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                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

©  Jeff Matthews

High Noon in San Salvatore di Sinis

As I walked out in Salvatore di Sinis,
as I walked out in di Sinis one day,
I spied an ol' cowpoke all dressed in white linen,
'cuz he'd jus' been shot all to hell in one of the Spaghetti Westerns
they used to make here.

I know the rhyme needs a bit of work, but, indeed, in the 1960s, the tiny town of San Salvatore di Sinis, on the west coast of Sardinia, near Oristano on the Gulf of Otranto, was the "on location" setting for many a so-called "Spaghetti Western," (also known as "Italo-Western".) Most of the films were made in the 1960s and were often Italian-Spanish co-productions. They were generally shot in Andalusia in Spain, in the Abruzzi region in Italy, or in Sardinia; parts of Spain and Sardinia are geographically strikingly reminiscent of the US Southwest. Although most Spaghetti Westerns have become deservedly obscure, some have not. For example, Quentin Tarantino called Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly —a 1966 film with Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee van Cleef— "the best-directed film of all time." Other well-known actors who worked in the genre at various stages in their careers were Charles Bronson, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Jack Palance, Rod Steiger and Orson Welles.

The main square (the only square!) in the town (photo, above) seems ready-made for the part. The rows of pale, one-storey buildings (called cumbessìas) look as if they should have some mighty mean hombres loitering out in front; as a matter of fact, the movie "saloon" was even open for tourists until some ornery varmints set fire to it recently. In any event, the town, itself, is ancient and the structures serve to house religious pilgrims who frequent the area in late August and early September on the occasion of the festival honoring the local saint. Most of the year, the premises are vacant. There is a local church, and there are paleo-Christian artifacts going back to the fourth century
AD. As well, there are hypogaea (underground chambers) with pre-Christian depictions of Venus, Mars, Hercules, and Eros. That is not surprising, given the location of S. Salvatore di Sinis; it is on the Sinis peninsula near the gulf of Oristano and the Roman settlement at Tharros.

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