Ancient Sardinia Tour
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Here we are again, from Sardinia's wildest area, the province of Nuoro. In the last few days we have visited some breathtaking sites. In particular we enjoyed very much the area of Paulilatino in the western side of the island and the area around Dorgali, on the eastern coast. They are both a kind of concentrate of true Sardinia and a summary of ancient Sardinian sites. In both little towns you can find old men riding their donkeys and old women still dressed in black, the best of Sardinian crafts (ceramics, tapestry, leather goods, jewellery, etc.) and food (wine, cheese, sweets...).

Cucuruzzu fortified settlementLet's start with Paulilatino: in the tiny and lovely local museum you can re-discover old traditions, where friendly Franco tells you almost everything about the Sardinian way of life, everyday tools, costumes, artistic breads prepared for special occasions (weddings, Easter, etc.). Near Paulilatino are also two very interesting (and difficult to reach) giant's tombs: Goronna, one of the longest found in Sardinia, and Mura Cuata still having its roof intact. But the most striking ancient monument is probably the Santa Cristina holy well. Inscribed in a temple, it is still perfect, simple and complex at the same time, reminding one of the creations of M.C.Escher. This was a powerful holy site for rituals connected with water and probably an astronomical observatory too (the light of both the Sun and the Moon in particular days goes down the well and hits the water spring). An enigmatic and fascinating site indeed!

San Pietro in ZuriThe following day was the day of the "peculiar" sites: a couple of nuraghi submerged by the waters of lago Omodeo, the biggest artificial lake in Italy; the Romanesque church of San Pietro in Zuri, with its curious carvings; the giant's tombs of Imbertighe with a 4 m tall and well carved stelae and the tomb of Santu Bainzu where you can find a cupmark carved above the small entrance hole (for offerings?); the "domus de janas" (in Sardinia "houses of the fairies/witches") Sas Concas, prenuragic tombs decorated with strange upside down human silhouttes.We also found a more "traditional" monument, Sarbogadas, a perfect small dolmen with a thick capstone.

Then we drove to Nuoro, one of Sardinia's four main cities (along with Cagliari, Sassari and Oristano). "A nest of crows" according to Salvatore Satta, one of the best writers of Nuoro (along with Grazia Deledda, Nobel prize for Literature back in 1926). Nowadays, Nuoro is undoubtedly a little livelier: last Sunday the city centre was closed to cars and several amusing activities were organized for children and grown ups. And we visited the very interesting Museum of the folklore and popular traditions of Sardinia: a beautiful collection of over 7,000 items of Sardinian domestic and work life. Colourful clothes, interesting jewellery and amulets, musical instruments and the terrifying costumes (the Mamuthones and Boes and Merdules) still used during Carnival at Mamoiada and Ottana villages.

Boeli decorated stoneWe spent the following night in a nice little hotel among the wild mountains around Nuoro and the following sunny morning we explored the two beautiful giant's tombs of Madau and Bidistili. Then we drove to Mamoiada village, to have a look at a recently discovered stone slab, covered with beautiful decorations and ring-and-cup markings similar to some we saw in Scotland. The stone stands in a private garden, but the extremely friendly owners let us in and also offered us a glass of local wine (the strong Cannonau) and a cup of coffee. In the evening we could also manage to visit Su Tempiesu, an incredibly well preserved holy well dated to the second millennium BC.

Tiscali settlementWe spent the following two days in the Dorgali area. Dorgali is a very nice small town, not far from the wonderful beaches of Cala Gonone, set among impressive mountains with endless tracks and itineraries for any taste: geology, nature, speleology (in the Ispinigoli cave you can find a 38 m high stalagmite) and, of course, archaeology.
Choosing pleasant and short walks, you can visit the impressive giant's tombs Sa Ena 'e Thomes, the vast nuragic village of Serra Orrios and the lovely dolmen Motorra. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more serious walk, you can face the uphill climb to the secluded nuragic village of Tiscali. This name is well known in Italy because it was chosen by one the biggest ISP (Internet Service Providers), Tiscalinet, based in Sardinia.
Tiscali is an extraordinary site of over 60 huts, most of them now ruined, probably built in late nuragic times to escape the Roman domination. The village is built inside a cone-shaped dolina formed when the top of mount Tiscali collapsed. It is astonishing that the site was inhabited for several periods of time, taking into account the absence of water springs nearby (water had to be collected from rainfall and from the walls of the dolina) and the impossibility to cultivate and to breed cattle there.
On the site we met Giampaolo, who gave us a lot of info on Tiscali, telling historical facts in a very fascinating way. He is the president of Ghivìne, the co-operative that manages the site, keeping it open and clean all year round.

GiampaoloWe must say something about these groups of young people working in Sardinia. They are making a brilliant job, often working in places where public services are not able or can't operate. Tiscali is the right example: it is an ancient site difficult to reach by "normal" people as we are (there are Ghivìne co-op "supermen" who can reach it in half an hour walk, that is almost four times faster than we did) but it needs to be protected and surveyed. In 1995 the people of Ghivìne completed in three months the transportation (uphill on their shoulders) of 350 wooden posts to build a fence around the site and they brought back downhill hundreds of litter bags accumulated for years and years of "wild" visits to the site. And now the Ghivìne men and women watch over the site everyday. And they organize brilliant archaeo, speleo and nature excursions around the Dorgali area. So, a personal, enthusiastic, huge THANK YOU to Giampaolo, Giampiero, Anna of Ghivìne, but also to Franca and the girls of Thellus in Sassari, to very helpful Franco of Archeotour in Paulilatino, and to the co-ops Sos Nurattolos in Alà dei Sardi, La Pintadera in Torralba, Silt in Alghero, LARCo in Orune, Isteali in Bitti. Thanks to these people, the Sardinian heritage is now preserved.

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