A coffee in Armungia

Usually little Sardinian villages have a main street that is named something like Via Nazionale or Via Roma or Via Libertà. When you arrive in Armungia (482 inhabitants), a little village near Muravera in south east Sardinia, the main street is Via Emilio Lussu. This writer, politician, soldier and fighter was born here in 1890 and his story and that of his wife, Joyce, are still alive in this tiny community.

View on Armungia
A view of the little village – Vista del paese

I’d never been to Armungia before two weekends ago, when we decided to attend Un caffè ad Armungia “A coffee in Armungia”, the first edition of a festival of little villages which started last year and aims to develop a network between them. During three full days of activities they discussed problems and shared experiences and solutions. People spoke about communities, depopulation, ageing and sustainability, comparing life in small villages and towns to that in bigger towns and cities.

Men meeting in Armungia
Everyday men meet themselves in the same place of the village – Gli uomini si incontrano tutti i giorni al solito posto

In the organising committee there was Emilio’s grandson, Tommaso, with his partner Barbara, who still live in Armungia today. Their presence and the one of other thinkers that knew Emilio Lussu, made me feel as if his thoughts were lingering over us. It was a strange feeling. The atmosphere suggested that everything Emilio and Joyce Lussu fought for was still present; in this current time that calls us again to make a choice, to understand that our Western freedom is not conquered forever, if it ever was.

Armungia alley
An alley in Armungia – un vicolo

The meetings involved aboveall anthropologists and sociologists and I was like a fish out of water, but I loved these reflections on our future and the meaning that life in little villages can offer compared to the vicious cycle we often cope with in the bigger context. What’s the meaning of our lives? Is it in this anxiety we live everyday, in the rat race to work, earn more and then spend more, or can we imagine right now a different kind of life more respectful of our real needs? In the background there were bigger themes: equality, dignity and immigration politics. Together with a lot of inspiration and suggestions for further reading and thinking.

Wooden loom weaving
Children and women weaving together – Bambini e donne, tessitura condivisa

And then, on Saturday afternoon, there was a collective weaving taking place in the square near the ethnographic museum. I think weaving is a really symbolic activity. Something where the result depends on warp and weft working together and the work grows with patience, attention and care. Weaving work was common in Sardinian villages and it reminds us how communities used to cooperate in everyday life. The kind of cooperation that I really think could be the force for human well-being.

Weaving on the railings
Marta focused on her weaving work – Marta concentrata sul suo lavoro di tessitura

And it was amazing to weave on the railings, both with good friends and with people I’d never met before! The spots in the shade of the museum were really in demand, with people of all ages weaving next to each other for ninety minutes. On the other side of the square the hot railings were waiting for some brave weavers to take up the challenge of working in the relentless sun. It was Caterina Maioli, one of the organizers of the collective weaving, to take on the task, Tessere incontri .

Sunny weaving spot in the square
Caterina Maioli working on the sunny spot – Caterina Maioli al lavoro nel punto più assolato della piazza
Weaving work on the railings
Colours growing on the railings – I colori crescono sulle ringhiere
Roberta Milia weaving in Armungia
Roberta Milia – Teladoiolatela – enjoying her work – Roberta Milia si diverte
Wooden loom
A girl working on a simple wooden frame – Una bambina al lavoro su una semplice cornice di legno
View through the warp
Through the warp – Attraverso l’ordito
The weaved railings
The railings at the end of the weaving meeting – Le ringhiere alla fine dell’incontro di tessitura

Thank you to everyone who worked for this! And, if you should ever find yourself passing by, enjoy a coffee in Armungia, experiencing their hospitality and having a look at their work looking for Casa Lussu. It’s worth it.

Di solito, nei piccoli paesi sardi, la via principale si chiama sempre Via Nazionale oppure Via Roma o Via Libertà. Quando si arriva ad Armungia, un piccolo paese di 482 abitanti vicono a Muravera, nel sud-est della Sardegna, la via principale è Via Emilio Lussu. Questo scrittore, politico, soldato e combattente, nacque qui nel 1890 e la sua storia e quella di sua moglie, Joyce, sono ancora vive in questa piccola comunità.

