As I often say, Sardinia is not just about the sea and the beaches. There are three hundred and seventy-seven towns and villages on my island. Senorbi’ is one of them. This is not a touristy place, but it’s the town where I was born and raised, the place I loved and hated, especially during my teenage years. It’s the place where I go back every year, a couple of times a year, because my family lives there still and because we are bounded no matter what, for good or for worse, till death do us apart. I went to school here, built friendships, fell in love for the first time and felt the bitter taste of the first defeats. There’s a memory in each street and each is linked to name, a face, a fragrance, a flavor, a pain or a joy. There was the dairy shop once, where my mother used to send me to buy the freshly squeezed milk. It was still warm and I loved the creamy taste that I used to drink some of it on the way home. And I loved walking by Mr. Collu’s bakery first thing in the morning. The fragrance of warm bread is one of strongest memories I have; the ricotta bread and the “gerda” bread (made with pork’s greaves) were amongst my favorites. Further down the street there was the poultry shop with the smell of roasted chicken that made my mouth watery, and next to it there was Marcellino’s small fruits and vegetables store (“Marcellino” is how the people of my town used to call the owner, whose real name was Marcello). Down the street from my house there’s the train station, our childhood playground. I can still smell the tar on the rails and I can hear the train stopping by to let the straphangers in and out.
(Panoramic from Chiesa di Santa Mariedda)
And then there was uncle Eugenio, the butcher, our next-door neighbor. His son Fernando and I grew up together and we were inseparable, playing in his backyard where his parents raised the chickens, in the stables with the cows and even in the slaughterhouse pretending to be Tarzan and Jane (but we mostly looked like Cheetah, the chimpanzee) hanging and swinging from the chain and the hooks as if they were lianas in the jungle. I still remember that day we wanted to play Indians and cowboys and stole some of the branches from the woodshed to make smoke signal. Our little game almost turned into tragedy and the memory of the zirogna (whip made with the nerves of horses’ penis) on our buttocks is still very much alive in my mind. Uncle Eugenio and aunt Maria kept a collection of them and used them accordingly, based on the gravity of the misdemeanor: the more serious the crime, the thinner the zirogna would be and the bigger the pain. To add insult to injury, as soon as I got home, my mother felt in need to punish me as well! Those days there wasn’t a child abuse service center and I didn’t know yet about the rule of Double Jeopardy, that says one cannot be convicted twice for the same crime! I don’t think my mother would have cared anyway about an American law and that’s when I think I started to love the States (I’m kidding mom, you know I love you to death!
(Spring in Trexenta)
In Senorbi’, just like any other town in Sardinia, people are mostly recognizable by their nicknames instead of their real last name. I still remember the face and the voice of Tziu Mariu Craccadicoa (Uncle Mario crush-his-tail, do we really need to talk about this??), who used to collect the town garbage on Thursdays and be the town crier on Saturdays. I wish I were able to put into writing the sound of his trumpet! He used to stand at the corner of the streets and started to yell his announcements in Sardinian: “We want to inform…(pause) …the entire population…. (pause) ….that in the main square…..etc. etc. etc.…. In other words, he was the one appointed to keep the town informed with all the news of what was going on, weather it was the school’s opening, the weekly market or any other thing he thought was vital to know.
These are just very few memories of my town. We do not have any beaches to be proud of, nor we have any famous monuments to visit. Our stories are just like the ones of any other town around Sardinia: each village with its own peculiarities, its people, its habits and its traditions. Maybe you won’t find it in the Lonely Planet guide or in a article on the National Geographic issue, but it’s the place where I gladly go back to, because it has been, it is and always be, home to me.
PS: Happy birthday Margherita, the most beautiful flower in my life. This story is for you! I love you mom!!