Sardinia is an island of secrets and quiet beauty, the most precious delights of which are likely to be tucked away from tour bus routes. Driving into the island’s hinterland on a warm May day, Monsieur and I rounded a bend on a country highway to discover one such unexpected treasure: the painted village of Tinnura.
Tinnura’s church lies behind these painted walls,
the priest and members of his congregation immortalised for all to see.
I wondered who this chap with traditional flat cap was:
What tales would he tell us in his mountain dialect?
Are these flowers of gratitude for an answered prayer? Or perhaps this member of Tinnura’s faithful has volunteered her flower arranging skills to the parish.
Even the pedestrian crossing adds colour to this quiet little town, made all the more quiet by the heat of mid-afternoon. Apart from the rare few souls we spotted venturing beyond the shade of their shuttered interiors into the cauldron-like streets, the only population we saw in Tinnura were painted into its walls.
The painter’s brush does not limit its work to celebrating the townsfolk of Tinnura alone; their animals also feature. Here a pair of horses ready themselves for a trot out of their frame and onto the street.
On the side of a house a short walk from the main street, we see the ominous masked faces of players in an ancient Sardinian rite that some say dates back to prehistory. The matador-like man or isohadore looks all set to lasso a friend or woman in the invisible carnival crowd, taking his chosen one prisoner with a rope of plaited reeds. Meanwhile, the mamuthones in hook-nosed masks and shaggy sheepskin cloaks, are the fruit of a union between fire and moon, bearing the weight of cumbersome cow bells on their backs.
No masked beings from the underworld here, though. Life goes on in these walls, simple, daily life. These women are practising the art of basket weaving.
And this trio kneads, shapes and bakes loaves of bread to feed the Tinnurese – an apt scene for Tinnura’s Bread Street or Via del Pane.
But in Tinnura it’s not a case of all work and no play makes Giovanni a dull boy. Oh, no, the Tinnurese tap their feet to the songs of their friend, the accordion player, as one wicked reveller stumbles off with the wine.
This man plays the pipe, not just one but three at at a time.
Here we see that even the painted ladies of Tinnura have shadows.
Behind these folk busying themselves with the day’s chores, an ancient nuraghe sits on a hillside.
If you’re peckish, why not visit Tinnura’s baker? Rest assured, his loaves are never stale.
From this angle, the Wine Thief looks set to trip over the curb, spilling his liquid loot all over unlucky passers by..
This pair of monochrome images look like photos from an agricultural history book. See how they tilled the land?
With a living population of 268, Tinnura’s numbers are swelled by its painted people. Monsieur and I were only there for a fraction of an hour, yet this Sardinian surprise will stay in my visual archive for ever.