Etruscan tombs like those at Tarquinia may thrill you with their frescoes or mastery of architectural details, but the 20 “fairy houses” of the Necropolis of Sant’Andrea Priu just might astound you.

Come in spring and the plain of Saint Lucia will likely be verdant and colorful with wildflowers. Even the rock faces are alive with color in May.

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Tomb Opening, Sant'Andrea Priu

In the middle of this fertile valley is a rock outcrop 180 meters long, pocked with carved terraces and tomb openings.

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Domus di Janus, Sant'Andrea Priu

There is a reason they are called fairy houses. They are carved to be just like the houses of the times, perhaps the houses the dead lived in. They have beams and wainscotting; some are tent-like as we see below. They are dated to the final neolithic (3500-2900 BC) period.

Domus de Janas Interior

The Necropolis of Sant’Andrea Priu is located in the municipality of Bonorva in what they call “La valle dei nuraghi,” the valley of Nuraghi, a new designation. It should be combined with a trip to the Nuragic complex of Santu Antine di Torralba. The city of Torralba also includes the Museo della Valle dei Nuraghi del Logudoro Meilogu. There is a longer itinerary starting from Bosa, a great city to stay in, as outlined on Tharros.info.

Unfortunately the largest and most elaborate cave, called the Chief’s Tomb, may not be visitable. This complex of chambers was transformed in an early Christian church in the Byzantine period with frescoes which are being conserved by the Centro di Conservatione Archeologica.

Restaurant Recommendations in Bonorva and Rebeccu, valle dei nuraghi

Just outside Bonorva on the other side of the superstrada is the “Ristorante Valle dei Nuraghi”: which serves excellent food. Try Bonorva’s specialty pasta made from bread dough, Zichi di Bonorva.

Between Bonorva and Sant’Andrea Priu is the medieval village of Rebeccu. Despite the fact that the town is largely deserted, Ristorante Pizzeria Su Lumarzu serves excellent local food and pizza.

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Sant'Andrea Priu and the plain of Saint Lucia

Necropolis of Sant'Andrea Priu originally appeared on wanderingsardinia.com Jun 12, 2016, © James Martin

Archaeology, Food

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Categories Archaeology, Food

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of the hateful Levitucus cult that seems to have overtaken Christianity. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the aims of the Evaristian Community of the Sacred Heart: “giving assistance to abandoned and orphaned children and those stricken by poverty, and offering religious instruction, education and youth guidance through the parish network.”

What does this have to do with wine? Well, the beverage is mentioned a lot in the Bible, but in this case, the wine is the vehicle by which the community gets funds to finance its activities. Here’s a snap of the bottle of biologically certified Cannonau we’ve recently had the pleasure of drinking,
Evaristiano Aristo.

evaristiano aristo wine
Evaristiano Aristo: Cannonau di Sardegna

It’s doubtful you’ll find it in your store. But sit a spell and let me tell you the story of this wine.

We’ve recently spent a week in the town of Bauladu, a village of but 800 people in the Oristano province. Thirty years ago we took part in the excavation of the Bronze age village that surrounded the local archaeological treasure: Nuraghe Santa Barbara. We’d returned to see how the village has fared in these trying times. It was neat as a pin. The bar, where we went for our morning coffee, was alive with people who greeted us warmly. Unike thirty years ago, there are several places to stay in the village for tourists.

Things seem to be looking up—in down times.

It turns out that not only does the town have a brewery that produces excellent, though expensive, beer made from local and unusual ingredients like the unique honey made from cardoons grown in town, but the vineyards for the wine in the picture lie outside the nearby village of San Vero Millis. Furthermore the Evaristian Community of the Sacred Heart has some roots in Bauladu:

“The Institute has since expanded further, with several new centres being opened: the Community is currently active in the localities of Donigala Fenughedu, Putzu Idu and Bauladu in the province of Oristano, in Serramanna and Villasimius in the province of Cagliari.”