Non ero mai stata ad Armungia prima di due settimane fa, quando abbiamo deciso di partecipare a “Un caffè ad Armungia”, prima edizione di un festival dei piccoli paesi, che si ritrovano dopo un primo incontro dello scorso anno, con l’obiettivo di sviluppare un lavoro di rete. Durante tre giornate ricche di attività, hanno  discusso di problemi quotidiani delle piccole comunità, condividendo esperienze e soluzioni. Le persone hanno parlato di comunità, spopolamento, invecchiamento della popolazione e sostenibilità, confrontando la vita dei piccoli paesi con quella di realtà più grandi.

Nel comitato promotore c’era il nipote di Emilio Lussu, Tommaso, con la sua compagna Barbara; vivono ad Armungia e la loro presenza insieme a quella di altri che ebbero la fortuna di conoscere Emilio Lussu, mi ha fatto avvertire la forza del suo pensiero che, in qualche modo, stava come sospeso sopra di noi. E’ stata una strana sensazione. L’atmosfera suggeriva che tutto quello per cui Emilio e Joyce Lussu hanno combattuto sia ancora estremamente attuale; forse sempre più attuale, in questi tempi che ci chiamano ancora a fare una decisa scelta di campo, a comprendere come la nostra libertà occidentale non sia conquistata per sempre, se mai lo è stata. 

Gli incontri, condotti soprattutto da antropologi culturali e sociologi, mi hanno visto come un pesce fuor d’acqua, ma ho apprezzato le riflessioni sul nostro futuro e sul significato che può assumere la vita nei piccoli paesi confrontata al circolo vizioso con cui combattiamo nei contesti più ampi. Qual è il significato vero della nostra vita? E’ in questa ansia che viviamo ogni giorno, nella corsa senza sosta per lavorare, guadagnare di più per spendere di più, o possiamo immaginare proprio ora un modo differente di vivere, più rispettoso dei nostri desideri più veri? Sullo sfondo della discussione i grandi temi dell’equità, della dignità e delle politiche d’immigrazione. E mille suggestioni e ispirazioni, per altre letture e ulteriori pensieri.

E poi, il sabato pomeriggio, si è svolto l’incontro di tessitura collettiva nella piazza vicino al museo etnografico. Penso che la tessitura sia un’attività veramente simbolica. Qualcosa il cui risultato dipende dall’ordito e dalla trama che lavorano insieme, un lavoro che si costruisce con pazienza, attenzione e cura. La tessitura è stata un’attività comune nei piccoli paesi della Sardegna e ci ricorda ancora come le comunità fossero abituate a cooperare nella vita quotidiana. Quel tipo di cooperazione che ha il significato dell’operare insieme, che penso potrebbe essere la vera chiave del benessere dell’uomo.

E’ stato bello tessere sulle ringhiere, con persone mai viste prima e con buoni amici! Le postazioni all’ombra del museo sono state molto richieste, con persone di ogni età che, gomito a gomito, hanno intessuto le stoffe colorate per una buona ora e mezza. Sull’altro lato della piazza, le ringhiere bollenti hanno atteso con pazienza che un tessitore coraggioso sfidasse il sole, che quel giorno non concedeva nessuna tregua. E’ stata Caterina Maioli, che con l’Associazione Tessere incontri ha partecipato all’organizzazione dell’esperienza di tessitura, a raccogliere la sfida.

Mi piace ringraziare tutte le persone che hanno lavorato per questo incontro! E se mai vi trovaste a passare da quelle parti, godetevi un caffè ad Armungia, sperimentate la loro ospitalità e date un’occhiata al  lavoro di Barbara e Tommaso a Casa Lussu. Ne vale la pena.

A hidden treasure

Some years ago, while I was a member of the local council, an engineer coming from Rome told me that Olbia was an ugly town in a magnificent location. I wasn’t sure I was of the same mindset about this subject, because I’ve grown up here and it’s difficult for me to be so impartial. But in some way this sentence still lingers in my mind. And sometimes I think she was right. Then, some details that Olbia offers me, let me think that there’s more here than first meets the eye. But the truly ugly thing is that we aren’t enough aware of the beauty that surrounds us.

