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The Palabanda riot: the last act of rebellion against the Savoy

The Palabanda riot was the last act of rebellion undertaken by the people of Cagliari against the Savoy’s government.

Even though locals are used to call it the “Palabanda conspiracy“, history reveals a different scenario: among the population of Cagliari, exhausted by taxes to maintain the splendor of Vittorio Emanuele I’s court (who moved to Sardinia because of the invasion of Piedmont by France) and tired of not having any weight both on political and administrative level, a general intolerance that can no longer be repress, grows up among the entire population.

The discontent is added to the hunger that in 1812, the year of the revolt, cames at its peak: when we hear the expression “famini de s’annu doxi“, we refer to this terrible year. Famine, economic crisis and epidemics contribute to trigger the fuse of what was the last rebellion of Sardinians against the Piedmontese government.

Who are the leaders of the Palabanda riots?

Simple citizens and intellectuals, the leaders of the Palabanda riot are a heterogeneous group of middle-class workers and proud citizens who want to have a voice in the things of their city: Giuseppe Zedda and Stanislao Deplano, university professors, Francesco Garau and Antonio Massa Murroni, lawyers, Salvatore and Giovanni Cadeddu, brothers and city delegates, Luigi Cadeddu, son of Salvatore and doctor in law, Raimondo Sorgia, leather tanner, Ignazio Fanni, fisherman, Pasquale Fanni, silversmith, Giovanni Putzolu, tailor, Giacomo Floris, worker, Antonio Cilloco, soldier.

Each of these men played a role in the revolutionary actions that culminated on 28 April 1794, which for all Sardinians today is Sa die de Sa Sardigna. And everyone is aware of the risk they run, prison or death. But they are brave men who have not been demoralized by the defeat of a few years earlier. They gather in the locality of Palabanda, which currently corresponds to the Botanical Garden. Today, in the enchanted atmosphere of Cagliari’s most beautiful garden, a plaque commemorates the sacrifice of Cagliari’s patriots, who died or were imprisoned for life for having tried to free Sardinia from the Piedmontese rule.

What’s the purpose of the Palabanda riot?

The plan is to eliminate the Piedmontese and finally expel them out of Sardinia. But how? The plan consists in occupying Castello, where the Piedmontese live, in the night between 30 and 31 October, with the complicity of some guards placed in front of the door of Sant’Agostino, which connects the district of Marina to the upper part of the city. Something goes wrong: on the evening of October 30, Giacomo Floris meets a group of soldiers as he heads towards his comrades who are waiting for him at the Marina. Asked about his wandering at night, he answers a few confused words and he’s immediately released, but he suspects the plan has been discovered. And he communicates its fears to the others. Shortly after, the Colonel Villamarina is informed by the taxman’s lawyer Raimondo Garau of the conspiracy.

The riot takes the name of Palabanda’s conspiracy.

Even though the Piedmontese government is safe from the revolutionary plan, a few days later almost every man involved in the Palabanda riot is arrested and sent to prison: those who end up in jail do not reveal the name of the others, even if tortured. Nodody betrays their friends, nobody repents. Three are sentenced to death, four to death in absentia, four to perpetual imprisonment, one to 20 years. The riot takes the name of conspirancy probably to justify such a cruel repression but it’s always been more than a rumor that that embodied the first supporter of the riot in Carlo Felice, brother of the king Vittorio Emanuele I. The reason may be attributed to the rivalry with his brother who, moving to Sardinia, had diminished his power over the island and taken away money and resources to sustain his court, not certainly for Sardinians’ sake.

In the small village of Nuxis, a mural recalls the Palabanda riot

In Nuxis, a small village located in the south of Sardinia, a wall painting by the artist Francesco del Casino recalls the historic events of Salvatore Cadeddu, one of the leaders of the Palabanda riot: after the plan was discovered and his comrades imprisoned, he ran away toward the Sulcis region to escape a death sentence. Host by a local landowner, he was later captured in the village of San Giovanni Suergiu and brought back to Cagliari, where he faced trial for conspiration and hanged.