The third of the Colonel’s Weekend Breaks was to have been held in Alghero, in Sardinia, owing to that destination having been picked out of the hat in Dublin. Little did us known at the time how problematical that would turn out to be! The saga began in February when an ill-advised holiday in Cumbria ended with me finding out that I had inadvertently joined a race against time in which there could be only one winner. Two days later, after a lot of frantic international phone calls (to Steve in Munich, and David and Mike in New Mexico) it was clear what the outcome of the race was: everyone except me had decided to go to Stockholm instead. I didn’t, because by that time I’d already bought three tickets.
It wasn’t exactly a weekend break, either. More of a week break. And I didn’t get to stretch out across three seats because Ryanair don’t have booked seats.
But, what happened? I know that’s what you’re asking…
Arrival. Randomly met a Russian couple from the department at the airport: they’re going to a wedding and having 2 weeks’ holiday whilst at it. Also meet another couple Nick and Jane when Jane asks to get off airport bus in Italian, which was helpful, although she’s actually a medical student; Nick is an electrical engineer. Lose them at the campsite as struggle to put up tent for first time ever, in the shade of a funny-shaped pine tree. The whole site is basically sand, which doesn’t help as the pegs keep falling out. Eventually give up and read instructions, which say you shouldn’t need pegs. Don’t believe that in the slightest. Tent up in the end although there are a couple of dodgy bits. Once just about acceptable pile, stuff in and head for town. Explore awhile, sit on ramparts, eat panini, etc. until run across Nick and Jane again at a central bar. Share a beer finding out what have already mentioned. They go for food whilst I repair to the campsite bar with a book but am horrified to discover it shuts at ten. In the end was too tired or lazy even to eat a meal, so have an early night.
Was pretty windy earlier but by this stage it’s died down, so hopefully the tent won’t blow away with me in it.
Up bright and early at ten, after twelve hours’ sleep: tent is surprisingly comfortable although becomes bastard hot after sun shines on it for ten minutes. Choose vittles for breakfast from campsite shop. Their choice isn’t amazing, so I settle for cheese sandwiches, well, cheese and a loaf of bread which I take alternate bites out of. Also buy some pickled vegetables, no idea why as thay are awful. Decide am ready for a bit of a stroll, so head Northwards along the main road towards where the map says there are NURAGHE MAJORE. Spend whole morning looking for the darn things: not a pebble. End up chased out of posh compound by dogs (more cute than vicious), then head up towards the Necropoli de Anghelu Ruju, which actually exist, as you can tell from the entrance charge. These are much older than any of the nuraghe, loads of underground tomb complex type things. The Necropoli’s big draw is some carved bull heads, which stick out from the wall rather than in, which I guess takes a bit more planning. Find them, but have to crick neck around as they’re on the inside wall. Luckily, the ticket comes with a free postcard of the heads. Result!
After this walk on past the airport towards Fertilia, through a sleepy village called Sa Sagada or somesuch which said it had a bar, but didn’t. According to the map there are more nuraghe (although not majore) by the end of the runway, but couldn’t find them either. No matter, it’s a nice sunny day and I have a mission, which I’ve had since leaving Alghero, which is to collect discarded election flyers. There seems to be a local election going on, you see, and each candidate has decided that the best way to get people to vote for them is to drive round the countryside scattering little bits of card with photos about. So I’ve been grabbing sets of four reasonably-intact ones for a happy game of SARDINIAN LOCAL ELECTION FAMILIES. Which I hope will be fantastic.
It’s 4pm by the time I get to Fertilia, which is entirely dead. It has half of an old bridge, though. Built by Mussolini apparently. Not the bridge, Fertilia. And he didn’t do it himself, obviously.
Return to the campsite along the coast. Nick and Jane are in the bar, having had a hard day beachcombing. They’d eaten in a nearby place last night and were convinced that Gaz Top was sitting at the next table. I was suitably impressed. They’re leaving Alghero tomorrow morning, likely before I wake up.