After meeting with Davide Corriga Sanna, the mayor of Bauladu, who drove home his point that the area around his village was perfect for Cannonau production, he handed us a bottle of wine as we prepared to leave his village. It was the wine you see in the picture above.

We had it a few nights ago with dinner. It was rich, full, complex and since I am not a wine writer I will leave you with the empty, sentence-draining, “fantastic!”

But you know what? It was great with the main course, but it was better with the dolce we had following the meal, the torta di sapa, a cake we had learned to make in Bauladu using Sapa di fico d’india, prickly pear concentrate, for sweetness, color, and flavor.

Despite being biologically produced, despite being a very fine wine, you can buy a bottle for a reasonable price. None of the Evaristiano wines sell for more than 15 euros.

The good things in life go together. Wine and food, caring and love, richness and charity, sweet grapes and prickly pear. There is a warp and woof to it.

Cin cin!

Evaristiano: Wine from the Heart originally appeared on wanderingsardinia.com May 14, 2016, © James Martin

Food, General Travel

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Categories Food, General Travel

I can image the moment when Sergio Leone set his eyes upon San Salvatore’s dusty central square surrounded by the little cumbessias, pilgrimage houses used during religious festivals. It was the American southwest. Or at least it was good enough for his quickly produced, low budget cowboy films. Leone’s credentials on this location issue were sound, the man was called the “father of the spaghetti Western” in the 1960s.

San Salvatore: A Row of Cumbessias, Houses Used During Religious Festivals.

San Salvatore is a bump along the road to famous beaches on the Sinis Peninsula like Is Arutas. When we visited San Salvatore in the 1980’s there was a wooden replica of a typical southwestern bar right in front of the church. It really rocked at night. You could order a beer and it came with peanuts you shucked then swept the refuse onto the floor like a real badass. Alas, the place was lost in a fire and never rebuilt. Quite a pity for San Salvatore.

The Spaghetti Western: A Taste of Italy has a picture of the saloon and description of the era of Spaghetti Westerns in Sardinia.

While the saloon is history, two restaurants remain in San Salvatore. Get the blue plate special.

The Hypogeum

So about now you’re mumbling, “why is this guy sending me to a town that’s seen better days?” Ok. Fair enough. If you’re passing by San Salvatore, take a few minutes to park on the outskirts of town and go to the church. It’s adjacent to the town square. You’ll hardly recognize it as a church. There is no grand facade carved with saints. Go in anyway—if the doors are open. It’s run by volunteers so opening times may be hit or miss. Let your eyes adjust to the light, then go down the stairs.

Watch the first stair. It’s a doozy.

If you haven’t taken a header on that first stair, you are descending gracefully to a place built in the 4th century BC. Christianity was just being explored. There are Punic and Roman scratchings on the walls. There are altars and some drawings they’ve restored, as you can see in the picture below.

san salvatore hypogeum
San Salvatore Hypogeum

Let’s just say that you now have a reason for going to the spaghetti western town of San Salvatore. Walking around is also a pleasure. The little hamlet is somewhat unique.

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San Salvatore di Sinis, Sardinia

And speaking of getting around on foot…

Festa San Salvatore di Sinis: La Corsa degli Scalzi di Cabras

On the first Saturday in September, young men in white tunics called Is Curridoris grab the wooden statue of San Salvatore from the parish church in Cabras and take off on a very long run—barefoot. 7 kilometers. The surviving arrive in San Salvatore to be resuscitated with the local Vernaccia wine. The next morning they will run back.

You may wonder why they do this. It all has to do with refreshing the memory of an Arab pirate attack in 1506 in which the faithful of Cabras were compelled to save their saint by whisking it away to a hiding place in little San Salvatore. The dust alone made the pirates think they were seeing a huge, advancing army.

Just in case you think this is just a thing for runners, there is way more to the celebration. There is traditional Sardinian music featuring the Launeddas as well as the harmonica. There are celebrations of the local foods, like the muggine, the grey mullet fished from the Stago di Cabras. There are exhibitions, theater and even fireworks throughout the week of the festival.

