Today’s journey is a small adventure. The only option to avoid passing on the very busy and very dangerous state road 130 is to return to Uta and to cross the ford Bau Arena, which only a few days ago was closed by too much water overflowed by the Flumini Mannu. Today the day is cold but beautiful, the Sardinian winter that I remember, blue sky and sun, not the shadow of a cloud in the sky. More messages are sent to tell me that the ford is closed. I continue in the hope that I can pass, and in fact, despite the closed bar, the road is free. I cross the bridge on the river, and after a few kilometres I arrive Decimomannu.
The village seems big and I am obliged to ask for directions for the Town Hall. Upon arrival the whole city administration is there waiting for me, the mayor Anna Paola, the deputy mayor Monica, the councilors Mario and Matthew and advisers Silvia and Alberta. They make me go around the whole Town Hall building introducing me to all the staff, too many names to remember … two floors of offices and dozens of people!
After giving me a beautiful tile painted by the brother of the Mayor of Desulo as a present, we go for a coffee, and Anna Paola tells me about the beautiful project of the Park of the Two Rivers that will be realised in the area of the Flumini Mannu and Cixerri rivers, that in these territories start to run parallel. There will be cycling routes and walkable paths, sports activities will be organised, in collaboration with the municipalities that share this beautiful strip of naturalistic area, Assemini and Elmas, up to the lagoon of Santa Gilla and in the municipal area of Cagliari.
It’s time to go to the middle schools. Councilor Matteo proudly shows me the whole area, which includes several school buildings, almost forming a campus. The head teacher and teachers welcomes me, and among them I recognise Gigi, with whom we shared years of study and several concerts with the orchestra of the students of the Conservatoire of Cagliari. Even here, as in other schools, the boys are fascinated by my adventure, and according to the teachers, they are never so silent, evidently there is something that fascinates them.
In the afternoon we go to visit two beautiful sites containing two Roman bridges. The first, a bridge with a good stretch of original paved road, which originally had as many as 13 arches. You can see only three, the whole area is surrounded by water, and not far away is the great bank of the Flumini Mannu. Going across the village then we find the other Roman bridge, called ‘de su Diaulu’ or ‘Aramigus’, meaning ‘of the devil’. Here water no longer passes because the waterways were diverted during the reclamation of the last century.
The penultimate stage is one of the most important, the church of Santa Greca, annual pilgrimage destination of hundreds of thousands of faithful who give thanks to the holy martyr and require intercession for the desired graces. Inside the church I am immediately struck by thousands of ex-votes hanging on the walls and columns. The altar contains the wooden statue of the saint, and in a side chapel there is the place where the remains were found, become relics and were preserved in the church of Sant’Antonio, near the Town Hall. Entering the sacristy, I am even more impressed by the thousands of photographs that adorn the walls, all faithful who somehow asked or obtained something from the saint.
The last stop is the visit to the park, just in front of the square of Santa Greca, a green oasis that also attracts the population of neighboring villages. Today I can get back to the Ziu Memmu farm soon, to work, to have dinner early and go to bed anyway late!
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
Saints and ‘santini’. In this journey I am accumulating knowledge on the patron saints of the various countries. In almost all places, those who guide me always pay special attention to the saints and the churches dedicated to them, telling me about the history of the saint, the annual feasts, and sometimes, like today with Saint Greca, miracles and the devotion of the faithful. I have now seen hundreds of churches with relative saints, even more wooden statues depicting the patron saints and other saints, madonnas and Jesus.
In parallel with the saints, electoral leaflets (called ‘santini’ or ‘little saints’ in Italian) also appeared in my journey. Just today, rummaging my pockets I find myself different santini, accumulated in recent weeks. They have been given to me in the most varied circumstances, from candidates to the next regional elections. The strangest delivery a few weeks ago, I offer my hand to greet those who had found me accommodation and in place of a tight reciprocation hand shake I was handed the santino!
With the same devotion, the faithful to the politicians spread the images of their ‘saints’, hoping to attract new believers, and that the election of their ‘saint’ can perform miracles, just like those of Santa Greca. And like the images of the miraculous in the sacristy of the church, many walls of the village are beginning to be covered with human faces.