Before long decide that cannot live on olives and Ichnusa (pretty reasonable Sardinian continental lager) all day and shower in readiness for a BIG NIGHT OUT only not really as being on one’s own in a medieval town with no nightlife to speak of slows the impetus somewhat. Try a little sunbathing, on a huge pile of seaweed, which is actually quite comfortable. The whole bay has these piles of seaweed, and hundreds of really odd furry globes washed up by the tide, which makes finding a place to sunbathe a little more tricky than on some beaches. But it’s character-building and the view across the bay is marvellous.
Finding a restaurant is done using the Snob-O-Meter, which awards points on an arbitrary basis. Instance: La Muraglia, recommended by the Rough Guide, is packed, whilst the restaurant right next door is entirely empty except for the proprietor, who’s sitting out on one of the tables watching the people in la Muraglia with undisguised disgust. Definite minus points on the Snob-O-Meter for both. But the whole town is tourists anyway, either Ryanair types or Italians: apparently Alghero is popular with Italian holidaymakers since it’s overseas, sort of, but still speaks Italian. So I end up in a smaller, but still on the ramparts type restaurant which does nice squid alla myrtle (local) and nearly nice ravioli alla chorizo or similar. Pretty decent, and it’s not too chilly either. By the time I leave it’s far too late for a quick Ichnusa in the campsite so move on to bed. Something less strenuous tomorrow… I wonder who is playing the bongos.
I never found out, I’m afraid. Today after a colazione of salsicchia set off for the train station to find out when you can get to Sassari. After a little confusion (there are three entirely different timetables posted around the station) come to conclusion that there will be one, soon, probably. Waste a bit of time at beach and visiting Silvio Noleggio (not his real name). Will be hiring a bike from him tomorrow I’d guess.
The train leaves almost dead on one of the times, and there ensues a pretty journey involving some real nuraghe which were actually visible, and some cool limestone canyon stylee scenery. For the last few miles two train lines run along the same valley, one up here, and the other down at the bottom. They end up going completely different directions. Try and find Edmond’s dream villa, but there doesn’t seem to be one around.
Sassari is okay, the old town is definitely old, well, more like dilapidated. The duomo is fantastic, though, it’s carved all over with statues in prominent places of the three Sardinian Martyrs, one of whom is the Roman centurion Saint Gavin. Take a picture of Saint Gavin for Gavin from the lab.
Further up past the big square (which hosts a sort of a palio like Siena’s although it’s a lot less interesting) is the museo archeologico, which has a hologram and some modern art. Well, actually, it’s 3,000 year old art but I bet I could smuggle it into the Tate without anyone noticing. Actually, that’s a stupid idea. Forget it. The hologram is of the ziggurat down the road, which is to be my next destination of the day.
Get hold of some ice cream on the way down. A bloke about my age is having problems with his dog, who has decided to lie as if dead in the shade of a palm tree. No shouts will move the thing, and it seems happy to be dragged several feet along the pavement without so much as turning its head. In the end the guy has to pick it up and place it on its feet himself before it’ll go anywhere.
Back down by the station find a bus to Porto Torres and after a stressful episode trying to buy tickets in a smoke-filled petrol-station-cum-bar next door (which come to think of it is a really bad idea in at least two ways) as on my way to the ziggurat. The bus drops me off in the middle of nowhere on a dual carriageway, since they didn’t bother to build a bus stop or a crossing. There is a gap in the crash barriers nearby, though, so I head for that.
Beyond the entrance hut (with bored inhabitant and her little model of the ziggurat in pebbles: these places don’t get an amazing number of visitors) there’s quite a walk to the actual site. Jump at chance to refill water-bottle as it’s pretty hot and I’m worried as to whether I’ll manage to get hold of a bus on the way back. Climb ziggurat and am ready to perform grisly blood sacrifice when am greeted by a man bearing a passing resemblance to Daniel Kitson… ‘Salve’, he says, spoiling the cultural milieu somewhat. It turns out that ‘salve’ is quite a normal greeting amongst Sardinians even today. I guess that’s apt for a bit of Italy in which Roman remains are considered too new to bother mentioning. There aren’t all that many of them, either, mostly underneath the oil refinery at Porto Torres.
