Ogliastra hinterland – abandoned towns and ancient towers

Tacchi di OgliastraOn friday the 28th the sea was livelier than we wanted to be part of, and we decided on an excursion by car to the mountains in the Ogliastra hinterland.

First we drove to Jerzu which is a bit further inland from Cardedu, where the mountains really begins. Francesco drove up some of the steepest and most curved roads I have ever been on, up to what is called the “Tacchi di Ogliastra”, meaning the high heels of Ogliastra. They are a series of mountains where the top is surrounded by vertical rock walls of maybe 100-200m. The mountains in Sardinia aren’t high by Himalayan standards, the tallest peaks are just over 1800m, but they’re still impressive in all their ruggedness.

The many vertical rock walls are a little paradise for climbers, who come from all over to play in the Sardinian mountains.

Osini NuovaWe continued along the slope of the valley to Osini. The town seems to stick magically to the mountain side, and on the other side of the valley the town of Gairo clings on to the other slope. You can see from one town to the other, and there might only be about 2km across, but going there by car would still take an hour. It would probably be faster to ride a donkey over there.

The towns were less sticky in the good old days. A few kilometres down the road we passed Osini Vecchia, the “Old Osini”. The old (probably ancient) town of Osini were slowly sliding down the mountain side, for whatever reasons, and in the 1950s it had to be abandoned completely, and the entire population of Osini moved to the “new” and current Osini.

Osini VecchiaThe story is by no means unique. Just across the valley “new” Gairo was located a couple of kilometres from “old” Gairo, in much the same way. Not everybody in Gairo moved to the new town, though. A part of the population moved further away, to the lower hills towards the coast, and thus Cardedu came about. Cardedu too is a new town, and a child of the landslides in the mountains.

From Osini Vecchia we moved up some roads even smaller, steeper and more curved than before, with the intent of finding a nuraghe.

Nuraghe SerbissaThe nuraghe are unique to Sardinia, where there are still over 6000 nuraghe in existence. In the rest of the world there are none. A nuraghe is a neolithic building or monument from the period 2500-1500 BC so they were already ancient when the Phoenicians and the Romans settled in Sardinia. Little is known about their purpose as their constructors have left no hints, but they do give an impression of being defensive fortresses.

Nuraghe SerbissaMost nuraghes are made of a single conical tower with double walls. In the centre is a single room, sometimes with niches in the walls, and inbetween the two outer walls a stairway to the top or rooms further up. The walls are built by roughly cut stones stacked without the use of mortar.

The nuraghe is almost always placed in a strategic position on a hilltop or on a ridge in the mountains.

Nuraghe SerbissaLarger nuraghes consist of several closely grouped towers, at times with surrounding walls or ramparts.

We ended up at the Nuraghe Serbissa after a very long drive on some very rough roads through a forest, and we only found about an hour before sunset. The Nuraghe Serbissa is the largest I have seen so far. There is a well preserved tower which can still be climbed by the original stairway, and two other towers standing to a lower height but still clearly recognisable. On the ground the outline of maybe another five or more towers could be seen.

Nuraghe Serbissa - caveUnderneath the nuraghe is a large natural cave with three entrances, which was also a part of the entire complex.

The Nuraghe Serbissa is now situated in a completely deserted mountain forest, but who knows how the landscape was 4000 years ago, and how these people lived.

Nuraghe SerbissaAlong the road there were signs for several other nuraghes in the vincinity, but it was getting late and dark, and we still had over an hour’s drive home along the winding mountain roads.

That evening we ate out, in a local restaurant in Barisardo. Francesco had a steak so huge it couldn’t have been made in a normal frying pan, it was served on a pizza plate, and Valentina had a dish of grilled fish and seafood that was plain scary. I have no idea how they got through those quantities of food.


2 responses to “Ogliastra hinterland – abandoned towns and ancient towers”

  1. Greetings,
    Interesting to note your article on ‘nuraghe in Sardinia’, & the statement that, “nuraghe are UNIQUE to Sardinia”.

    What you describe in the article COULD VERY EASILY BE RE-LABELLED as an ‘Overview of the Zimbabwe Ruins’ [hence new name of the country].

    The One Primary Difference appears to be that, in Zimbabwe, several [6, I think] Stone ‘Tablets’ [for want of a better word] were found with the carved image of a “Zimbabwe Bird” Perched on top – one of these is in the Bulawayo Museum.
    It is thought that these ‘Zimbabwe Birds’ were symbols of the Ruling Royalty of those times [long-gone].
    Again, the site is “Strategically Situated” in a position which commands the Valley.

    THERE HAVE BEEN repairs/modifications to the original structures but due to the difference in style, are believed to have been made by ‘Later Occupants’.

    Like those You mention in Sardinia, Zimbabwe is surrounded by high stone walls.

    The ‘Tower Structures’ within the enclosure are so large, & tall, that a photo of my wife next to one makes her look like a childs’ small toy doll in comparison.

    This area has a ‘history’ of danger/conflict which still exists as it is well outside of the town limits in the natural bush, – Thus, if you are interested in the place; suggest you research it on the internet or at the Library – much safer.

    Our exploration of the site was brought to an abrupt end with machine-gun fire just a little way up the valley & the sudden arrival of a Government Helicopter gun-ship.

    Hope this is contributes to your own info.
    Kind Regards,
    Sid [tundawenna2@hotmail.com]

  2. René Seindal avatar
    René Seindal

    Hi Sid,

    The nuraghe *are* unique to Sardinia and quite different from the ruins in Zimbabwe. The nuraghe are built in the period 2500-1500 BC while the ruins in Zimbabwe are from about AD 1500, so there are over 3000 years between them.

    A common shape does not necessarily mean a common origin.

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