Previous Next

    Walking through the historical truth: a FAI autumn day in Arborea

    “The truth / lies / in nuances”. “A man is always a victim of his own truths. When he has recognized them, he is unable to detach himself”. And again: "Sometimes a man stumbles upon the truth, but in most cases he will get up and continue on his way". Thus begins, with Bukowski, Camus and Churchill, among others, the the FAI (Italian Environmental Fund) Autumn Days in Arborea, dedicated "to the search for historical truth". In front of the town hall, two volunteers alternately read the aphorisms at the last turn of the visitors. Twilight falls and on the edges of the avenues that form the chessboard of the town, founded in 1928 with the name “Mussolinia di Sardegna”, the leaves glide slowly to the ground.

    The first stage is not far away. In front of the bust of the engineer Giulio Dolcetta, Professor Leonardo Mura tells the story of the reclamation, the intuition of the socialist mayor of Terralba and then royal deputy Felice Porcella, the political battles and the collaboration with Dolcetta, engineer of the Sardinian Reclamation Society and demiurge of the mighty project that in the Fascist era transformed the immense wetland into a fertile plain for agriculture and livestock, which would have made Arborea one of the richest and most productive corners of the island. Treating "malaria of the body and spirit": this is the aim of the engineer from Veneto and Porcella, both imbued with late nineteenth-century egalitarianism, the “pietas” aimed at the "miserables" that in the same years inspired the transformation in the engineer Conti Vecchi of a segment of the Molentargius pond in Cagliari in the salt pans that still produce the precious white gold today. However, Sardinians were not suitable for the agricultural conquest, lacking the deep feeling that drives sharecropping enterprise. The interpreters of Dolcetti's good-natured colonialism were the Venetian peasants, who began to arrive in Mussolinia in 1928. Only in 1954, after many political battles, did they manage to become owners, as promised by the engineer.

    In the banner that flies from the facade of the town hall, a balanced eclecticism of neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau, the Savoy coat of arms still stands out. From the balcony prince Umberto II and Adalberto, Duke of Bergamo addressed the tiny population of Mussolinia. In his visits, the Duce preferred the “Casa del Fascio” for his fiery speeches. During the Republican era, Fanfani appeared there, guilty of hesitating on the government passages that had to make the sharecroppers owners, and for this reason he got booed by the public. The Art Nouveau style also characterizes the adjacent director's villa. The FAI day of visits gives us access to the rear garden, a vast space of lush and disordered floral growth dominated by an old and vast camphor tree that projects the new buds beyond the boundary wall.

    The monumental trees also populate the garden of the nearby “Villa Dolcetta”, one of the best-known monuments of the reclamation, another balanced example of eclecticism, with the Renaissance style crossed by the functional elements of the Venetian “barchessa”. On the first floor, the engineer's office remains unchanged: the desk, the photos of the Venetian mountains, the billiard room. In 2018 the building was purchased by the Arborea Cooperative Credit Bank. At the end of the restoration work, small adjustments postponed due to the pandemic, some bank offices should be moved to the third floor. However, the management promised with the declarations issued at the time of purchase, the structure, and especially the garden, will remain usable for the local population. It is impossible to visit the warehouse which houses several vintage motorcycles and a van with a significant “number 7” plate under the portico.

    Waiting for us outside, read again by the volunteers, another story of Arborea. A contemporary one, organic and opposite to that emanating from the villa. It is the memory of Elsa Pinos, a citizen, taken from the “Historical notebooks of Arborea”: “My mother was just 19 and my aunt Regina was three years younger. They changed on the train, my mother in a pink dress, my aunt in a white dress. When the train stops in Marrubiu they expected a nice station and instead they

    look out and see a great desolation. Here they find the company delegates who accompany them in reclamation on an ox cart. Along the way not even a green thread, not even a tree. Of course they were all disappointed. Not only that, our house was not finished yet and neither was the farm: it was all a swamp".

    By now it is night, we pass in front of the MUBA, the reclamation museum, to reach the volunteer who illustrates the history of the old mill and the silos. He has to look for the light of the street lamps to grasp the notes in the notebook. Little distance existed between the two structures. From the twelve silos (crossed by the first freight elevator ever set up in Sardinia) once a belt lead the grain to the mill. The high structure of bricks and rusty iron now remains of the old avant-garde, in all its decadent charm of industrial archeology.

    The last stage is dedicated to the “Casa del Fascio” and the “Casa del Balilla”, the small masterpieces of the architect Giovanni Battista Ceas, called by Piero Casini, the new president of the Sardinian Reclamation Society, to give Arborea the fascist symbolism that Dolcetta had knowingly ignored. A futuristic project, borrowed from New York’s skyscrapers, that of Ceas, who imagined for the two structures of the new civic center of Mussolinia a steel skeleton covered with marble slabs. An example, explains the guide of the FAI, of “cold, cultured Italian rationalism”. Refinement replaces grandiloquence: the Casa del Fascio, with its staggered floors, the balance between empty and full, the tower with a round arch designed to ideally accommodate the tower of San Cristoforo, built in what is now Piazza Roma in Oristano by Mariano II in 1291. Ceas does not want to force onto the space the rigorous imperial lines, but rather to envelop the ancient, letting modern rationalism sublime the local tradition. The same goes for the Casa del Balilla, the place of body culture, inspired by the Roman villa and aligned in the basement with the pre-existing buildings, characterized as the town hall by Renaissance elements. And the internal impluvium, the splendid, vast and diaphanous gym, the roof-top swimming pool outside. A painting by De Chirico, whether it's midday or midnight.

    The impluvium room hosts a naturalist photographic exhibition on the walls, set up with splendid shots by AFNI (Italian Association of Naturalist Photographers) photographers, which portray the rare environmental heritage (especially for what concerns the avifauna) of the wetlands surrounding Arborea, a small part of the paradise preceding the great reclamation operation. Gabriele Pinna, ornithologist of the LIPU (Italian League for Birds Protection) of Oristano, tells it with a touch of nostalgia: "Beyond the road that today separates the Sassu drainage pump and the S'Ena Arrubia pond, there were 150 marshes interspersed with dunes. On the left, up to Terralba and Marrubiu, the Sassu pond, much larger than that of Cabras. The third area was that of the so-called 'Salto di Monte Arci'. Hundreds of volatile, fish and amphibious species. A monumental biodiversity, we are talking about 18,000 hectares. Something not unlike the French Camargue”.

    “We are delighted with the outcome, it is our first event. Our group was born just four weeks ago”, says Bruna Bianchina, head of FAI Oristano. A single day, almost entirely lived outside to comply with pandemic prophylaxis. “You often hear many stereotyped judgments about Arborea: it was built by Mussolini, the reclamation did not have any kind of environmental impact, and so on. This is why our guiding concept was truth. All you have heard is a demonstrable historical fact with documents. The participation was surprising. The seven shifts of fifteen people planned were sold out in one week. We have added two. One hundred and fifty people who I think have had some interesting hours. Above all thanks to our forty volunteers, the backbone of FAI. The next appointment? FAI’s spring days".

    © 2015 Your Company. All Rights Reserved. Designed By JoomShaper