The ziggurat is, by the way, pretty cool. It has a nice view of Sassari and Porto Torres (and the oil refinery) from the top, and nobody seems to know why it’s there. It’s much older than the nuraghs, maybe even older than Anghelu Ruju, is completely unique, well, other people thought of ziggurats too but they never came here. Mysterious. And they used it as a gun emplacement in the second world war, but I guess that was a pretty common thing to use places for in the second world war.
The girl in the hut seems quite shocked that I don’t have my own transport back to Sassari. The Latin Daniel Kitson does, but he zooms off before I can try to hitch a lift. So I have to start walking in the vaguely right direction along the dual carriageway. After half an hour have covered a km or two and passed what I could have sworn was a tomb like Anghelu Ruju’s, and it’s not on the map either, so I guess I’ve made a FASCINATING ARCEHEALOLOGICAL DISCOVERY and will be feted at dinners of the royal society of indiana jones. Forget to take a picture in the excitement of spying the hourly bus, in approach. Which doesn’t stop for me, but luckily and inexplicably there is a whole convoy of three buses, the last of which pulls in to let me on. Glad to see the universal law of buses operates in Sardinia too.
Kill an hour or too in Sassari ‘finishing off’ the old town, then start wondering about food. Unfortunately Italy is crap at food. The faine’ place is shut. Two pizzerie are shut. All the restaurants only open between eight and midnight (four hours’ work a day? ptah…) It becomes obvious why there are so many eating places, everyone is completely starving by the time any of them are open. At this time of day (five p.m.) the only thing you can hope to get hold of is a panini, and as a tourist with no real daily routine, that’s a bit of a draw-back. I guess Sassari isn’t so much of a tourist mecca, but Alghero’s the same.
So, one panini later, get the train back to Alghero and search for real food and beer. Find beer: HOORAY FOR OUR SIDE. Ichnusa again. The bottles have the sardinian flag on, which is like the English one but with either bebandanaed pirates or beheadbanded women (you get either, depending on the artist’s fancy) in the corners.
At ten decide must be the optimal time for restaurants to be open. Raffel’s ristorante is shut. As is the faine’ place. And the grill. Bollocks to this, I think in a moment of indiscretion, I shall just finish off my jar of olives and go to bed.
Up bright and early, well, 10 am again actually. Breakfast. Am beginning to establish a rapport despite insurmountable language barrier with the cheese man: unfortunately he’s beginning to realise that my tactic of buying meat and bread separately is making a mockery of his attempts to sell panini, which cost quite a bit more despite having no other ingredients. But for today anyway he lets me off. It’s painful hearing Italians attempt to pronounce this new word ‘euro’ which they’ve ended up lumbered with. There aren’t any diphthongs in Italian, so ‘euro’ is a three syllable word, and an ugly one at that. I’m surprised they stand for it.
Mosey down beach to Silvio Noleggio (not his real name), and negotiate the hire of a bicycle, which turns out to be easy; this done, pedal furiously for about 10 minutes before working out how to use the gears. They’re the same sort as Ewen once had on his bike for about four months before they became too ordinary for the serious mountain bikylist. Am soon zooming past Fertilia and up the pista ciclabile to the nuraghe Palmavera at the top of the hill. It takes me all of my oversugary forest fruit juice just to get up there, but it’s shady, and there are nuraghe. More nuraghe, yes, but these are real ones, unlike the NURAGHE MAJORE which as you may recall didn’t exist and the ones by the train line which were to be fair just big piles of stones. These ones actually look like they were built on purpose. The whole complex is basically a castle, with round towers at the corners just like English ones, only twenty centuries older and lacking roof vaulting (they didn’t know how to do that properly, so they fudged it.)
Some Italian archeaelologists are working on the site—well, actually sunning themselves, but there’s a line drawing and a set square resting against one of the walls so they’ve obviously been doing some work recently. And some yardsticks too, and a battered leather bag. With these things you can do anything!
