|"And so it is that modern visitors to Sardinia are initially overwhelmed by the sheer weight of ancient monuments that confront them." (The Megalithic European).
We were long overdue for an antiquarian excursion and eventually the trip we'd booked months before came round. I spent many of the previous weekends scouring the net and zooming all over the island on Google Earth, and even though I'd discounted the bottom half as too far to go, my short list was several hundred locations long – some just nuraghe (bronze age conical towers) but some whole areas littered with these, their associated settlements, tomba di gigante – the unique Sardinian feature of a passage grave usually with a curved façade and huge central portal stone, dolmens, and domus de janus - rock cut tombs.
So, one week, and 980km in a little hire car ….
Day trip 1 (part one?):
We were staying in Cannigione, about half an hour's drive from Olbia airport, and only about 5 minutes drive from our first port of call.
Nuraghe Albucciu is just outside Arzachena on the SS125 and well signposted in the vicinity. It has an information office/shop with parking on the opposite side of the road to the nuraghe, which is reached through an underpass. We bought tickets to visit here, and Malchittu and Coddu Vecchju, at 5½ euros per person (includes an A5 colour site guide for each of the 3); the site is open from 09:00 – 19:00; the shops sell the expected range of drinks and souvenirs, and has clean toilets round the back; there's a café right next door.
The nuraghe was built onto the side of a granite cliff. The entrance is on the east side and above it you can see corbels which would have supported a wooden balcony; inside, there's a tholos (false domed ceiling) room on the right with a niche in the far wall which once led to another entrance to the nuraghe cut into the cliff, and to the left is a low entrance to a possible store room. Both these rooms have no natural light, but an electric lamp is supplied for visitors. A central staircase leads up to the terrace level, where you get a good view of the rooms surrounding the tower, and to the south a few steps down take you through a doorway into the largest room, with one wall of solid granite, and two windows constructed with the narrower part to the outside.
Finds from the site are exhibited at the museum in Sassari.
Next we walked along the road from the car park away from Arzachena for less than 200 metres and turned to the left to our first tomba di gigante.
This site, though grouped with Nuraghe Albucciu
, has free access. The tombi is not particularly well conserved – the central stele, or portal stone, is missing and there's only one capstone left, but the corridor of almost 10 metres is impressive, and probably originally an allée couverte reused and restyled as a tomba in the bronze age.
Then it was back past the car park to the track that leads to Malchittu.
It's just over 1½km from the car park for Nuraghe Albucciu
(see this site for access, facility and ticket details) to Malchittu Temple; the path is generally wide and sandy, but does climb a bit, and the last section to reach the temple is a scramble up uneven rocks. So not recommended for the less mobile!
The temple is a very unusual structure for Sardinia and is situated between two rocky outcrops with fantastic views over the surrounding area. There's an entrance foyer, with one straight and one curved wall, and a doorway into the main part of the temple, where niches for offerings, and a central hearth, can be seen. There's an oak tree growing towards the back of the structure. The walls are really impressive and a scramble up the rocks on either side give great views down into the temple.
At the bottom of the rocky scramble, there's the remains of another structure.
It's well worth allowing a couple of hours to view this group of sites (here and Albucciu
Seeing as we'd bought 3 site tickets, we decided to continue on, rather than stopping for lunch, and visit one of the most famous and impressive tombas.
From Arzachena, take the 427 or SP14 towards Tempio, the site is always signposted. There's ample parking, and a building for tickets and information (with refreshments etc on sale and toilets available) about 300 metres north of the site. We'd bought tickets at Nuraghe Albucciu so just had to show these to be given our site guide. Open 09:00 – 19:00.
A gentle stroll along the road side and then down a path brought us to the tomba. Wow! It's huge!
The building was done in two stages, the first part being an allée couverte (circa 2500 BCE?) with the giant stele and esedra (forecourt area, the wings, or some might propose, the open legs of the tomb) added later. The site is roped off, and visitors are asked not to climb onto or into the tomb, but a variety of raised viewing platforms have been built all the way round the back to make it easier to see.
The stele is massive – almost 4½ metres tall, but narrower than some others at 1.9 metres – and has a pronounced pink tinge to its stone; it was built with two slabs on top of each other, and both sections have relief carvings in them. The wings of the tomba are stone slabs in decreasing height. Behind the stele – the tallest one on the island – there's a short corridor, which joins the newer part to the body of the original tomb – about 10 metres long with granite slabs forming the walls, floor and capstones.
We wandered back to the car park and decided to go and try to see a nearby nuraghe, even though my research said it was not open to visitors.
The nuraghe of La Prisciona is currently (Sept 2007) closed to the public for repairs and excavation, likely to continue until at least May 2008.
The new excavations are revealing a whole series of buildings/rooms surrounding the nuraghe which has a triangular base and 3 towers, and a deep well in its courtyard.
The information office at Coddu Vecchju
about 900 metres away shows some images of the excavations.
There was still so much to see in the area that we couldn't stop .... part 2 coming soon!