Uncommon Barbagia

EXPLORING THE CAVE OF THE CORBEDDU BANDIT

BY MARILENA PISTIS

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Entering the cave of the Corbeddu Bandit is quite an experience, and it takes a while to identify the source of the anxiety this Ali Baba’s cavern inspires. Its entrance is in the Lanaithu Valley, just opposite Tiscali, the ancient town within a mountain that symbolises prehistoric Sardinia. And crossing the threshold is like going into someone’s home when he is not there, with the fear that he might come in at any minute and catch us there rummaging through his affairs. His and that of his predecessors: bones have been found here from humans who lived in the cave 20,000 years ago, the first traces of homo sapiens on the island.

 

This is an area full of caves: not far away lies the largest network of tunnels in Italy, running for seventy kilometres beneath the “Codula di Luna” in the Urzulei zone of Barbagia. In comparison the Corbeddu cave, where 100 people could live together comfortably, is cosy and bijou. But likening it to the cave of the 40 thieves is not so far-fetched: the bandit used to close over the small entrance, now protected by an iron gate, with a rock that made it completely invisible.

 

 

 

 

Inside the cave Corbeddu organised gatherings where local game was served along with music, home-produced wine, songs and poetry: it was a little ritual of Barbagia. Do not imagine that this man led a life of hardship isolated from the world. He had a safe haven during the periods when he was being hunted, in vain, over 19 years, but he lived a normal life: in the sheep-shelters of friends, hunting, in contact with nature and the seasons.

 

He was reputed to be a great man, courageous and fair. It was said that he stole from the rich and gave to the poor and was wrongfully convicted. A gentleman in a certain sense, although a dangerous one that you would not want to have as an enemy. He is said to have stopped a patrol headed by Major Spada of the Carabinieri, his bitter nemesis, Corbeddu then proceeded to steal his rifle and the belt from his trousers, but only in order to rile him a little. With that rifle, a long-barrelled arm, the bandit is portrayed in drawings and murals around Barbagia. In the 1960s a Dutch filmmaker even made a film about him, you can find small clips of it on YouTube.

 

In the end, his beard now white, he was betrayed and killed in a police ambush, at which people were aghast and saddened. The legend of the Sardinian answer to Butch Cassidy is still told today to the many visitors to the cave, by people passionate about his story, such as Giovanni Sanna from Barbagia Insolita.

 

Barbagia Insolita is a company based in Oliena, accustomed to organising excursions and experiences for every type of visitor, and as such one of the principal intermediaries between the Costa Smeralda and the interior of the island. Besides being highly professional, well-practised in discretely accompanying guests from the grand hotels and superyachts of the Costa Smeralda, their natural Sardinian pride in demonstraing the wonders of the island shines through.

 

During lunch in dense oak forests or in shepherd’s refuges, forays in jeeps or excursions by canoe on the rivers of the hinterland, between hikes and games, Giovanni Sanna and his team bring you the real Sardinia, giving their guests first hand experiences. Not only tasting traditional carasau bread, for example, but kneading and baking it along with the local women: a contemporary philosophy that is changing the face of tourism. For the better.