There’s also a big round hut with seats all around it and in the middle, a little model of the nuraghe themselves. Not made by a bored admissions officer this time, but apparently original, and with a ‘cult purpose’. I don’t know about cult purposes, maybe they just used it for battle re-enactments when bored, or they had one of those pointless board games with rulers and model cannon. I guess we will never know.
Back on the road again, enjoying the ‘down’ side of the hill, and move on towards Capo Caccia. There is (are?) another load of nuraghe here called Sant Imbenin, but thankfully it’s shut. Bit nuraghe’d out, to be honest. End up near the cape at a cafe which tries to be shut too (after all, it is lunchtime) but can at least be persuaded to make a panini for me. Suspiciously, whilst eating the panini and drinking fizzy water and writing this, several groups of tourists turn up and are ushered to the back of the place and given real food. I feel quite the pariah.
Down the road come to a useful point to turn back: the bottom of a massive hill. Here I’m directly above the grotto thing I hope to visit by boat tomorrow. Forget to cycle on right side of road, and have a bit of a hairy moment with a German camper-van, as my natural inclination is to swerve entirely the wrong way. Just about stay on the bike though. Was going to take a different road back but the council have replaced it with a slightly ominous ‘scientific research station’ which is strictly divieto l’ingresso. So have to retrace steps as far as Porto Conte and its tower (a concrete lump), where to save trawling up the big hill past the nuraghe again I try a long cut through a village called Maristella, which is mostly only half built. Road turns into a track quite soon, but am not disheartened by the prospect of some impromptu mountain biking. In fact, although the track deteriorates quite rapidly it’s all downhill so freewheel a mile or so in careless manner. Have so much fun that it never occurs to me that the track might just stop.
Track stops, depositing me at the sea. There’s a car, though I’ve no idea how it managed to get here, and there’s nobody around. Search for tyre tracks, end up pushing bike along a path that may well be a figment of my imagination, but at least goes toward a house on a hill I saw earlier from a distance. In the end reach an enclosing wall and after a bit of deliberation decide that it probably goes all the way to the sea, so I should follow it upwards. Sure enough soon come across the entrance to the place, with a real gravel track leading to it from somewhere: the diving school at Capo Gallura. Feel saved, am soon whizzing down the track past the beach (and ‘on duty’ policemen) at Lazzaretto. It’s surprisingly crowded, but then I guess not everyone went the same way to get to it that I did. The water looks lovely, at any rate, and there’s a great view back towards Alghero. Return home via a posh beach resort (whom I beg for mineral water having not thought of leaving any after lunch) and Fertilia, which owing to it being later in the day than it was on Tuesday has risen from ‘tumbleweed’ to ‘only deathly quiet’. Even the supermarket is open, I discover after a close examination.
Line up a couple of Ichnusas back at the campsite so I can get on with postcard writing. Average two cards per beer but then the bottles are massive. Ichnusa, although local, isn’t the discerning Alghero drunkard’s tipple of choice; judging by the empty bottles in the giardini pubblici, that honour falls to Dreher, a nasty pseudo-German Italian lager which is all over the place. After cards wobble into town for a pizza. Raffel’s is still shut, so I may have missed my chance to meet Gaz Top. Knackered anyway. Bed.
Am woken up again by the horrible synthesized tune on bells which presumably comes from some modern church nearby, or worse is piped round the whole town at 7am, 8am, noon, and 8pm every day. I’d write down the tune but tbh cannot be bothered; it’s not so bad really but comes off a lot worse for being played on the ‘Church Bells 11’ patch of a battered old Roland. It’s very like a holiday camp wake-up call, only one where you have to go to church. Still it does the job, and am soon in hilarious and stilted conversation with the bread and cheese man, who has finally figured out my DIY panino scam. Also get rather more gorgonzola than was expecting, but get through it in the end with the help of ‘gassosa’ which I’d hoped was fizzy water but turned out to be lemonade.
