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Sa die de sa Sardigna: Sardinian people’s day

Sa die de sa Sardigna is the day of Sardinian pride, of social redemption and of the expulsion of the Piedmontese: a day of awakening from the Savoy domination that still remains imprinted in the hearts and memories of all Sardinian people.

The feast, established in 1993 with the Regional Law n.44 of 14 September 1993, is also called “Day of the Sardinian people” or “Sa die de s’acciappa

Sa die de sa Sardigna celebrates the expulsion from Cagliari of the Piedmontese viceroy Vincenzo Balbiano and of the Savoy officials following the uprising of the Sardinian Vespers on 28 April 1794.

The historical scenario: Sardinia as a Savoy colony

The Piedmontese administration of Sardinia began between 1718 and 1720, when Vittorio Amedeo II, Duke of Savoy, received the Kingdom of Sardinia in exchange for the Kingdom of Sicily. The intolerance towards the treatment reserved to the Sardinians by the Piedmontese who, by royal order, excluded the people from any participation in political life and administrative activities generated such discontent among the population to spread throughout the island revolutionary feelings. The concomitance with the French revolutionary events contributed to ignite the souls of a people already too oppressed, but what made the Sardinians aware of the situation no longer acceptable in which they lived was reinforced by the effective resistance opposed to the young Napoleon Buonaparte when, in 1793, he attacked Sardinia along two lines, the coast of Cagliari and the archipelago of La Maddalena. Sardinians disrupted the French conquest plan and in return asked what they were legitimately entitled to : the possibility of taking up public office, the creation of a Council of State in Cagliari and the establishment of a Ministry for Sardinian Affairs in Turin. It was the refusal of the king, through the viceroy Balbiano, to trigger the revolutionary uprisings.

The insurrection and the expulsion of the Piedmontese

The days of the Revolution in Sassari, North Sardinia

The arrest of Vincenzo Cabras and Efisio Siotto Pintor, at the head of the protests, triggered what we remember as “sa die de s’acciappa“, that is the day of the capture: 514 Piedmontese officials, together with the viceroy Vincenzo Balbiano were raked by the Cagliaritans, tired in the offices, in the house, on the streets and taken to the port of Cagliari, to be then boarded. The strategemma for recognizing the Piedmontese was simple and worthy of the wit of the Cagliaritans: only an autochthonous, would have been able to pronounce correctly the word “cixiri” (chickpeas), without stumbling. “Nara cixiri” ( literally: “tell cheackpeas“) was the provocation addressed to the foreigner, incapable of understanding as much as of answering.

Giovanni Maria Angioy: from alternos to revolutionary

Encouraged by the example of Cagliari, the population of Bono, Sassari and Alghero rose up against the Piedmontese administrative offices scattered throughout Sardinia: to quell the protest Giovanny Maria Angioy, magistrate at the Royal Audience was sent as “alternos“, or “acting as a viceroy”. Crssing the island to get to the Northern cities, he became more aware of the reasons of the people and the legitimacy of their claims: he met people oppressed by abuse and treated as a colony, without rights, and without a voice. Starting from Cagliari as a representative of the Government, he transformed himself into a supporter of the oppressed and a revolutionary leader. On his head was placed a size of 3000 Sardinian liras.

Strongly supported by the population, Giovanni Maria Angioy marched on Cagliari, where he hoped to be able to count on the participation of the city to reclaim the end of the oppression and claim a new administrative and political autonomy for Sardinia. But his race ended in Oristano, where he escaped capture by the Savoy government. At first, he took refuge in Santu Lussurgiu, a small village close by then thanks to the intervention of the knights of Scano Montiferro, who disguised him and escorted him to Porto Torres, he managed to escape capture and reach Turin. In reality, he did not arrive in Turin, as he intended, and had to flee to France, where he died.

The Sardinian revolution failed, leaving the island under the domination of the House of Savoy. But that day, that April 28th, remains for all Sardinians a symbol of pride, unity, and awakening.