Barumini - Su Nuraxi - Nuraghe, Exterior View | Photo by Ghiani Francis
Barumini - Tower, View from Inner Courtyard | Foundation for the Barumini Culture System
Barumini - Su Nuraxi - The Nuragic Village | Photo by Photo Archive of the Province of Medio Campidano
Barumini - Su Nuraxi - Aerial Panoramic View| Photo by Photographic Archive of the Province of Medio Campidano
Barumini - Su Nuraxi - Aerial Panoramic View of Nuraghe and of the Hut Village | Photo by Gianni Alvito
Barumini - Su Nuraxi - Panoramic View, Las Plassas Castle | Photo by the Photographic Archive of the Province of Medio Campidano
Barumini - Su Nuraxi - Crenellation, Barbican Tower | Foundation Barumini Culture System
Barumini - Su Nuraxi - The Hut Village and the M Tower of the Barbican | Foundation for the Barumini Culture System
Barumini - Su Nuraxi - UNESCO Recognition | Foundation for the Barumini Culture System
Sardinia and its wild nature, large stone monuments and nuraghi (tower-fortresses) away from crowded beaches is a charming and mysterious place to visit. This trip (200 km) from Cagliari to Nuoro is to discover the evidence of a millennial civilization and the traditions and customs of this marvellous people. Not very much is known of the ancient Nuragic civilization, except that it was a people of shepherds and farmers grouped into small communities who lived in Sardinia for 8 centuries. It built these extraordinary structures (there are about 700 throughout the island) whose use is still not known: Perhaps defensive fortresses or palaces or temples. In any event, a nuraghe represented the centre of the social life of these tribes that left us other megalithic buildings such as necropolises, tombs and places of worship.
The starting point is Cagliari, the regional capital and main Sardinian harbour where visitors should visit the National Museum of Archaeology, which is the most important one in the world in terms of the Nuragic civilization.
Another stop is the Roman amphitheatre and the upper city in the old Castello district, where a Spanish influence is still quite visible. Lastly, take a look at the Romanesque cathedral, which was restored in Baroque and Neo-Romanesque style, and the St. Remy bastion, which provides an excellent panoramic viewpoint.
Take the trunk road from Cagliari that crosses the Campidano plain, where the ruins of nuraghi appear, including the quite visible one of Sa Uga.
The second leg in this trip is Barumini, the location of the extraordinary complex of Su Nuraxi (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is dominated by a majestic nuraghe surrounded by a large village that was inhabited from 1600 BC to the 3rd century AD.
Four lateral towers joined by a wall surround the main nuraghe, which is 15 metres high. Both floors are intact inside the nuraghe, where there is also a semi-circular courtyard and a well (20 m deep). The huts are also quite visible and are generally round.
Continuing north, a stop should be made on the Giara plateau to admire the horses that live in the wild.
The third destination is Isili, a small town overlooking the Sarcidano Valley and destination for free climbers and rowers.
There are several nuraghi in the area, including Is Paras, whose beautiful façade is the highest in Sardinia (almost 12 metres). There are also domus de janas here (house of fairies or of witches), which are Neolithic tombs dug out of the rock and simulating the inside of houses. There are also several examples of domus de janas in Goni and Pimentel.
After a stop in Nurallao, which is the location of the megalithic tomb of Aiodda, the journey continues towards Laconi, the town of the menhirs, that is monoliths of various sizes, at times finely engraved, and many of which are in the Civic Museum of Archaeology. The ruins of a medieval castle surrounded by a regional park and several nuraghi are also worth visiting here.
Aritzo is situated on the lower slopes of the Gennargentu Mountain, which is home to the mouflon and golden eagle. It is characterized by houses with stone façades and large wooden balconies.
Heading north, 3 other stops should be made: Fonni, the highest town in Sardinia at 1,000 m asl, Gavoi and beautiful Gusana Lake and Ollolai, in the area of San Basilio, where there are ancient burials that were obtained by using dry stone walls to enclose the clefts created by nature.
Make a detour to Sedilo before reaching Nuoro. It is the location of tombe dei giganti (a type of gallery grave) and a Nuragic palace. This is also where there is one of the largest hypogeum necropolises in Sardinia - the domus de janas of Iloi with 34 tombs uncovered to date.
Then we reach our final destination: Nuoro, the capital of Barbagia and of the culture of the people of the mountains. Birthplace of Nobel prize winner Grazia Deledda (whose home-museum can also be toured), there is also the Museo della Vita e delle Tradizioni Popolari Sarde in Nuoro.
In addition to touring numerous nuraghi ruins and taking a stroll in the parks of the Gennargentu area along a pretty scenic road surrounded by granite rock and springs, visitors can go to the top of Mount Ortobene, where there is a large statue of Christ the Redeemer Blessing. This charming image of Nuoro ends our trip in Sardinia and our tour of its nuraghi.
What to purchase
All Sardinian crafts can be purchased in Cagliari. Isili is home to hand-woven carpets, bedspreads and knapsacks. Visitors in Nuoro can buy unique jewellery, including magnificent filigree pieces, wooden masks, carpets, tapestries, and handmade pillows and curtains. Wooden engraved chests can be bought in Aritzo, and braided asphodel baskets can be purchased in Ollolai. Marvellous pottery is available throughout Sardinia.
Gastronomic products to purchase or taste: Bread, extra virgin olive oil, ravioli and dumplings, honey, spit-roasted meat (above all suckling pig, followed by lamb and goat) scented with aromatic herbs, cheese (pecorino, ricotta and caciocavallo), cured meats (sausage, ham and bacon) and sweets, which are often filled with fresh cheese or walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and raisins. Quality Sardinian wines: Cannonau, Nuragus, Monica, Mandrolisai and Girò. Excellent dessert wines: Malvasia, Moscato and Nasco.
During the carnival period, Barbagia dresses up in terrifying masks: Simply go to Mamoiada, Orgosolo, Ottana or Fonni, as masked groups accompany the fantoccio rag doll and king of the carnival. Every year on Easter Monday, the Festival of Torrone (nougat) takes place in Tonara, where wine, sweets and unique food can also be tasted. Sant’Efisio (patron saint who freed the regional capital from the plague and from invasion by pirates) is celebrated in Cagliari on May 1st with decorated ox-drawn carts and harnessed horses. Celebrations are held 8 km from Gavoi on the last Sunday in July, in honour of the sanctuary of the Madonna d’Itria, and include Arab-Sardinian horse races and folkloristic events.
The last week in August is the Festival of the Redeemer in Nuoro. The most charming moment is the procession with over 3,000 costumes, performances and dances. It’s an excellent summary of Sardinian culture.