On a sunny and clear day, I am joined in Montresta by Gigi, a Bosano but Sarulese by adoption who I met at the beginning of the trip. Riding the bicycles, we travel the beautiful road that, crossing wild volcanic territories, first climbs up to over 700 meters above sea level, and then winds its way through steep hairpin bends in the midst of rocky peaks. The valley on which Bosa lies slowly appears. The town is hidden by the hills, first of all the one surmounted by the Malaspina Castle. The view extends down to the mouth of the River Temo. We are getting closer. The curtain opens on the town.
Colours, red, yellow, light blue, pink, green, the many shades of the houses of Sa Costa, the historic quarter which gets to the base of the Malaspina Castle, which houses the church of the Madonna di Regnos Altos. Narrow streets that climb in a serpentine way, easy to get lost. The lower floors of the houses of these “high realms”, during the festival of Regnos Altos become very dangerous cellars where I too, at the age of 18, was dragged inside and for this reason my first memories of Bosa are as blurred as the colours of these houses .
The scene now moves to the lower area, the spacious Piazza IV Novembre, the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, all stone paved, with its elegant noble palaces, someone still with the identifying traces left by the Americans during disinfestation with DDT. Elegant cafes, artisan shops, the church of the Rosary, the atelier of the artist Mariano Chelo. The Corso becomes the theater of one of the most characteristic Sardinian carnivals, Su Carrasecare Osincu. At the end of the Corso is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Carmel, with its sober facade and a beautiful dome of colored majolica. And from here in an instant you can exit on the Ponte Vecchio where the only navigable river in Sardinia, the Temo, shows itself in all its majesty.
Bosa Marina. A ride of a few kilometers and I’m back to the sea after more than a month! The sand is dark, volcanic, but clean, and the sea is crystal clear. I take this opportunity to take a swim at the foot of the Aragonese tower. Then I stop in one of the many cafes on the side of the mouth of the River Temo and enjoy an ice cream admiring the view of Sas Covas, the ridge of green rocks on the other side, which, degrading down to the sea, seem like a lunar esplanade. I return to Bosa along the river, passing the river port, skirting reeds, and the curtain on the colorful town topped by the castle reopens.
Evening falls on the narrow streets between the River Temo bank and the Corso, lobster pots hung on the high walls of these tower houses and people outside the doors, gathered for a chat and a drink. One of these doors is the headquarter of the Choir of Bosa, where I was invited to listen to the way of singing “a traggiu”, typical and unique of Bosa. I listen enraptured and memorise this way of singing that I didn’t know yet, between a sip of beer and one of malvasia.
The palm trees along the river were all killed by the awl, highlighting the river even more. Its waters reflect the profile of the colorful ex-tanneries. On the sides of the river boats are parked while a guy slowly paddles upstream, in the direction of the Ponte Vecchio, standing at a table, while we end the evening with an aperitif.
The night has fallen but the energy of this town is still high, with its restaurants scattered through the streets of the historic center and the movement of tanned tourists. In Piazza Costituzione, a recess of the Corso, a band is playing. There is a double bass player. He sees me. He smiles at me. As soon as they finish the song, he comes to me to ask me to play a song. I don’t know the tune but I follow the chords. So here in Bosa I get together with my instrument, which I haven’t played for several months, and its low notes bounce in my head until I lie down in the room of the Muraglia Vecchia.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
The Muraglia Vecchia (Bicycle Guest House) is a beautiful accommodation facility, in an old well-renovated building right in one of the streets behind the River Temo, managed by Alexandro and Paola who offered to host me. In a room on the ground floor Alexandro has a bike repair shop. And the bicycle is the reason why I stumbled upon Alexandro, or rather, the ‘cycling solidarity’ network that created around my project.
Everything started in Cagliari before the departure from the enthusiasm of my friend Simone Scalas and his Mediterras, an agency that organises bike tours of the islands of Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica. Simone gave me an accelerated course on the aspects I needed to take into account on this trip (including how to deal with sheepdogs!) and he provided me with a whole network of contacts that would come in handy during the trip.
The first contact is Sandro from Dolce Vita Biketour, who gave me the most important thing, the bicycle. We met with Sandro and Simone to reason on the route, together with their friend Giovanni (who cycled Cagliari-Olbia in an old Graziella tandem together with three friends, alternating on the bike!) They all provided contacts for different villages of Sardinia, Simone would host me in Sarroch, Giovanni in Calangianus.
The days before departure Simone introduced me to the guys of the Ciclofficina Sella del Diavolo in Cagliari, where for two evenings they give me a free bike repair course, and where the brilliant Cristiano has the idea of mounting a luggage rack in reverse on the existing one to act as bass ukulele support!
Once on the road there were many cyclists who were following me online and joined me in a few stages, not least Gigi who has cycled with me already several times and even today has escorted me to his Bosa. By chance in Zuri I meet three cyclists, including Enrico who asked me “where will you stay in Ghilarza” and on my answer “I don’t know yet” he offers to host me in his b&b.
In Marrubiu I was a guest of Giorgio, one of the creators of MyLand, the grueling endurance test on mountain bikes. He took me to Fabrizio of Biccius Bike, who will give me the first bike setup of the trip for free. And Giorgio would also accompany me on one of the longest stage of the journey, Ussassai–Villagrande Strisaili, 55 kilometers along the foot of the Gennargentu.
I will have the second set-up done in Tortolì, thanks to Maurizio of the “ciclying-friendly” b&b Al Vicoletto who also hosted me. And then again thanks to the contacts of Simone and Sandro in Luogosanto I am a guest of Enrico, one of those four madmen that cycled Cagliari-Olbia on a Graziella tandem, who also refurbished my bike. Enrico puts me in touch with Laura and Nicola, also hardened cyclists, who hosted me in their residence Il Melo in Porto Torres.
And it is Laura who finally puts me in contact with Alexandro here in Bosa, because now the bike needs a new chainrings, sprockets and chain. And after ordering the pieces online and getting them to the Muraglia Vecchia, Alexandro took the whole day to refurbish the bike. Only at the end of the evening does he manage to reach me in the headquarters of the Choir of Bosa together with his daughter, the little Dafne.
Alexandro is one of those who ventured into the MyLand competition, and this morning, before I arrived, he took a bike ride through the hills around Bosa. When we take an aperitif along the Temo at the end of the evening, Alexandro tells me “I had an idea … I would like one day to be able to test your tour of the 377 municipalities with a road bike and try to do it in the shortest possible time”. A crazy idea, which I had already thought of, not to do it myself, but to establish it as a “challenge” … who knows that this will not happen sooner or later with the collaboration of this incredible network of “cycling solidarity”.