Walk into town after returning bike to Silvio Noleggio (not his real name) who was initially shut, but turned up after 20 minutes or so. Didn’t check the bike for punctures, luckily considering yesterday’s sharp rock related excitement. Feel far too lethargic today to go on a long walk so potter around Alghero’s old town for the rest of the morning. Visit shitty ‘virtual Alghero’ museum which consists mainly of a computer with a touch screen and reams and reams of dull text. On the plus side there’s a half decent model of the town circa 1856, and okayish views from the roof: the museum is built in one of the towers from the old city walls, but it’s not actually higher than the surrounding buildings unfortunately. Try and find out where the airport bus leaves from from the tourist office, but the man—although he speaks good English—will say nothing more than ‘You can’t miss it’. Take matters into own hands and find a place by police station which advertises the bus. It’s miles, but better if it’s actually going to work.
Take in a pizza for lunch (at pizzeria number 2; the first one I found was of course shut for lunch) which I eat rather messily on account of they didn’t cut it into slices for me and I don’t have any cutlery. Then waste time in a selection of bars until three, which is when the boat to the GROTTE DE NETTUNO leaves, with me on it. We’re motoring along pretty happily, and the captain has only tried to sing once, when for some reason in Italian we have to turn around and go back to the harbour. It turns out a big load of French tourists had missed the boat and (presumably) couldn’t be fit onto the next one. So back we went, mostly quite amused at the new lot’s expense truth be told. But soon on our way again.
Pass all the places I’d cycled to on the way to Capo de Caccia, named apparently because the whole area was the King of Savoy’s private hunting reserve in the days when they were Top Guys around here—wouldn’t have thought was a brilliant hunting ground though as it is mostly cliffs. Maybe that’s why they got rid of it. Round the cape and the grotto is right there with allegedly 654 steps from the clifftop down to it. We’re all let off the boat to explore the cave, which turns out to involve buying another ticket for rather more than it turned out to be worth. I mean, as caves go this one was reasonably good, with all the standard cave features and some stalactites that had got confused and curled about in all directions (including upwards) but at the same time, it was still just a cave, and I got a teensy bit disgruntled. The English speakers were herded round in a separate group from the rest, but our guide didn’t have the microphone for the PA system which meant she had to time her explanations to fit in between the other guy’s multilingual rambles about whatever we hadn’t seen yet.
Back on the boat, we went round the cliffs a bit, and into some roughly boat sized caves. One has a big hole in the other side not quite reaching the water level, so we couldn’t sail through, instead settling for filling the place with petrol fumes and scaring the gulls with some hideous piped opera. There was a rock formation in the shape of Dante (Alighieri, not the one from ‘Clerks’): the captain reckoned it was actually his own face, but he looked more like Jack Nicholson imnsho. Returned to port in time to… well, not really in time to do anything, but before sunset. Back to campsite to freshen up with the aid of hot running water and cold running Ichnusa, which is becoming quite a routine now. Meet a guy making printed cork scrolls, well, sticking bits of wood onto either end of a pre-printed cork scroll. Converse haltingly since know very little Italian, and his own seems to have a load of Spanish mixed in with it, which doesn’t help me since I get them mixed up at the best of times. He looks quite a lot like Pema Norbu (one of the monks at Nechung) only not bald, nor a monk. I guess that explains the not bald bit too, come to think of it. He’s hoping to sell his stuff through some sort of selling-stuff agency. Trouble is, apparently loads of South Americans come over for the three weeks of high season and price him out of the market. How they make enough to make it worthwhile to fly all the way here, he doesn’t explain.
After he (I’m afraid I didn’t get his name) slopes off, have one last try at the faine’ place. It’s open, unusually, but all I can say is that faine’ proves that even the heirs to one of the finest culinary legacies anywhere can still make mistakes occasionally. Faine’ turns out to be undifferentiated chickpea stodge. On the plus side it’s lead-stomach filling and ludicrously cheap. It’s a local speciality, and part of Sardinia’s rich heritage, and maybe it goes well with anchovies (as they sold it in Sassari), but I doubt it somehow. More interestingly, as am buying the stuff hear the horrid canned music again. Aha, it must be 8pm. Ask the proprietor whether it’s a church. He says yes, the one attached to the nearby hospital. It’s very loud, I say. (Or I think I say). He opines that somebody should destroy it with a bazooka. I don’t know the Italian for ‘destroy’, or for ‘bazooka’, but I was given a tip-off by his enthusiastic hand gestures.