One real treasure we have is a very rare plant, flowering in the middle of our gulf. The gulf of Olbia is a narrow and deep bay, of that kind that geologists call rias, that offers very good shelter from bad weather. It’s scattered with islands and islets, with Mediterranean vegetation of shrubs and trees. On some of these islets there are the ruins of old buildings that highlight the state of abandon. The species that live here have had to adapt to salt water and drought and usually they don’t have colourful flowers. Limoniastrum monopetalum is an exception to this rule and at the beginning of the summer, the islets inside the gulf are coloured by its pink flowers.

Flowering Limoniastrum
Flowering Limoniastrum with Olbia on the background – Fioritura di Limoniastrum, Olbia sullo sfondo
Flowers of Limoniastrum
Limoniastrum flowers – Fiori di Limoniastrum
Ruins on the islets in the inner gulf
Old buildings ruins on the islets – Sulle isole si incontrano le rovine di vecchi edifici

In Sardinia this species can be found only in two other sites, near the mouth of Padrongianus river and on the Isola Piana. In the rest of the Italian Peninsula there are a few known locations.

All year long this plant isn’t so visible but if you look with attention along the town shoreline, you’ll find it, with its woody branches and its silver leaves. This silver colour is due to the salt that the plant excretes. The salt crystals create a coarse film that covers the leaves and this adaptation allows this species to grow in very salty environments.

The silver leaves of Limoniastrum
The leaves have a silver colour due to salt crystals the plant excretes  – Le foglie hanno un colore argentato, dovuto ai cristalli di sale che la pianta elimina 

The flowering season lasts only few days, and in Olbia I’m not sure lot of people notice this. But I faithfully wait for the days when our gulf becomes pink. And I think this is in some way an example of this strange relationship among this ugly town and the surrounding beauty. I think our awareness of this beauty is the real key to turning Olbia into a different town.

Flowers of Limoniastrum are pink
The flowering is amazing coloured – La fioritura è sorprendentemente colorata

Qualche anno fa, quando ero un assessore della giunta locale, un ingegnere che veniva da Roma, mi disse che Olbia era una brutta città nata in un bellissimo posto. Non ero sicura di essere d’accordo con lei su questo argomento, anche perchè essendo cresciuta qui, trovo difficile essere oggettiva. Ma, in qualche modo, questa frase continua a frullarmi per la testa. E qualche volta mi capita di pensare che avesse ragione. Poi, alcuni dettagli, alcune piccole cose nascoste che Olbia mi offre, mi portano a pensare che ci sia di più di quanto non si possa cogliere ad una prima occhiata. La vera brutta cosa, forse, è che non siamo abbastanza consapevoli della bellezza che ci circonda.

Un vero tesoro che abbiamo è una pianta molto rara, che fiorisce nel nostro golfo. Il golfo di Olbia è un’insenatura stretta e profonda, che i geologi classificano come rias e offre un buon riparo dal cattivo tempo. E’ disseminato di isole ed isolette, coperte di macchia mediterranea, con arbusti e alberi. Alcune di queste isole ospitano le rovine di vecchi edifici, che sembrano essere lì a rimarcare lo stato di abbandono dei luoghi. Le specie vegetali che vivono qui devono adattarsi alla marcata salinità e alla carenza d’acqua; di solito non sono caratterizzate da fioriture particolarmente evidenti o colorate. Limoniastrum monopetalum è un’eccezione a questa regola e all’inizio dell’estate, le isole del golfo sono colorate dal rosa dei suoi fiori.

In Sardegna questa specie è nota solo per altre due località, vicino alla bocca del fiume Padrongianus e sull’Isola Piana (Porto San Paolo). Nel resto d’Italia si conoscono poche altre stazioni. Durante l’anno questa pianta non è così evidente, ma cercandola attentamente la si può trovare lungo la linea di costa, anche all’interno della città. Ha un aspetto un po’ dimesso, con i rami legnosi e le foglie argentate. Il colore delle foglie è dovuto al sale che la pianta elimina. I cristalli di sale si depositano in una ruvida pellicola sulle foglie; questo è uno degli adattamenti che consente alla pianta di crescere anche in ambienti con acque molto salate.

La stagione della fioritura dura solo pochi giorni; ad Olbia, non sono sicura che molte persone la notino. Ma io aspetto fedelmente i giorni dell’anno in cui il golfo si colora di rosa. E penso che questo sia un buon esempio di questa strana relazione fra questo brutto paese e la bellezza che lo circonda. Penso che la nostra consapevolezza di questa bellezza sia la vera chiave per trasformare Olbia in una città diversa.

