Sardinia IV – Roads to Ruins

26 – 30 September 2017  

We drove inland from Torre Grande through hills and villages, some with colourful murals denoting rural life.

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We saw what we thought was our destination, a rather dramatic ruin on a conical hill :

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but wrong as usual. We drove backwards and forwards looking for signs then finally found the village of Barumini, turned left and a mile up the hill we saw what appeared to be a squat mass of stones. Su Nuraxi di Barumina.

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This is by the far the biggest and best Nuragic archaelogical site in Sardinia, and therefore in the world, making it a UNESCO World Heritage site. What looked interesting from the outside was really impressive inside, particularly given that the highest part is only two-thirds it’s original height. Established in the 17th century BC it makes Stonehenge look young and rather simple.

The heart of the site,  the oldest part, is a central tower next to a well which was later surrounded by 4-foot thick walls with 4 towers, one at each compass point and only one way in and out. Later a another defensive wall with 7 towers was added. Guess they didn’t trust their neighbours. The towers were originally an impressive 3-stories high although the top storey has now been lost. Huge stones were used and the building techniques are very advanced – no mortar but the load distribution was so good the lower parts have survived nearly 20 millennia and all done using pulleys, ramps and ingenuity.

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There is a commanding view of the local area and in layout it reminded us of early medieval castles we have visited at home – no moat and draw-bridge though. We were surprised by a cold-storage area for food in the north tower, very ingenious. The outer area is a Nuragic village established in the late Bronze Age and we were taken round the low walls which have been excavated and show the structures of the homes. Some simple, others with multiple rooms and some with rooms devoted to the worship of water with a central plinth and a large basin set atop it for the rituals. Fascinating.

Down the road the local museum had a limited exhibition with a few artefacts from other Nuraghi and some interesting information and photographs. There was a large model of what Su Nuraxi would have looked like – really impressive. A further room had a display about the archaeologist who excavated Su Nuraxi – all in Italian, although there was one rather bizarre item in it that needed no translation – a Zola football shirt.

We didn’t know where we were going next. Danny’s sister had suggested we call in on Joyce, their aunt Georgie’s sister who had married a Sardinian and lived in a town called Villacidro an hour away. Why not? We proceeded to hunt down the bar they run which involved driving around the hillside town in circles so often looking for a parking spot the old guys on the benches were about to adopt us. Close to giving up we found somewhere that appeared both legal and safe to park and went on foot armed with Google Translate. We accosted some locals and eventually, after attracting a lot of “who are you?” looks we turned a corner and saw Caffe Torino.

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Our kind of place – a small local’s bar in an agricultural community. Rafael, Joyce’s husband, knew who we were the minute we walked in – the jungle telegraph had reached out from Ballymartin. Joyce – who it should be pointed out Danny had never met – was busy looking after the grandchildren but we had a pleasant half-hour chatting to Rafael about Ballymartin, Kilkeel and the Rooneys. He gave us a it of an insight into Sardinia and the Sardinian mafia, confirmed that Zola was Sardinian and lives on the island still, and approved of our next destination at Pula. Nice guy, great to meet him and get a little bit of a feel for an authentic rural town.

When we headed out of Villacidro it was getting late.  We were into hill country again and the light was lovely :

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Great setting. We were looking for the nearest sosta or safe wildcamping plot we could find so headed over towards the west coast aiming for a car park at the Temple of Antas we had heard about. The drive took us on a hair-pin traverse of a mountain range which  would once have terrified us but now we just drank in the scenery with only the occasional intake of breath.

The temple and it’s car park didn’t make us feel comfortable so with some light still in the sky we headed on towards the coast and a possible sosta. We made it just before night finally closed in joining a number of other motorhomes on the beach-side carpark at Fontanamare. We broke out the G&T/Campari soda with relief and celebrated being able to access satellite TV.

After a peaceful (and free) night we woke to a sunrise over a lovely beach. Great spot for a car-park.

After a walk on the beach with lovely views we were off,  just as some local pensioners turned up with their beach chairs ready for a hard day at the beach.

By 10.30 we were at Porto Botte.  At the end of the road we turned onto the sandy , bumpy track between the lagoons and the sea and at the end we found a number of Polish motorhomes were parked. We turned round and found a parking spec at the side of the track, got our binoculars out, went for a nice walk and had a great couple of hours birdwatching – flamingoes, great & little egret, slender billed gull, Italian sparrow, sandpiper,  ringed plover,  greenshank and a hobby flew over as well.

Lots of dragonflies were buzzing about and Danny managed a really good shot of a pair of Ruddy Darter mating.

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All very tranquil except for the buzz of mosquitoes.

We  headed on round the southern tip of the island to Santa Margherita and the Flumendosa campsite on the east coast. Reception was closed until 4pm so we travelled up the road to Nora were we parked up in a largely empty car park. We walked along the nice beach to the entrance to the archaeological site and booked a guided tour, the only way to see the site which is still being excavated. Another lovely setting on an isthmus with a Spanish tower nearby. It is neither as pretty as Tharros or as impressive as Su Nuraxi but still worth a visit.

A lot of the ruins are now underwater as the southern tip of Sardinia is sinking into the sea and ancient roads run now directly into the water. As with many other places on the island, there were native Nuragic people here first, then Phoenicians, followed by Carthaginians then a major remodelling by the Romans around 200BC when amongst other things substantial Roman baths and a theatre were built. Mosaics from the Carthaginian period have survived, but more impressive are the multi-coloured Roman mosaics in the more upmarket houses.

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We certainly got a lot more out of it from having a guide but we still preferred Tharros.

We left just before the end as we only had a 2 hour parking ticket and although we hadn’t seen a traffic wardens anywhere we wanted to played safe. And there was the traffic warden, waiting for us, who told us we weren’t allowed to park there. We displayed our ignorance and contrition and we think because hadn’t exceeded the time he let us off with a stern warning and gave the car next to us a ticket instead. Phew.

Back on site we experimented with cooking snails “Spanish Style” which gave Danny the challenge of getting the unwilling creatures out of their shells – it kept him occupied for ages. Kate stuck with steak. Danny finished his meal with prickly pear which kept him busy spitting out seeds. Kate stuck with chocolate. An interesting meal – for Danny.

In bright sunlight next morning the beach across the road was really nice and just what we wanted – fine sand and very few people. That was us for the next 3 days.

1 thought on “Sardinia IV – Roads to Ruins”

  1. Good to hear your still frightening the locals in that bloody great bus ! We are safely ensconced in Spain and have got the place ship shape after 18 months away. Well, I say we…….
    Hot as hell here with high 30’s still. Keep up the good work and see you soon !! Hugs & smackers, Glyn & Del.