Barbagia is the perfect option to fully understand this region
I have just come back from an amazing long week end in Barbagia, in north of Sardinia, and I fall in love with it.
This region is truthful, rich in traditions and proud of them. Its nature is strong and complicated and offers unique emotions. Experiencing the ancestral tradition, traditional dishes and local wine and spirits is something one shouldn’t miss.
In these past four days I experienced so much and felt so overwhelmed that I have to write it down for other people to enjoy it in the future and for greater clarity, let’s do it point by point 😉
- I went there by boat, boarding on the ‘Shardan’ ferry of Tirrenia in Genoa in the early evening to arrive in Porto Torres early the following morning. The ferry is actually like a small cruise boat, with large comfortable cabins, well furnished bar, self service, cinema, shops and an excellent restaurant ‘à la carte’ where I dined also on my way back. A journey within the journey. You can also board the car, but I didn’t have one and I read at the front desk that for a small extra they have special pets-friendly cabins. For further information, visit their official website).
- My visit of Barbagia started from the beginning with its ancient story at the archeological site of Romanzesu, not far from Bitti. This park is open all year long and a guide lets its visitors discover the importance and peculiarity of the Nuragic culture. I knew so little and was really impressed by their huts, the so called nuraghe, temples and technological skills. Before leaving the site I bought a book to get to know this culture better!
- For Sardinia modern history and art, I suggest that you visit Nuoro. Although it’s only a small size town of 27,000 citizens, its culture and arty-craft tradition is very special and widespread and its museums quite important. The most famous one is the MAM, Museum of Modern Art, hosting international expositions, but I visited the Tribu Museum, a tiny wonderfully administrated gem. In addition to the regular exhibitions (I visited one on Sardinian painter Giuseppe Biasi), they host a permanent one on sculptor Francesco Ciusa and it really deserves a visit. The museum shop is also very interesting and tempting. For further information on Nuoro’s sites and museums, you can visit the official website.
- On my second day I dived into the region ancestral traditions thanks to the event ‘Autumn in Barbagia – Open Courtyards’ and especially I dived into those of Mamoiada, a tiny village not far from Nuoro where the Carnival celebrations mark the time throughout the year and characterize the village, its traditions and rituals. It’s an archaic carnival starting officially in mid January, but being prepared and thought about all year long. During my visit I had the opportunity to attend the kids clothing ceremony right before their loud parade through the streets of the village dressed as mamuthones and issohadores. What can I say, that really moved me and I will surely be back for the Carnival official festival in a few months! To fully understand this tradition, I suggest that you also visit the Mediterranean Mask Museum and the handmade masks shop on the main street. Hard not to buy one, or more… The village surroundings are worth a visit too: the Cosma and Damiano Shrine and the Boeli stele tell the story of the people living here and make it easier to understand them.
- For a complete experience in Barbagia, a visit to the Donnortei Park in Fonni is a must-do. Daniele, the owner of this rural lodge is also the soul of the natural park, a wild forest and genuine oasis in the middle of endless mountains and valleys. He guided me during a short walk in the forest and I almost cried meeting deers and mouflons families and listening to the tragic story of this area. Another place I absolutely have to come back to for a longer stay! Maybe in March.
- Leaving the Donnortei Park, I was lucky enough to have an arranged ‘lunch with the shepherd’ in Supramonte. It’s an easy, delicious, bucolic lunch one can’t miss. Never-ending wooden benches in the shade of huge trees, genuine home-made cheeses, cold cuts, roasted pork and goat, traditional cookies and litres of local red wine and spirit. Simply yummy and ending with a musical surprise 😉 For further information, visit the official website.
- Last stage of my week-end could only be Orgosolo. This small perched village was long famous for its bandits and for its sad story of abductions, but nowadays its main attraction are its walls covered with murals. Walking around its streets is like reading a recent chronicle: politics, scandals, capitalism, racism, wisdom, wars, protests… noting is missing. The walls of Orgosolo tell a story and it’s worth listening to it.
Some practical information
Where to sleep
- Hotel Brancamaria**** in Cala Gonone
- Agriturismo Donnortei in Fonni
Where to eat
- Mediterranean Masks Museum in Mamoiada
- Tribu Museum in Nuoro
P.S. Among the Sardinian sayings that I learned during the week end, my favorite one is ‘Drink Cannonau and live long’ and so I did it! Just in case, you know. I had a wonderful wine tasting in Mamoiada, at the Sedilesu Cellar, accompanied by excellent local dry bread, cheese and cold cuts. The bottle tunnel in the basement is also something quite special to see. Salude! (i.e. cheers)