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    The Mistral and the lavender: in Riola Sardo the magic of Elvio

    "The sea is only three kilometers away, and the mistral wind blows in all that the plants need, it brings the sea" explains Elvio Sulas, sitting on a wooden chair in the shade of an olive tree. A few steps away is the guest house, an open construction of stones and wood covered in ivy where visitors find shelter from the heat wave, drink a glass of wine, wait to taste the watermelons floating in the ancient stone basin. While speaking Elvio constantly observes the hive of the collection: the friends who with the little scythe strip off the lavender tufts, the poses of the tourists on the traditional well, immersed in the iridescent tones of the violet. Children and damsels competing for another shot in the seesaw hanging from the big olive tree, in the shadow of which the bundles of lavender lie.

    The feast leans on a delicate moment of harvest. In two hours at the most Elvio will load the crop on the van so that the fresh flowers can be processed immediately in the Silanus distillation plant. The flowers are pressed into a steel container. The steam at ninety degrees impregnates with lavender, it flows cooling down to another container, where it separates in oil and hydrolate, perfumed water that will become a refreshing tonic. The oil is poured into small 10 ml bottles, or preserved so that another company can turn it into soap. The dried flowers are used instead for linen bags that will be stashed in the closets to chase away the moths, according to ancient usage. The product, entirely organic, lives thanks to an ancient blessing:

    "In the 1960s we cultivated the Cappelli wheat. This land gave us 45 quintals per hectare, an exceptional yield if we consider that 28 quintals, in what was the ancient Roman barn of the Sinis peninsula, already constituted a lucky harvest”, says Elvio. For four days, from Saturday 6 to Tuesday 9 July, Mr. Sulis's lavender fields are open to everyone. On the road to Riola Sardo, volunteers in bibs manage cars in the parking lots, point further on to a large entrance gate. Visitors come and go, sometimes they go back to the field for a last photograph, to dive again into the penetrating scent of lavender. During the year, daily care takes place in silence. "I have to see the plants every day, look after them, protect them from weeds. The relationship with man is fundamental for their growth”. The newborns are just one month old, the most mature fifteen years. They could live for another ten.

    The harvest is marketing and collective ritual, a chorus of men and women that comes from memory and tries to reclaim the future. "Sometimes they tell me I'm crazy. But I have been proposing this community a festival based on tradition for fifteen years now. Looks like it's working" smiles Elvio. Friends and colleagues are bent over the rows, between one cut and another talking to each other, talking to tourists. Mr. Tullio, eighty years full of strength, string a new bundle with a lace, agrees to photographs, carefully follows the work of his nephew Alessandro, eight years old and at his second harvest: "I like to cut it, I like the smell" says the boy, serious and essential. "Sardinia is not just the emerald sea. I came with my family from S. Teresa di Gallura, quite far away, to see the tombs of the Giants and the lavender of Elvio, the only one on the island", explains Anna from Mantova. "How not to be fascinated by so much beauty? For me it's the third year, now I'm part of the family" says Valeria Cau, a young painter sitting under a parasol at the edge of the field, a makeshift studio where the impressions are born, then spread on the grass for sale .

    At the entrance of the camp, friends and colleagues of Elvio tie a string around small bunches of lavender. On the counter the oil can be found along with biscuits, soaps, perfumed water, jam and the spindles intertwined by Antonella, satin ribbons, lavender flowers and leaves intertwined to be placed between the sheets in the cabinets, as in the old times. "Fifteen years ago, when we started, everything was coarser" she recounts. "Today French, Russians and Dutch on holiday come from all corners of the island to participate in the harvest, to see and take part to dream of Elvio".

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