|Su Nuraxi: Bronze Age tower and village built about 1500 B.C.|
WEEK 2: 52 Places to Go
Grazing sheep, olive groves, and ancient vineyards stretched on either side of the road as we drove through the rolling Sardinian countryside. Then, as we rounded a curve, the ruins of a huge, beehive-shaped tower loomed over the landscape. We had arrived at Su Nuraxi, the remains of a neolithic settlement that had been a center of Sardinian life more than 3000 years ago. Huge stone towers, called nuraghi, are unique to Sardinia and give the Bronze Age culture that built them its name. The Sardinian landscape is littered with Nuraghic ruins (more than 7,000 sites have been documented) as well as the remains of Etruscan, Greek, Carthaginian, Roman, and other civilizations that have put their stamp on the island. The richness of Sardinia's ancient history was one of the reasons we wanted to visit.
My husband and I spent a week in Sardinia in September of 2011, visiting ancient ruins, hiking in the mountains and along the coast, going to museums, birdwatching, and enjoying the rich and delicious Sardinian cuisine. With blue skies and comfortable temperatures (in the 70's), it had all the elements of a ideal vacation.
|Cagliari: Gate to the Citadel, location of Museum of Archeology|
|Archeology Museum: Wrestlers, Bronze Age figures for votive offering|
|View of the village of Pauli Arbarei from Su Boschettu|
|View from the walkway at the top of the Su Nuraxi Tower; stone walls were built without mortar|
|Nuraghic model of a tower showing the flared upper story|
We bought our tickets for the tour of Su Nuraxi (the only way to visit the site), and although the tour was supposed to be only in Italian, the guide generously translated everything into English for us and several other English speaking tourists. We followed our guide up the stairs of a scaffold on the outside of the tower so we could descend the steep stone steps within the wall to the inner courtyard to enter the lower rooms and see the well. (Many nuraghi were built around wells. Water has always been a valuable resource in Sardinia.) Only two levels of the tower remain, but originally it rose to 65 feet! Given the size of the huge stone blocks used for building, one has to marvel at the engineering.
Our ticket also got us in to several museums in Barumini. One displayed artifacts discovered in the excavation of Su Nuraxi; another displayed farm implements and Sardinian cultural items, including the many different forms of Sardinian bread; and another explained the making and playing of a flute-like instrument called launeddas.
Maps and Guidebooks: We relied on our Michelin map to get us around Sardinia. You can order it online. Our main guidebooks for sites, hotels, restaurants, etc., were the Lonely Planet Sardinia and Rough Guide Sardinia. We also made good use of Sardinia: Car Tours and Walks by Andreas Stieglitz, which has very specific instructions for walks and driving routes.
(Look for Sardinia Part II: The Supramonte and Sardinia Part III: Giants' Tombs, Sassari, and Sinis Peninsula posted October 24 and 31, 2011.)
All text and photos copyright of Caroline Arnold.
|Cagliari, Sardinia, view from below the Citadel|