament.

Peppina eats as much as me, does not let me leave anything, ‘Eat without esitation!’ she continues, filling my plate for the third or fourth time. The stories continue, the divorced women of the village, the men who discovered the wives with others, the only wedding of the year, the last dead, her mother who told her she always kept a bread oven at home in case of another war, her father who took care of the five children of a dead friend crushed by a stone in the quarry.

When the phone rings, I take a break. I hear Peppina arguing animatedly in Sardinian, to which in this week I began to be accustomed to, and I realise that at the end of the call I can expect a new and interesting village story!