Summer Postcards: ‘Sea and Sardinia’? Not only. Nature and Art from Sardinia to Trentino.
Comes over one an absolute necessity to move. And what is more, to move in some particular direction. A double necessity then: to get on the move, and to know whither (D.H. Lawrence: ‘Sea and Sardinia’).
During my summer peregrinations around the Italian peninsula, not only I had the ‘absolute necessity to move’, but I also knew ‘whither’. Therefore, driven by this double necessity, I went back to Sardinia.
I am not sure if my going back to this island is due to a form of ‘Repetitive Holiday Syndrome’. I’d rather believe that there are ‘places of the heart’, that draw us to them again and again and make us feel as if we belong. The beauty of this region and of its people, its mysterious history and culture, its various folkloristic and artistic expressions (of which I have written in previous posts) – together with its wild and untamed nature, its crystalline waters and its tasty food – all contribute to my attachment to Sardinia.
This summer, on an outing by boat to Cala Goloritzé and Cala Mariolu, I was blown away by the ragged coast, the imposing limestone structures (or rather sculptures) that rise from the sea, and the purity of the water, which kept changing hues to the point that it was quite impossible to label it with one colour only. It was rather a medley of all the possible shades of green and blue, an effect created by the underwater karst springs.
In order to have more reasons to return, I must leave some wilder exploration of the island (like the nuragic site of Tiscali, Su Romanzesu and Serra Orrios; the unspoiled nature of Su Gologone and of the west coast, just to name a few) to future trips. I’d also like to ‘understand’ Nuoro better, after my second visit this year. Once left the ‘Corso’ and its bars, its streets surprised me for being almost completely deserted. Silence reigned, and soon it felt like being in a dream: writings of local poets were stuck on the walls, talking to all the passers-by. I was impressed by these ‘messages’ that made me believe that Nuoro, the town that lay there, as if at the end of the world, mountains rising somber behind (as D.H. Lawrence wrote) still has something more to tell me.
We headed to the MAN Museum, a very pleasant and modern space, where we visited the exhibition dedicated to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Masters of Montmartre. The nearby Piazza Satta (dedicated to the Sardinian writer, poet, journalist and lawyer Sebastiano Satta), with sculptures by artist Costantino Nivola, is quite impressive. Nivola, who designed this space in 1967, disseminated it with large boulders of Mount Ortobene and small and precious bronze statuettes as if to signify that, here, man and rock had the similar hardness. From the piazza, we entered a new art space that was still ‘under construction’. Its aim is to showcase the creative spirit of local contemporary artists. A knowledgeable young man led us around and introduced the different works.
Always intrigued by the expression of popular culture, I couldn’t miss a visit to Orgosolo, a town in Barbagia famous for its more than one hundred and fifty murals.
It all started in 1969 with a mural painted by a group of Anarchists from Milan. Afterward, the walls of the town began to speak high and loud on behalf of the people. The artists’ aim was to illustrate local and international current and political issues: the hardship of pastoralism, drought, unemployment, the fight against women’s emancipation, the Spanish war, the Native Americans’ struggles, 9/11, etc. Many of the murals are striking, either because of their provocative or assertive writings or due to their strong colours: they become fragments of memory and social life. The painting styles vary: from Cubism (there’s an homage to Picasso’s Guernica) to reminiscences of the Mexican murals of the 1920s, trompe-l’oeil and surrealism (in memory of Joan Miró).
My curiosity for Orgosolo murals was also linked to my previous visit, a few years before, of another ‘decorated’ area, in Trentino Alto Adige (a northern-Italian region I also visited this year, after Sardinia): Balbido. It is a town of farmers that still preserves old houses with vaulted stables, barnyards
and huge open wooden attics for the storage of hay and firewood. The murals painted on the outer walls of the houses with naïf and graffiti-based techniques reflect more ‘local’ themes and showcase life in the mountains and the relationship of man with nature, but they also deal with people’s dreams, feelings, and passions. Among the artists who left a trace on the walls of Balbido’s houses, is my long-time friend and B39 contributor Paolo Dalponte, whom I had the pleasure to see again in July after more than ten years.
In Trentino Alto-Adige – a region surrounded by the majestic Dolomites and dotted by charming glacial lakes – walks, hikes, climbs, and biking are visitors’ favourite activities. Here, like in Sardinia, there is a special connection between man and the natural elements. On the day we met Paolo, we strolled around the beautiful ‘Bosco di Stenico’, or ‘Stenico’s Forest’. Stenico is known for its castle which, dating back to the medieval period, became – from the 13th century – the property and summer residence of the bishop-princes, as well as the base for the administrator of the region. But one should also enter the magic realm of the Stenico forest, where an annual international contest (launched by the Bosco Arte Stenico Association) takes place, attracting visual artists and sculptors from all over the world.
While walking under the canopy of branches, smelling the tree scent and listening to the sounds of the forest, we came across two kinds of sculptures: some traditional – blocks carved from tree trunks, and others innovative, made with tree branches tied together to reproduce free-flow forms, characters, animals, and objects. These artistic creations of various shapes and sizes hang from the trees or stand proudly all around the forest. Every year, a different theme for the contest is set, and it was fascinating to see how the old sculptures perfectly blended with the ‘new arrivals’ of this open-air art museum. This form of ‘art in evolution’ shows how the passing of time will ultimately change the aspect of the works of art, up until their natural and final decay, while following the course of the natural elements and spreading an important message: art can be environmentally-friendly too, and teach us how to use the resources of the territory in a responsible manner. Paolo, again, is involved in this project, being – like his wife Elisabetta – the Artistic Director.
P.S.: Back in Hong Kong, I smiled while reading a message from a friend in Singapore who suddenly wrote on Messenger: ‘Paola, since you are an expert in Sardinia, could you please recommend a place where I could go next summer? I know, it’s still a long time, but since I will be traveling with my family and other friends, I’d like to plan earlier. Would it be better to rent a boat, or travel around by car? Any places you can recommend?’
I am glad that my passion for Sardinia ‘shines through’, to the point of being considered an ‘expert’ to be consulted well ahead of a trip. I replied to my friend that, not being at all an expert, I needed a few days to gather ideas and get back to her. And I did.