Cristina Marras
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The smell of naptha

2ND PLACE AT THE UK INTERNATIONAL AUDIO DRAMA FEST'S AUDIENCE AWARD 2022

A smell that all of a sudden takes you to a different time. Has it ever happened to you? It happens to me every time that I smell naphtha, motor oil. Memories have a subtle way to overcome you with unexpected glimpses of past times.


Sardinian landscape with goats in backgroundIt’s me and my namesake friend, also Cristina Marras, we are meeting at dawn to go on a four-day hike along the Mining Trail of St Barbara, a 500 Ks itinerary across the Sulcis mining area of Sardinia, gruelling isolated goat trails swept by the ubiquitous mistral wind, but also breath-taking glimpses of views and beaches with water so crystalline that it always reminds me of stained-glass windows in churches.

But before being able to start our hike, we must receive the Pilgrims’ credentials that will grant us welcome and hospitality in the various destinations along the journey. Being this a trail dedicated to a saint, it is only logical that it should start from a church.

cloistered nun stamping pilgrim's pass while 2 women are smiling

A cloistered nun stamps our pilgrims' credentials at the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Good Path


This is mining land, you can tell by the chunks of mountains, by the mounds of stone debris piled up. Leftovers of a great future that never was. You see how sad and beautiful is the land. And the name feels like a lolly in your mouth: Monteponi.

a group of workers in overalls and singlest, dustyIn another one, he is kneeling on the ground, at the front of a dozen or so of other workers, dusty, so much dust that I can smell it across the half a century that divides me from the time when the photo was taken.

When we finally enter Pozzo Sella, the smell of naphtha is so overwhelming that I can almost see my dad in his work overalls, or with a dusty singlet. But he is not here, of course (and barium, bentonite, barite)... how and why did I learn how to pronounce these words as a small child, listening to my father’s phantasmagorical adventures?

If you happen to visit Sardinia, go for a walk along the Mining Trail of St Barbara, give yourself enough time to listen to the wind and don't forget to whisper something to the goats (they expect it even if they pretend not to).

And of course, you can always talk to me.



18/01/2022
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