Molara a little paradise

The islands off Sardinian mainland are beautiful and different one from each other. And they’ve amazing stories to tell. Stories going back to ancient times or taking place in the 1900th. Among the ones I’ve heard, I find the recent story of Molara really fascinating. Molara is a granitic island off the north-east cost of Sardinia. It’s private and owned by a local family living on the Sardinian mainland. A basic dock allows to stop at Cala del Pastore, where there is a little sandy beach and an old house.

Cala del Pastore
Cala del Pastore, with its basic dock and a magnificent view over Tavolara – Cala del Pastore offre un approdo minimale, ma consente una vista magnifica su Tavolara

The landscape is great: little coves with colourful water, rocks and boulders shaped by the wind and some hills that offer incredible views over the sea and the impressive silhouette of Tavolara. This chance to have such a view is part of the fascination I feel for Molara!

Clear water in Molara
Amazing clear water and little granitic coves are some of the unforgettable features of the island – Le acque soprendentemente colorate e le piccole cale granitiche sono alcune delle particolarità indimenticabili dell’isola

But the recent signs of the human presence are another part I love too. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the island was an experimental farm as proved by the free-ranging livestock still grazing here. The man who has began this work was the great grand-father of the young man who told me this story.

At the end of the the 1800s, he became owner of some big properties and Molara was among these. Here, he decided to follow his ideas and realized an experimental farm. He built some houses, at the top of the island. The ruins are still there and every time I go I’m captured by the atmosphere and by the signs of the lives spent there. The owner family spent here the difficult time of the Second World War, escaping the bombing on the mainland.

The owner house
The original owner built his house at the top of the island – La casa padronale è stata costruita nella piccola piana in cima all’isola

The buildings apparently follow the traditional style and at the first glance they appear to be similar to any cluster of stazzi, the typical houses here in the north east of Sardinia. After a more careful look a lot of unusual details appears. In the master’s house, a bell, to call people for the meals was built near the kitchen and a courtyard surrounded with almond trees was probably the places where those meals took place during the good season. Old windows still opened over amazing views.

An old window in the master house
Old windows still open out amazing views – Le vecchie finestre offrono ancora scorci impagabili
The old kitchen
The old kitchen – La vecchia cucina

Among the other buildings there is the tiny cheese factory, and some equipment is still here. Then the house for the farmer and his family, inhabited until recent times by the caretaker, with a beautiful branch of bougainville decorating the front door. Near this the cattle shed and the big fence, called mandrione where at night the goats found shelter. On the little plane in front of the buildings we can find some other fences with stonewall and a little henhouse, with triangle-shaped niches. I’ve never seen another one like this in the whole of Sardinia!

There's a tiny cheese factory too
Equipment left on the tiny cheese factory – Attrezzature abbandonate nel piccolo caseificio
Front door
The front door of the caretaker house – L’ingresso della casa del custode
Henhouse
The henhouse with its triangle-shaped niches – Il pollaio, con le sue nicchie triangolari
The houses
The houses built in a little plane at the top of the island – Le case costruite nella piccola piana

Big Pine trees were planted and are now falling down, broken by the age and the wind. As are the two old chestnut trees, planted in the area called orto, vegetable garden, near an everlasting spring. This area enjoy the presence of fresh water all year round and is green and fresh during summer too. An incredibly big Myrtle has grown up here: a real tree, not a bush, with a bark as cracked as I’ve ever seen.

The water falling down from the vegetable garden spills until it reaches the sea. This wet track allows the Chaste trees (Vitex agnus castus) to grow and to flower with an astonishing purple stripe stretching down from the hill.

So, surrounded by gorgeous nature, you can feel this particular atmosphere, that it’s hard to define. It’s a little bit melancholic but it’s still possible to perceive the project of the original owner.

the branch of an old Pine tree
Big Pine trees are now falling down, broken by the age and the wind – I grandi pini piantati dal primo proprietario stanno cadendo, piegati dall’età e dal vento

N.b. : the island is private and except for the coast border you need a permission to walk around.