Running with Faith is a brilliant description of the run by an expat Quaker living in Sardinia.

See, San Salvatore isn’t such a cowboy backwater after all.


Travel Toolbox

Highest rated B&B near San Salvatore: Agriturismo S’Incant’e Sinis

Oristano Travel Weather and Climate Charts

San Salvatore originally appeared on wanderingsardinia.com May 10, 2016, © James Martin

Oristano, Festivals

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Categories Oristano, Festivals

Tharros is an ancient Phoenician-Roman Port on the Sinis Penninsula of Sardinia near Cabras. On a fine spring day the iconic Corinthian columns of Tharros seem to hold up the sky to keep it from falling upon the shimmering waters of the Mediterranean. The columns are fake. Don’t let that stop you from feeling the romance of gazing at ruins.

tharros columns
The iconic columns at Tharros are fake

But oh, the site! It is spectacularly situated on a dagger of land forming a natural breakwater for the Bay of Oristano. To the west, beyond the fake columns, the sea can be rough; waters to the east are called the “mare morte” or the dead sea.

You can park your car and walk the road uphill towards the Spanish tower and the archaeological site. You’ll see the beach on your right. On a breezy spring day, the waves keep folks away.

tharros beach
Tharros: Beach and Spanish Tower

When you arrive, the ticket office and bookstore will appear on your left. There are several options for tickets. We suggest you buy a combined ticket that also allows entry to the Museo Civico di Cabras, where you can see finds from Tharros as well as the not-to-miss exhibit on the Giants of Monte Prama. Going inside the Spanish Tower also requires a small charge. Here are the Opening Hours of Tharros and entrance fees.

When to Go to Tharros

Spring days bring wildflowers, and May is perfect for them. They do add color to the basaltic building materials. Even early spring is fine for climbing around, as it doesn’t get shockingly cold even in February. Easter is a great time for Carnival festivals. For climate information and the latest weather, See: Oristano Travel Weather and Climate.

tharros ruins with poppies
Tharros in Springtime

Notes on Seeing Tharros

The occupation of Tharros: founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, followed by Punics, Romans, and eventually destroyed by Saracen raiders—brings to sharp focus the realization of the native population that invaders always attacked from the sea. If you want to know the true Sardinian culture, you must head inland, where conditions were relatively stable for many centuries.

When you look over what’s left of this ancient port city you might wonder, “where did it all go?” Stones were reused in later settlements and cities; why go to all the trouble to quarry and form the blocks you need when you could just walk off with a few? Still, take a free tour and the guide will point out the interesting features of Tharros, like the tophet, the bath installations, the temple foundations, and an area with houses and artisan workshops.

The Cardo Maximo, seen below, was the principal road to the city. It is a typical road in the style of the Romans, built to last forever while running straight up a hill. You didn’t waste time skirting hills in Roman times, you just plowed straight ahead, making your road the shortest distance between two targeted points.

cardo maximo
Cardo Maximo, the main Roman road in Tharros

Attractions Near Tharros

When you drove in, on your right you saw Sardinia’s second oldest church, the early-Christian church of San Giovanni dating back to the 5th Century (although a large part of what you see are modifications performed in the 9th and 10th centuries.

san giovanni church tharros
Church of San Giovanni

In the town of San Giovanni you’ll find more beaches, as well as many restaurants and cafes.

The town of Cabras skirts a lagoon which is known for its Mullet. Not only are the mullet eaten, but roe is dried and used by grating over pasta or cut into chunks added to salads. It’s called Bottarga di Muggine (Gray Mullet Roe).

To see the rest of the artifacts from Tharros as well as the rest of the Giants of Monte Prama, you’ll have to visit the Archaeological Museum of Cagliari. There are also some artifact in the British Museum in London.

Enloy your trip to Tharros and the Sinis Peninsula.

Tharros originally appeared on wanderingsardinia.com May 09, 2016, © James Martin

Archaeology, Beaches

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Categories Archaeology, Beaches

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