Tag Archives: Nuraghe

Cagliari

Cagliari was to have been a simple stop over on our way further around the coast before we set off for Salerno from a place called Arbatrax, half way up the east coast of Sardinia; however, a forecast of poor weather meant we stayed in Cagliari for 6 days before we could get a couple of clear days to head across to the mainland.

The city, Sardinia’s capital, is spread around the commercial port and pretty much conformed to my impression of Port cities. The old of town is built on a large hill and the castle walls were built to reinforce that hill, in places they are quite massive. Within the walls the town is a maze of narrow streets between tall buildings and much of the place seems to be rather shabby.

The most impressive buildings were the Bastione Saint Remy, the Cathedral di Santa Maria and the Palazzo Régio.

Bastione Saint Remy

The Bastione was a 19th century addition to the original 14th century walls and is described as a monumental staircase; an accurate description. It links the Constitution Square with the top of the ramparts. Happily there is a lift close by as the entire Bastione was closed for repairs.

Cathedral of Santa Maria

The Cathedral was started in the 13th century by the Pisans but was subject to the influences of the Aragonese, Spanish and the Genoans. It is suitably impressive.

Palazzo Regio

The Palazzo Regio is alongside the Cathedral and was originally built in the 14th century to house the Spanish Viceroy. Much of what is now evident dates from the 18th Century remodelling. During the Napoleonic Wars it was home to the Italian Royal family in exile from Turin. It is now the seat of the city government.

Councis Chamber in the Palazzo Regio

There is also a museum in the old town which houses the archaeological finds from the Bronze and Iron Ages in Sardinia, giving context to all the massive Nuraghe we’d visited on the island. That for me was about the best bit of the day, because otherwise we were pretty underwhelmed, even a little disappointed!

All the while we were in Cagliari we saw flights of flamingos which Valeria tried to photograph without much success, so on our last day we decided to go and visit them at the salt flats a few kilometres from the marina. The weather was overcast and the old salt pans were a bit dreary but the flamingos and other birds made up for it.

And that was Cagliari. My highlight was the museum, and Valeria’s was the flamingos!

Barumini and Nuraghe Losa

Nuraghe are everywhere in Sardinia and the fact they are still standing is amazing; being built without mortar they are basically massive stone cairns.

The earliest are just that with perhaps a corridor inside them but they developed into these enormous complex castle-like structures with massive rooms and stairways within the walls and flat roofs supporting corbels.  They are amazing things to see and intriguing because no one knows exactly what they were for and as they left no written records there is no way to know!

Su Nuraxi (Barumini)

This is the largest and best excavated of the Nuraghe sites. Built between  the 17th  and 13th century BC it had three central rooms on top of each other and was originally about 19 metres tall.   Even now it is quite staggering.

Nuraghe Barumini

The central ‘keep’ was surrounded by 4 smaller towers which enclosed a courtyard with a well.  There was another wall outside that with 7 towers on it.

Looking down into the courtyard
Looking up from the well

The well courtyard was a regular feature of the ‘keeps’  in the Nuraghe.

The ground floor room of the Nuraghe.

Outside the ‘keep’  was an extensive town of some 100 round houses although later square ones were apparently attribbed to the Romans.

Some of the buildings outside the fort  appeared to have water basins surrounded by seats in proximity to an oven or furnace.  The theory is they were some form of sauna.

The towers was topped off with corbels, supported by the weight of stones placed on top of them, again, no mortar.

Nuraghe Losa

The Nuraghe Losa site is larger in extent than Barumini but less well excavated and is surrounded by a wall enclosing an area of about 3.5 hectares.   From the outside the Nuraghe appears to be one large triangular tower, but is in fact a central tower with three smaller ones included in the main structure.  Within the walls are a system of stairs and corridors linking the various elements of the tower with just the weight of the stones keeping it all together.

Nuraghe Losa
One corner of the tower
Apex of the conical ceiling in the centre of the tower

Of everything we’ve seen in Sardinia so far I think these Nuraghe are the most impressive.   They were built at the same period in history as the New Kingdom in Egypt but apparently in complete isolation, there being nothing else like them outside Sardinia.  They are intriguing and quite enigmatic, more so as there is no way to understand why they were built. Well worth seeing.

Oristano

For the rest of our week ashore in Sardinia we went to stay in Oristano, a town on the west side of the island.

Nuoro is halfway between Olbia and Oristano and I’d hoped to visit a Nuraghe close by the town but every road to the site was closed.   Instead we found a Jamie Oliver recommended restaurant, Dulcinea Nuoro, for lunch!  He raved about their Culurgiones, a pasta shell containing mashed potato, mint and pecorino.  They were very nice!  The restaurant is small but quirky and the food was good.  They even have a book about the place!

Church of Santa Giusta, Oristano

We didn’t spend much time in Oristano itself, only the evenings for dinner really.   It was very quiet and like much of the island it seems to be waiting for the tourist season to start.   The town traces its origins back to the Byzantine Empire and being set back from the coast was easier to defend than Tharros from Saracen raids.    It was the capital of one of the Sardinian kingdoms during the middle ages although little of the old town remains other than a couple of medieval fortifications and a host of churches!