Le isole attorno alla Sardegna sono belle e diverse fra loro, spesso hanno storie affascinanti da raccontare. Alcune sono storie antiche, lontane nel tempo, ma altre non meno intriganti, risalgono al Novecento. Fra i racconti che ho sentito, mi affascina la storia recente di Molara. Molara è un’isola granitica che si trova a nord-est della Sardegna. E’ proprietà di una famiglia locale che non ci abita stabilmente. Un approdo spartano consente di arrivare a Cala del Pastore, con la sua piccola spiaggia e la vecchia casa.

Il paesaggio è eccezionale: piccole cale con l’acqua chiarissima, si aprono fra le rocce e i grandi blocchi di granito, foggiati in forme incredibili dal vento. Alcuni rilievi offrono scorci sul mare e sulla silhouette dell’isola sorella, Tavolara. Sicuramente, la possibilità di godere di questa vista su Tavolara è uno dei motivi per cui apprezzo così tanto quest’isola!

Ma i segni recenti della presenza dell’uomo sono, per me, un altro aspetto ricco di fascino. Agli inizi del ventesimo secolo, l’isola era una fattoria sperimentale, come testimonia anche il bestiame che ancora pascola liberamente. La persona che iniziò la trasformazione dell’isola era il bisnonno di chi mi ha raccontato la storia.

Alla fine del milleottocento divenne proprietario di importanti possedimenti fra cui c’era anche Molara. Inseguendo una sua idea, decise di trasformarla e realizzò una fattoria sperimentale. Costruì alcune case, in cima all’isola. Le costruzioni, parzialmente in rovina, sono ancora lì e ogni volta che mi capita di andare, mi cattura l’atmosfera che si respira e mi perdo ad immaginare la vita delle persone che hanno abitato questi spazi. La famiglia del proprietario trascorse qui gli anni più duri della Seconda Guerra Mondiale, cercando di sfuggire ai bombardamenti che colpirono la terraferma.

Gli edifici apparentemente seguono lo stile tradizionale e a prima vista appaiono in tutto simili a qualsiasi gruppo di stazzi, le tipiche abitazioni del nord-est della Sardegna. Un’occhiata più attenta rivela numerosi dettagli che distinguono queste costruzioni da quelle visibili sulla terraferma. La casa padronale ha una campana esterna, costruita vicino alla cucina, probabilmente per richiamare le persone all’ora dei pasti. Un cortile interno, circondato di alberi di mandorlo era forse il posto dove questi pasti si consumavano durante la bella stagione. Vecchie finestre, ancora aperte, offrono scorci di grande bellezza.

Fra le altre costruzioni c’è un piccolo caseificio e rimangono, abbandonate, alcune vecchie attrezzature. A fianco sorgono le case dei fattori, che sono state abitate in anni recenti dalla famiglia del custode. Un ramo di bougainville decora la porta d’ingresso.  Vicino le stalle e il grosso recinto, detto mandrione, dove durante la notte trovavano rifugio le capre. Sulla piana, di fronte alle altre costruzioni ci sono altri recinti con i muri a secco e un curioso pollaio, come non ne ho mai visto in Sardegna, con tante nicchie triangolari per accogliere le chiocce.

Grossi alberi di pino piantati in passato stanno ora cadendo, abbattuti dall’età e dal vento. Come i due vecchi alberi di castagno, piantati nell’area dell’orto, vicino ad una sorgente permanente. Questa ristretta zona gode della presenza di acqua lungo il corso dell’anno ed è sempre verde e fresca, anche durante l’estate. Un incredibile pianta di mirto cresce all’ombra: un vero e proprio albero, non un cespuglio, con una corteccia a scaglie, come mai mi è capitato di vedere.

L’acqua che scende dall’orto, arriva fino al mare. Questa traccia umida consente alle piante di Agnocasto di crescere e fiorire, con una inaspettata striscia viola e blu che colora la collina.

Così, circondati da una natura rigogliosa, possiamo avvertire l’atmosfera particolare che avvolge l’isola. E’ un poco malinconica, ma si percepisce ancora l’energia del progetto del primo proprietario.

N.b.. l’isola è privata, quindi salvo per la zona strettamente costiera, è necessario un permesso per accedere.

Su cuile

Years ago now and then we went out for two day hikes. We never slept in tent, trusting the Sardinian mild weather and our youth. We slept in the open air, or during winter in an old cuile. These are old shepherd shelters, scattered in the central mountains of the island. They were the places where men once lived, taking care of their grazing animals. Usually these buildings are far away from villages and in the past the shepherds spent days and days there, going back to the town only occasionally to sell cheese or other products or to spend feast days with their family or their friends.

