“So near and yet so far” is how Wim Wenders summed up the abyss that separates humans from the angels. A similar abyss seems to separate the Costa Smeralda from the inland area behind it, the Gallura. This is the land of the “stazzi”, the traditional local farms, a paradise unto itself. Protected by spectacular rocky outcrops, bathed in sunlight, even the air up there feels alive. Each one of those little farmhouses is surrounded by lush green crops thanks to the heavy rains this year.
Galluristan, as we’ve decided to call it isn’t so remote it seems. A warm and generous land that slopes with determination down to the sea. The short climb necessary to get there is like a small victory. Take your car, your helicopter or your bike and enjoy a trip into its tidy, sheltered world broken only by endless dry stone walls that have lasted centuries without anything but the skills of their makers holding them together. A clean world of stony villages of the likes of Luogosanto, Aggius, Tempio, Luras, Calangianus and S. Antonio. Aglientu is another of the Gallura towns that’s within easy reach of the coast.
One interesting itinerary would start from Porto Cervo and take you to beyond Arzachena heading towards Luogosanto with a stop-off en route at the Giants’ Tombs, the Sardinian Stonehenge, very well signposted and supposed to have curative powers as well as everything else.
Then once you are past the compact Luogosanto, follow the gorge towards Tempio. You really do have to stop at at least one of the two springs en route and taste the wonderfully cool, fresh water there. Once you’ve reached the paradisiacal plateau, you’ll see a huge granite monolith to your right. This is the Pulchiana, the largest of its kind in Europe and which looks for all the world like an enormous petrified pudding! Just at the foot of the mountain, you’ll find the wonderful agriturismo of La Cerra. You’ll need to book in advance (tel. +39 347 560 6462) but it’s worth it for the full immersion in the real Gallura and for day trips to the Pulchiana.
Limbara, at 1,200 metres above sea level, is to the south of this earthly paradise while to the west wind-bent cork trees stretch into the distance. If you follow them you’ll find yourself in the Valle della Luna (Moon Valley), a rock strewn plain dotted with wind turbines bristling on the hills in the distance. You can avoid them by turning into the little town of Aggius (you must stop here and take a walk through its charming granite downtown and end up visiting the gorgeous MEOC Museum) and then continuing on through Tempio Pausania towards Limbara where you can take refuge in its dense woods. You’ll even see the three sequoia trees (giant red woods) that legend has it grew from seeds that found their way here, unaided, all the way from Canada. When you get to Calangianus ask for directions to S. Antonio, your first turn homewards.
Nearby is Liscia which is thronged with boats and when the mistral blows it’s dark and sensual as Lola Falana. You’d be well advised too to stop and chat to the locals in Gallura. They’ve got that same disarming gaze and purity as the angels in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. If you come upon cork or granite workers or a farmer tending his flock, you’ll learn all about their lives and soon realise that they aren’t as far from removed us as we’d like to think.