There is a Sardinia that overlooks the sea and a Sardinia that overlooks the mountain. And what a mountain it is, Monte Corrasi, 1,400 metres high – dominating the Barbagia region. Oliena is exactly one of those places that it is worth leaving the coast for, to learn a little more about a land that can be full of great surprises: the Supramonte mountain range, for example, which provides the background for the Gennargentu massif with plateaus, cliffs, forests, caves, springs, canyons, Nuragic archaeological sites, menhirs and “giants’ tombs”. A spectacularly rugged land that attracts visitors from all over the world, from hiking enthusiasts to gourmets in search of genuine pleasures.
The journey to Oliena is easy and pleasant: there is a 4-lane highway as far as Nuoro and you can take a diversion for about 10 kilometres. Oliena welcomes you immediately with the sincere atmosphere typical of those places where tradition is still alive and perceptible while strolling along the narrow alleys and cobblestone streets lined with white-walled houses and their little covered courtyards. Murals recount the history of the inhabitants and the no less than 11 churches, including that of the Santa Rughe where a wooden crucifix is preserved that is said to have the power to unleash violent storms if so much as brushed against.
It is amazing how enthralling it can be to immerse yourself in a land that has been isolated for centuries, getting lost among the scents of vineyards, olive groves and almond orchards that abound here thanks to the temperate climate. Then comes the moment of the great encounter with the Nepente wine. “Haven’t you even heard of Oliena’s renowned Nepente? Oh no!” wrote D’Annunzio. A ruby red wine that must be included in any self-respecting cellar. Dense, strong and refined. It is obtained from Cannonau grapes and pairs perfectly with the pecorino cheese that is never lacking here. But let’s carry on.
What about the Nera di Oliena olives? A prized olive cultivar that is transformed into one of the best extra virgin olive oils in the world: fruity, of medium intensity and harmonious. It is no coincidence, in short, that food and wine tourism continues to flourish here: the spring waters facilitate cultivation downstream and grazing upstream. The gifts of the land are then expertly translated into simple recipes with ancient flavours that provide authentic joy for the palate.
A typical menu will include cold cuts and cheeses, hand-made semolina pasta – “sos macharrones de busa”, “tundos”, “angelottos”, suckling pig, lamb, kid, and roasted sausages, most likely roasted in a fireplace. All accompanied by DOC wines.
The scope of the trip won’t be limited to food however, because Oliena is known for its fine filigree jewellery and for the delicately embroidered silk shawls that can be found in the shops of the town centre. Many stop by the master leather goods supplier Corrias1940, to have bespoke shoes and boots made, the most suitable footwear for comfortable adventures in nature.
The Su Gologone springs are an area of incredible geological, historical and archaeological interest. They flow into the Cedrino, a lake of crystal clear water set between walls of dolomitic rock. Oliena is the closest town to the village of Tiscali: the legendary – but real – stronghold of the Nuragic populations built inside a mountain, which for centuries enabled the combative inhabitants of central Sardinia to disappear into thin air after their raids on the rich plains.
When to go? Strangely, the most suitable periods are those in the off-season (outside of summer): carnival, from January to February, when the wonderful Barbagia parades take place; autumn, from September to December, when the Autumn in Barbagia event is held and courtyards are opened to visitors with sensational food, wine and artistic itineraries; Easter Sunday is when “S’incontru” happens, when the mourning Virgin Mary meets the risen Christ in a roar of volleys of gunfire from every window, every balcony, every terrace, with everyone dressed in traditional costumes.
Is it worth it, then? Oh, yes!
Some useful site in case you make the trip. Enjoy the journey.
SU GOLOGONE SPRINGS: sorgentisugologone.it
EXPERIENCE HOTEL SU GOLOGONE: sugologone.it
EXCURSIONS IN BARBAGIA: barbagiainsolita.it
VINERIA ESTEMPORANEA SA BETTOLA: facebook.com/sabettola
RISTORANTINO MASILOGHI: masiloghi.it