When we began hiking, more or less thirty years ago, there were almost no shepherds living in this way. They were used to going back home, in the village, almost every evening, except for the birthing season, when kids or calfs born during the night were in danger.

The mountain landscape
Men once lived far from villages, taking care of their grazing animals

So, there were plenty of cuiles to sleep in. They were our suites, not five star suites but suites with infinite stars! One circular room built with stones and covered with Junipers branches with a central fireplace, the little door opened south or east, to avoid chilly winds and enjoy the morning sun.

If the shepherd who lived there was lucky nearby there would be a spring. Otherwise we had to take more water with us, thinking about the harsh life men spent only some years ago. Somewhere hidden in caves, we found a jug put under water dripping from the walls. This was the only fresh water for the shepherds and was thoroughly guarded. I’m sure they were really aware of the importance of water!

Cuile_ Sas Traes
Cuile Sas Traes, a simple circular room with a central fireplace

Nowday a lot of these cuiles have been refurbished, preserving their features and more and more hikers and trekkers have learnt to sleep there. Usually you can find some supplies too, like salt, coffee, potatoes and a some cooking equipment if you need to cook something to warm you up.

I think I will never forget some roasted potatoes we cooked on a cold winter night: we ate them at four o’clock in the morning and they were a real comfort food!

Cuile_3
Cuiles have been refurbished, preserving their amazing features

If you want to learn more about Sardinian shepherd  have a look at Barmen time.

 

Here there is the second catch

I want to share with you some pics taken during a beach clean up on Tavolara island, two weekends ago. This is only some of the waste found, a full boat, but I have saved them as an example of tiny plastic garbage anyone can find at sea. The kind of waste that is a real threat for marine wildlife.

Tavolara, Cala di Tramontana
Beach clean up on Tavolara Island!

Some of them were a gift a really enthusiastic young girl gave me, understanding I was looking for these colourful little pieces. Giving me the bag, she told me that she had found some mermaids’s tears, too. I looked at her surprised and she explained to me that she had recently listened to a tale: mermaids cry when they look at all this litter humans leave in the sea. And telling me this, she showed me a handful of little plastic balls. I felt a sudden sadness recognizing that they were those little balls used by factories producing plastic items. Some years ago, during particularly severe weather, we found lots of them on the beaches, probably lost from a container ship. So, in the imagination of this girl, mermaids’s tears are turned into plastic when mixed with the sea water.

Colourful little plastic pieces
These pieces were a gift!

I think it’s a really sad thing to use a new tale to explain the presence of plastic in marine environment. The truth is that we are the only ones responsible for all this litter left behind. To comfort me, the beach clean up was a success and I felt the relief of sharing the day with a lot of really motivated people.

So, I will go on with my collection.

Summer is arriving

This year the weather is particularly dry and warm. And so we are at the end of May but it seems to be one month ahead. I’m not one who loves summer very much and aboveall I don’t like to have the same weather all year round. I prefer the changing atmospheres that the shifts in season set aside for us. You know, hot when it should be, but then the autumn mood after summer. A little bit of cold for Christmas, rain and green countryside in spring and so on. Working in nature conservation keeps me aware of the dramatic climate change going on, so maybe the concern I feel right now with these really warm days is more than the pleasure of wearing light clothes.

Despite this, I appreciate like everyone I think, the blue sky and the sunny days. They give me the impression of being powerful, especially if I desperately need some time off! And I’m enjoying this early summer that allows us to go to the sea when the beaches are still empty. Yes, I definitely don’t like crowded places. So, trying to bring everything together, work, school time and relaxing, we are spending some weekends in our preferred places.

Spiaggia del dottore, water
Porto Legnaiolo, now called Spiaggia del dottore
Isola Piana the beach
No crowd in these days in our preferred destinations!

We have a little dinghy and wandering among the islets along the coast near home is the right way to spend our time outdoors. We look for the most secret destinations, finding really amazing pools. Colours are now at their best, and every hue of green and blue is here. We are very careful not to disturb nesting birds or other species living on the islands and usually we avoid landing. Birds screaming over your head are an unmistakable warning!