We stayed in a pleasant B&B called Sa Domu e Crakeras, a sort of renovated farm house I think.  It is run by a retired English teacher called Salvatore who was a mine of useful information about the area.  Not only did he give excellent tourist information but he also recommended one of the best restaurants we have eaten in.

The Trattoria Portixedda was so good we ended up eating there on 3 of our 4 nights in Oristano.   The place is run by a great guy called Roberto.  There is no menu because they cook what is fresh in that day.   Roberto just offers you meat or fish and asks whether you want a starter.   It doesn’t matter what you order as the food is delicious, the portions are generous to say the least and the prices varied between 20 and 25 Euros each.   Subsequently we found it is the top restaurant in Oristano on Trip Advisor, and well deserved too!   With the B&B only costing 40 euros it would be worth staying over night just to eat there!

Statuei of Eleanor D’ Arborea in front of the Palazzo degli Scolopi
Church of San Francisco
St Christopher’s Tower, Oristano

Our explorations during our three days in Oristano can be divided into two types of rock pile; Roman and Nuragic, and I found the latter far more interesting.  These ancient buildings are found no where else, whereas the Romans got everywhere!

A weekend in Olbia

With Windependent out of the water we are spending the week seeing a bit of Sardinia.  We are staying in Olbia until Monday when we will visit the boat yard to ensure the work is progressing as planned.  On Monday afternoon we will drive to Oristano, half way down the west coast of Sardinia, and stay there till Friday morning when we’ll drive back to Olbia and relaunch Windependent.

We began our exploration on Saturday driving to Arzachena, a town about 30km north of Olbia which is surrounded by a series of Bronze age ruins built by Sardinia’s indigenous Nuragic civilisation.

The ruins are referred to as ‘Nuraghe’ and the island has thousands of them, 6500 have been identified although many have been destroyed and the stones reused elsewhere.  The Nuraghe are massive dry-stone wall fortresses, fortified towns and simple towers built from 1700BC onwards, until the Nuragic culture seems to have died out in the 5th century AD.   Apparently this style of building is unique to Sardinia.    Alongside the Nuraghe are ‘Giant’s Tombs’ and temples but little is known about the Nuragic culture as they had no written language.

Tomba Moru

The first site we found was a small tomb close to the Visitor’s Centre. These tombs go by the general description of ‘Giant’s Tombs’ and are stone built corridor graves, originally built simply from massive stone slabs and covered with earth to make burial mounds.  They had large carved ‘stele’ at the entrance with a small ‘door way’ at the base, apparently a door to the underworld. On each side of the stele low walls mark out a semi-circular area used for funeral rites.

The most inaccessible site was the Malchittu temple.   It was a 2 km walk up into the hills which was pleasant enough until it started to rain just as we got to the temple.  Luckily there was little to see so we turned almost straight round and came back!

Tempietto Malchittu

We even had a guide on the way back down in the form of a small, rather wet, dog who took us the last kilometre from a farm on the temple path, back to the car park and then across the road to the Nuraghe Albucciu. This was a massively constructed tower with a couple of small rooms inside and a stairway up to the flat roof terrace. The terrace apparently supported wooden buildings and further defenses.

Nuraghe Albucciu

We had lunch in Arzachena hoping for the rain to stop, which it didn’t, and so set off for the other two sites with umbrellas at the ready.  We’d bought our tickets for €22 and weren’t going to waste them!

Nuraghi La Prisgiona

Next stop was the Nuraghe la Prisgiona.  The  biggest ruin was the Keep of a fortress built to defend a large village.  These towers were circular and the central room was conical in shape as each layer of stones slightly over hung the one below until there was just a small hole left at the top.  This central space was generally divided into up to three wooden floors accessible by ladders or stone stairs. The top of the tower was finished off with a flat terrace supporting more defenses. This tower had two smaller ones alongside it and a curtain wall enclosing some of the round stone houses.  Outside the fortress there are the remains of possibly 100 other circular stone walled huts which would have had  conical wooden and thatch roofs. Apparently these were ‘plastered’ internally in mud and they used cork bark for insulation.

Artist’s impression of Nuraghe la Prisgione
Tomba dei Giganti Coddu ‘Ecchjiu

The last site, close by Nuraghe la Prisgiona was another of the ‘Giant’s Tombs’.    The Tomba dei Giganti Coddu ‘Ecchjiu, was far grander and much more complete than the Tomba Moru and the massive carved stele covering the entrance was very impressive.  The graves are believed to have simply held the bodies of the deceased without any grave goods buried with them and they were likely just piled one on top of the other. The little ‘door to the underworld’ was only about 12 inches high.

Tomba dei Giganti Coddu ‘Ecchjiu from the rear.

Although these Nuraghe are really impressive there are more extensive sites in the centre of the island which we hope to visit from Oristano.

That evening, on our return from Arzachena, we met up with Derek and Claire from Red Rooster and a Dutch couple, Mark and Rosita,  for dinner at a bar known as Mario’s.  It is Mark’s ‘local’ and was a lively place once dinner was over and the wine began to flow! It was a very enjoyable evening and we plan to meet up with Claire and Del next Friday when we are back afloat.

Sunday was a very lazy day. We went for a walk around town in the afternoon and found the place vying with Mucugê in the “Quietest Town” league!