Sardinia’s soul is certainly made of stone if every island has a soul. A local artist named Pinuccio Sciola, whose sound sculptures carved into limestone and basalt monoliths have travelled the world from the small town of San Sperate in the south of the island, once said that Sardinia is the most beautiful sculpture in the Mediterranean. Those who can resist the songs of the mermaids, will find themselves on a journey of discovery beyond the Costa Smeralda into the surprising Sardinian hinterland.
The Nuragic people: mysterious ancestors
It is above all the many testimonies of megalithic cultures that can be seen almost everywhere on the island that have given Sardinia the nickname of the «Stonehenge of the Mediterranean». Among other sites, the tomb of the giants of Coddu Vecchiu in the hinterland of Gallura, the menhirs of Pranu Mutteddu in the shepherd’s village of Goni, the dolmen of Sa Covaccada in the countryside of Mores, the Domus de Janas of Sedini in the area around the city of Sassari, the sacred well of Santa Cristina in the province of Oristano and then the important archeological complexes such as Su Nuraxi near Barumini (Unesco World Heritage Site) and the Nuraghe Arrubiu in Orroli reveal the secrets of a thousand-year-old culture of the Nuragic people. The most intricate, perhaps, concerns the twenty-eight 1:1 scale male statues depicting boxers, archers and warriors unearthed in the necropolis of Mont’e Prama, not far from the Cabras pond. Are they dead, ancestors or heroes of the Nuragic Iron Age (circa 930-730 BC). It’s just one of many mysteries.
An inspiring landscape
Trek through deep gorges, such as Su Gorropu, one of Europe’s deepest canyons, and discover imposing rock formations such as Perda Lianai, an unexpected limestone-dolomite mountain, away from the Dolomites. A river such as the Cedrino is perfect for paddling, as well as inspiring writers such as Nobel laureate Grazia Deledda and Sergio Bonelli, who wrote the famous Italian comic Tex Willer.
Masks, singers and murals
A number of charming villages with authentic character can be found between Ogliastra and Barbagia. These include Orgosolo, which is adorned with political murals, Mamoiada, which is famous for its frightening carnival masks, and Bitti, which has a unique tradition of male choral singing, or Canto a Tenore. Ulassai is the birthplace of the great land artist Maria Lai, and Baunei is a small village on top of Supramonte, an ancient mountain range that looks out like a balcony onto one of the most crystal-clear stretches of sea in Sardinia (and beyond).
Mines and tunnels
With the blessing of the patron saint of miners, Santa Barbara, then, one need only travel a few kilometres from the beaches of the island’s south-western coastline to immerse in some of the most representative sites of the Sardinian mining epic. Above the town of Buggerru, with an electric train on the outward journey and on foot on the return, one can travel through the Henry Tunnel, a spectacular labyrinth of tunnels excavated along the rocky coastline of the Iglesiente region that crosses the limestone plateau of Planu Sartu for about a kilometre. There are many mines in the Sulcis region, and generally in the whole of Sardinia: among those accessible to the public, the mining site of Serbariu has been recovered and restructured to house the Museo del Carbone: here, you can visit the lamp room, the underground gallery and the winch room. The most photographed corner is always the sheet with the signatures of the miners who worked there until the mine closed in 1964.
Nuoro, a city of art and culture
Finally, Nuoro is undoubtedly the capital city of the Sardinian hinterland. It is no coincidence that the town is also known as the «Athens of Sardinia» because it is here that the intellect of the island with its stone soul has always resided. Three locations above all to fill your eyes with culture and beauty: the art museum MAN, the Spazio Ilisso and just half an hour’s drive away from Nuoro, the Museo Nivola in Orani is worth a diversion to admire the contemporary sculptural works of artist Costantino Nivola.
Agriturismo Su Recreu, one of the best agriturismo on the island located in Ittiri, a true oasis of peace in the midst of nature that offers local cuisine with a creative twist. Website
Trattoria Sarda Armidda, the temple of award winning star chef Roberto Serra in Abbasanta is a true and authentic Sardinian trattoria devoted to the finest palates. Website
Su Gologone Experience Hotel, the art hotel immersed in the mountains of Oliena conceived by the creativity of the eclectic artist Giovanna Palimodde surrounded by greenery and immersed in the song of cicadas. Website
Hotel Le Dune Piscinas, if you cannot resist the Mermaid song then book a night in this hotel very close to the mine village of Guspini, a former carbon depot has become a charming hotel with high dunes in the back and the waves in front. Website