Spending days in this way seems to me the best thing we can do. If only this beauty could infect everything else!

Tavolara, the beach
It’s like a perfect dream

Gorropu, our canyon

The primordial atmosphere of the canyon
The atmosphere is primordial, with natural elements shaping the canyon day by day

Among all the places we love, a very special one for us is Gorropu. It’s the first hike I did with Massimo, more or less thirty years ago! I remember I had been impressed by this canyon, with its big white boulders and by my guide, too. At that time it was quite unusual to go hiking or trekking in Sardinia and a lot of places now quite popular were almost deserted. And this was a part of their appeal, I think. I hadn’t hiked much before and I remember thinking it was really hard, but it was like discovering a new world and I was too interested in it to give up. So, after that first time, I have walked among those rocks a lot more times. And I never get bored. The canyon can be reached by different places and I’m not able to decide the path I like most. One of the classic choices is a beautiful one running along the river Flumineddu. You can arrive at the starting point from Dorgali, going through the Oddoene valley with its vineyards. At the end of the dirt road there is a parking area where you can leave the car to go to Gorropu or to go to Tiscali too.

The river Flumineddu
The path runs along the river Flumineddu

The path that brings you to the canyon is a quiet one with not much rising and beautiful views over the river. It has changed a little over the years due to some flooding events. Here it’s the water that shapes the landscape! High Common Alders provide shade during the hot summer days. The closer you get to the canyon the more visible the entrance becomes with two high limestone walls facing each other.

The entrance of the canyon
The entrance with its pool

The entrance marks the point where the river flows underground, appearing here and there in little ponds or bigger pools. Nowadays you should pay a ticket and wear an helmet, where as thirty years ago no one was there. If you decide to go ahead here begins the tricky part of the hike. You have to find your way among the big boulders, some of them smoothed like marble by the hundreds of people passing before you. But it’s really fun to go up and down. Between the two walls you feel like a little ant and the whole canyon seems to tell a story of natural forces at work, with its rocky chaos.

A clear water pool
A pool with its clear water
Big white boulders in the canyon
Climbing the big white boulders
The two limestone walls
Between the two walls

Some fixed ropes help you to reach the heart of the canyon, with a little blue pool inside the mountain. The place is called “laghi in grotta”, lakes in a cave. Sometimes it’s possible to get in, but the conditions can change widely depending on seasons and rainfall. If you’re lucky the lake will have clean water and if you are courageous, you can have a refreshing cold dip. The first time I went there, we had lunch on the lake shore, sitting on little pebbles. Massimo brought a camp stove and he cooked pasta. And so it was here that we first shared lunch!

The fixed rope
Using a fixed rope it’s possible to get inside “laghi in grotta”

I always say I’m happy to go back to Gorropu. It always offers me something I like, whether it’s new or not, doesn’t truly matter. There is always something to discover, a new view, a little thing, some details that catch my eye. Or maybe it’s the atmosphere, so primordial, like if everything was just rock, water and natural elements at work, shaping the canyon day by day. Oh, I really think this is place not to be missed!

Big boulders
The fascinating rocky chaos!

The pink invasion

Carpobrotus flowers
Carpobrotus with its carpet like covering appears in a lot of pictures taken in coastal areas

No, we aren’t going to write about “pinkification”, not even if we have an opinion and an experience about this, too. We want to discuss this terrible, invasive plant known as Hottentot fig (Carpobrotus spp.), that in these sunny days appears in a lot of pictures taken in coastal environments. The flowers are very bright, a really magnificent colour. If you crop the picture so that is a close up, and you have the clear blue sea water in the background, you surely have a great shot!

But we have to be aware that Carpobrotus is a South African species, introduced to the Mediterranean basin and it represents a threat to our environment, interfering with native species. It quickly covers huge areas with its long roots and being highly resistant to high temperatures, lack of water and trampling can dramatically alter the ecosystem where it arrives. Carpobrotus, with its carpet-like covering, suffocates other plants and can prevent them from sprout. Especially in the environment where endemic, rare species are present, the growing of Carpobrotus must be avoided.

Carpobrotus flower
The flower are really magnificent, with their colour
Carpobrotus covering rocky soils
This plant can quickly cover huge areas

Recently different conservation projects have been started, with the dim of containing or eradicating this species in our Mediterranean environment. They involve specialized staff and volunteers, helping to manually remove the plant from sandy dunes and coastal areas.