Spend the rest of the evening eating small chunks of faine’ whenever I don’t feel queasy just looking at the stuff, and generally chilling. Shall explore valleys to the south of Alghero tomorrow. They look fun on the map.
Breakfast as normal. The bloke has now well and truly cottoned on, and as a result I get rather less salami than I would have asked for had I been given the chance to ask for a quantity of salami. Make some attempt at tidying the tent pre-big pack, then set off for town. Discover that, it being Sunday, the bus to my planned walking point isn’t running, so devise an alternative route via the Santuario de Valverde, a monastery I assume. This bus doesn’t leave until 12:55 so spend morning perfecting my sunburn and reading book in various choice locations. Soon the time comes round to hang around the park looking suspicious. The ticket office is handily positioned behind a fence so have to walk all the way round. E’ cara la vita, as Pema said. I am the only person on the bus to Villanova Monteleone, and the driver is quite surprised (and maybe a little bit concerned) at my chosen drop-off point—a deserted concrete hut at the top of a series of hairpins, announcing itself with needless ostentation as CANTONIERA SCALA PICCADA. It is very, very, quiet. But the view from up here across the bay is tremendous.
Turn back on view and walk down into the next valley, with the plan to find the path marked on the map over the side and towards the monastery. The fact that so far in my experience of this map not one marked path has turned out to exist disturbs me not a jot, in fact am in good spirits as jauntily let self through iron gate marked DIVIETO DI CACCIA, which although it doesn’t mean ‘no entry’ does mean ‘no hunting’, and I probably should have thought that the things not being hunted would probably be being kept in, so they didn’t escape and get hunted…
A few hundred yards on a turnoff looks like it could be the marked path—which is all as well since a rather more locked-looking gate bars the main track. The one I choose leads past a spring (tempting already, as have forgotten once more to bring any water, with potentially fatal consequences) and over a hill to a deserted-looking farm, and stops. Which isn’t quite what the map says.
Hunt for paths leading from farm, and find two at the top end, one leading back the way I came and the other (roughly) the way I want to go. Neither goes anywhere near where the map says, but I decide to try anyway. It’s a good path, but it winds a lot, and before long and past some coes it’s curved round the side of the ‘divieto di caccia’ fence. I’ve reached the cliff edge again, and the views all the way from Capo Caccia to Alghero, Olmedo, Asinara and Sassari are marvellous, but it becomes clear that the path has no intention of negotiating the cliff. Certainly not going anywhere near the Santuario, which is sparkling in a tempting whitewashed sort of way in the valley below. Decide to give up and make way along the cliff edge myself in hope of picking up a better path. And there is one, snaking through the undergrowth and occasionally dividing and reforming like the other one did. Surprise a bull at one point, but it’s too hot for him to bother standing up. And to dismay the path stops dead close to the far side of the ‘divieto di caccia’ fence, with no way through the spiny bushes covering the cliff.
At this point it finally dawns on me that these paths were made by cows, for cows, who don’t like spiny bushes, and have no interest whatever in forcing their way through them to get to the monastery, not when there is grass growing right here. No, I’ve been taken in by the cows, and not one of these paths has been actually real at all. The only choice I have left is to retrace my steps all the way back (three miles or so) to where I’d left the bus, and then walk down the main road back to Alghero, hoping I don’t end up with sun-stroke. My consolation as I negotiate the hairpins is the cool ‘airplane approach’ type situation wrt the view, only of course I’m 200 times slower and my arms are on fire. Although sometimes planes catch fire too. But they don’t have arms, they have wings, although the wings are filled with fuel so that would be the most obvious bit to catch fire and given the similarity between arms and wings in that things with wings tend to have wings through having turned their arms into wings I guess the whole arm wing on fire thing wasn’t a good distinction to make.
