The Province of Ogliastra is located in east-central Sardinia, facing eastward on the Tyrrhenian Sea, and bordering in the northwest with the Province of Nuoro, and in the southwest with the Province of Cagliari. Ogliastra was established as a province following a 2001 regional law that provided for a new division of the Sardinian territory, bringing the number of provinces from four to eight.
The Province covers 716 square miles (or 6.2% of Sardinian territory) and holds 23 municipalities, including Lanusei and Tortolì; the two Lakes Flumendosa and part of the Gennargentu Massif are also partly within the province's territory.
The name apparently derives from the Olivastri (oleasters, or wild olive trees) that abound here, although others ascribe its origin to the huge monolith known as Agugliastra (or Pedra Longa) on the coast of Baunei.
Ogliastra is the least populated province of Italy: for this reason, it offers nature untamed and a great variety of wonderful landscapes, ranging from the coast to hills and the Gennargentu mountains.
Eighteenth- and 19th-century works fill the heart of Tortolì, specifically Palazzo Vescovile and the Baroque Cathedral of Sant’Andrea. Also interesting is the “Su Logu de S’Iscultura” Museum of Contemporary Art, with pieces by Italian and international artists exhibited outdoors and integrated with the urban and natural surroundings.
In Lanusei - stretching along the ridge of a hill overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea - mention-worthy are the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maddalena, dating back to the early 20th-Century; the Church of San Giovanni Bosco; and the Ogliastra Diocesan Museum, exhibiting Medieval liturgical objects and written documents, along with some archaeological finds.
In the hills west of Lanusei is the Seleni Municipal Park, a lush forest of holm oak trees, as well as a rich fauna consisting of wild boars, foxes, buzzards and other birds of prey.
Seui is an old mining village tied to the exploitation of anthracite deposits. The old colliery, located just under two miles from the village, is still visible and is an interesting example of industrial archaeology. But the real beauty of Seui is its old town, where 19th-century buildings stand alongside numerous examples of local architecture in stone. Among the monuments in Seui: Casa Farci, the Spanish Baronial Prison, the Galleria Civica, Casa Caredda Loy, and the Churches of San Giovanni and Santa Maria Maddalena. A short distance from the town are the Is Janas caves, also known as "caves of the fairies" due to the presence of three large stalagmites that, according to legend, are three petrified fairies. The caves are open to the public for guided tours.
As for the Province of Ogliastra, one cannot omit the mention of the beautiful coastline, nestled between sea and rock. To the north are coves accessible only by boat or on foot, like Cala Luna, Cala Sisine, Cala Mariolu and Cala Goloritzé. Further south we find wonderful beaches in Tancau, Orrì, Cea, Marina di Barisardo and Cardedu, Coccorrocci and the Gulf of Sarrala.
Numerous archaeological sites (over 200) dating back to pre-Nuragic and Nuragic Civiliations fill the Province of Ogliastra: menhirs (monoliths and megaliths), Domus de Is Janas (tombs carved into the rock), Nuraghi (stone towers), the Tombs of the Giants (funerary monuments consisting of collective tombs), and sacred wells.
The variety of landscapes and nature that has largely been left untouched make the Province of Ogliastra an ideal place for excursions on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. It is possible to walk from the mountains to the sea, following the course of subterranean rivers between centuries-old woods, wildflowers and wildlife, and reaching coves of incredible beauty.
Particularly interesting from this point of view is the territory of Baunei, with its karst valleys and the Golgo Plateau that bears the deepest gorge in Europe, Su Sterru. In the Province of Ogliastra visitors can also board the characteristic "green train," a service sponsored by Sardinia's Railway. The train takes tourists right through the heart of the island to visit some of its most beautiful places, often inaccessible and so hidden that one can only reach them on foot, and with great difficulty.
Speaking of "original" means of transport, one can also organize four-wheel excursions along routes that vary in length and difficulty, whether through forests, canyons, streams and valleys, and in pristine habitats hosting many animal species such as eagles and mouflons.
Ready for some speleology? See the spectacular caves of Grotta del Fico, Grotta Su Marmuri and Grotta Su Meraculu. Or go free climbing among the pinnacles and cliffs that emerge breathtakingly from the sea. Water lovers can enjoy excursions by motorboat or rubber dinghy, or undertake some scuba-diving!
The cuisine of the Province of Ogliastra has strong Mediterranean flavors, not particularly elaborate, but genuine and tasty. Traditional gastronomy is based on products that come directly from the territory: typical appetizers are ham from Talana, Villagrande or Urzulei, but also sausage and bacon.
Cheese here equals classic pecorino or su casu axedu, a fresh cheese with an acidic taste made from sheep or goat milk. All this is accompanied by a variety of bread, including pistoccu, made of semolina and flour, and su modditzosu, a very soft and sweet bread prepared with durum wheat semolina, fresh ricotta cheese or mashed potatoes.
Among the first courses: culurgiones, (ravioli with ricotta and pecorino) and malloreddus (Sardinian dumplings), usually prepared with pork sausage. Among the main courses, one can enjoy roast suckling pig, roast lamb, goat or sheep.
Many desserts, including pabassinas and amaretti (sweets made with almonds, raisins and vino cotto), gattou (a crunchy sweet made with almonds and caramel sauce) and pardulas (made with cream cheese and flavored with grated orange or lemon).
Finally, the wine: the most popular is undoubtedly the red Cannonau, the most representative DOC wine of the island, renowned and marketed throughout the world.