Eradicationproject
Specialized staff and volunteers are removing manually the plant from sandy dunes

This is a great effort in term of time and economic resources, deal with this alien invasive species. In fact the threat posed by invasive species is considered to be the second leading reason of biodiversity loss worldwide.

So, it is useful to avoid cultivating this species, replacing it with some native ones.

A flower of Silene, on a sandy beach
A pale pink flower of a native species

If you don’t want to give up, remember that you always have to grow it inside pots. Pay attention to branches and leaves because a little piece of a single leaf could turn into a new plant!

Little Carpobrotus plants
Every little plant should be removed to eradicate this alien species

Probably, avoiding to take pics with this flower can raise our awareness on this subject. And besides, how can we promote our territory by sharing pictures of alien species?

Collecting litter

I’ve been used to collecting litter in natural environment since I was in my teens. It was long ago, so now it’s a habit. In these years I’ve worked with litter in environmental education programmes with children and adults triyng to promote more awareness on this subject. And while I saw more people recycling I also noticed the increasing amount of litter left everywhere. So I decided that I should always go back home with some litter after having fun outdoors: one piece or more, it doesn’t matter, everything can make a difference. I’ll show you my personal litter gallery within the blog. And I make a plea: the best waste is the one we don’t produce. Think about it!

Plastic litter collected on the beach
First catch in Porto Istana; Spring-Summer 2017
Little plastic debris
Something made to play become a threat for the environment
Porto Istana, the beach
The beach where I collected the litter

B’estes: home grazing animals

A donkey foal and a girl
Marta and the donkey foal Dea
A donkey mane
B’estes, animals between tradition and innovation
Particular of the mane in the handmade donkey
Home grazing donkey: the mane

Two years ago I had a problem at work and I ended the year thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to make a drastic change. I decided to spend a month to consider my options and in the meantime I explored something unknown for me. I have been working in nature conservation and environmental education since I graduated, and my passion for Natural Sciences is such, that I’ve never been able to say where my work finishes and my spare time begins. In these last years I have understood that I like more and more things that are made by hand and I decided it was the right time to explore the world of Sardinia’s handicrafts. I was especially attracted by traditional rugs, woven with ancient looms still in use in some towns of the island. Searching for information on the web, I found the proposal of a class about some traditional techniques held in Milan (Tessere incontri). The teacher was Eugenia Pinna (Eugenia Pinna), based in Sardinia and I decided to call her. I was impressed by her kindness and few days later I sat in her house, in the middle of extraordinary rug samples. But about this I will write another time!

On a cupboard I saw some amazing animals, looking at me and I definitively fell in love with them. B’estes is the name of these animals and it’s a project Eugenia and her friend, the graphic designer Concetta Nasone, did together.

Handmade sheep
Colourful sheep are perfect on the white sand

The name is a play on words between the Italian noun for beast, bestie, and the Sardinian term for clothes, este or beste. These creations are unique pieces woven by hand over a piece of MDF shaped like these particular animals. Concetta and Eugenia have chosen to weave with Sardinian wool. This project has been specifically thought around this coarse wool, the traditional one. The species chosen are a good example of the identity of the island: in this collection you will find colourful sheep, donkeys and wild boars in some way recalling the harsh Sardinian land, the nature of people, hardheaded and tenacious.

Handmade white sheep
An elegant white sheep woven with not coloured wool

I’m in some way proud to imagine myself like one of these donkeys!

Three handmade donkeys
Three donkeys on the sand
B'estes collection
Colourful B’estes grazing among flowers

Recently exhibited in Bologna, inside an art gallery, La casetta dell’artista (another interesting project: look at it La casetta dell’artista) they are items and sculptures and they put together tradition and innovation. I think this is possible when creation is an action in your everyday life and you live your tradition as Eugenia and Concetta do. These B’estes give voice to Sardinia with a present-day feeling, they are traditional and new at the same time. They are the right pieces to have if you want to take a little bit of Sardinia with you!

Two handmade wild boars
Two wild boars are climbing on the rocks
The donkey stays in one hand
A little donkey is the right thing if you want to bring a little bit of Sardinia with you!
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