Of course I don’t die from dehydration, nor sunstroke. Counting down the mileposts is quite therapeutic, and it’s nice just walking even if I’d have preferred Sardinia to be equipped with real paths. At one point on the hairpins I find a sort of a cave, man-made, which could either be a sentry post or a hermitage—it’s full of empty bottles now, so perhaps a place of pilgrimage for the broken. And the entry to Alghero past the posh villas is guarded by two large concrete pill-boxes, WWII era, although still have no idea what Sardinia’s role in WWII was. Probably important, actually, since it’s in quite an important position, but have never heard of any of it, and I have more important water-related thoughts to be thinking right now.
Trudge increasingly desperately towards the centre of town. Alghero is definitively shut. Every shop is shuttered… except one, which to my unallayed delight sells small bottles of mineral water, in return for a lorry load of which I shower the bemused pizzerianista with silver. Excitingly, I’m not going to die today.
The next hour or so is mostly taken up with drinking, unusually all non-alcoholic. Should really be going slowly in case am actually dehydrated, but seem to be okay for the moment. Once feel remotely human sit by the back door of the church waiting for the end of the service. You see, today is the Solemnita’ del Corpus Domini, and you know what that means: a PROCESSIONE EUCHARISTICA, or in layman’s terms, a game of ‘Hunt the Bishop’. In which one tries to keep ahead of His Grace, and have photographic evidence to prove it. There he is, walking down the Via Santa Barbara with his cross and tall green flag, followed by other flag bearers. All the flags have icon type statues on top, somebody I can’t tell from this distance, probably Mary; occasionally first floor window people lean out to get blessed by the statue, but the flag people have to get going, and getting the flags under the overhead cables is a bit of a business, so Mary gets quite a ride. Oh, he’s turned into the Via Cavour. Quick, head them off at the pass. Via Doria. Via Lazzaretto. Oh, no, he’s taking the Via Don Derona. The cunning fiend. Lazzaretto. Doria. Umberto. Here he comes… Right through the Piazza del Teatro. Picture. Gotcha! But no rest now, he’s moving down the Via Umberto. Duck down Arduino—but it’s blocked. The bishop must be planning on the Via Gilbert Ferret. Arduino. Have lost ground, must hurry. Should have bought a travelcard. Via del Teatro. Down the hill. There he is again crossing the Plaza Maggiore. Dogleg past the friary into the Via Ambosio Maduin/Carrer de San Francesc. Via Barcelonetta. An unnamed alley debauches onto grassy Vicolo Buragna. Wait: the flags are there, passing through an archway. Lope up Buragna to the tower, got him again! He’s really angry now, coming straight for me (shoot him! not yet—I want to study his habits) Am safe on the pavement along the Carrer de las Arioles, but stupidly allow him to pass me. Without warning he and his procession duck into the Via Roma, cutting off my escape route. I am completely hemmed in and can do nothing but wait for the whole procession to pass, pilot’s club, scouts, monks, nuns, varied burghers and all. Only after the reliquary passes under its canopy can I hope to join the hangers-on and try and make up the deficit. Here we go, last chance: Via Roma. Barcelonetta (the other end). Straight run through the archway of the Vicolo Adami. Making up good ground here. People line the Via Roma at the next piazza, passing the ‘Teddy Beddy’ shop. Break into a fast limp as the procession turns right, forcing me into a long detour via Carlo Alberto, Teatro (uphill this time), right into Maiorca, past the Muntada del Campanil with Arte Sarda sign—the reliquary is just turning the corner. Can I make it? On down to the junction of Carre’ Rosari with the Piazza Duomo. Nuns passing. I look left—there’s the bishop, just entering the cathedral. He’s escaped.
Well, I got him twice.
Return to back of the duomo—people have already started singing the last psalm—then rest, as am exhausted, back in the Piazza del Teatro with cub scouts taking their leave of each other noisily.
After that excitement the evening meal passes pretty quietly. Still need lots of liquid. And my choice of dinner has just about trebled the number of beings that had to die to make my holiday possible: clams mussels and squid-ink spaghetti. Still it must be dull being a clam, so better luck next time.
This is the last time I’ll have to sleep in my increasingly sandy sleeping bag. Consider whether to walk to the airport tomorrow.