Nuraghe spotting in Sardinia
It's something different: nuraghe spotting in Sardinia. With trainspotting or birdwatching you're sitting squat until something passes by to capture it in a picture. With nuraghe spotting you have to get up and get moving while these bronze age towers stand there where they have been standing for over 3000 years. It is not a sport practised by a lot of people, but you should try it one day, just for fun. You'll discover breathtaking views you've never dreamed of seeing, you'll find yourself in places you never thought existed, you'll be closer to nature and closer to life itself, and ofcourse closer to the origins of man when living depended on livestock herding, working the land and on the knowledge of every plant or animal around and for some reason they built themselves thousands of towers in stone just on this island.
Nuraghe spotting can be done in two ways; follow the signs as you pass by or look them up on a map and try find them. For the first option you will need some general knowledge on famous nuraghi, for the second option you will need a detailed map of Sardinia and build up some experience in the countryside.
There is a number of nuraghi that have been transformed into archaeological sites that are visitable for the public and maintained in good order. The latest to join the club is Nuraghe Cuccurada of Mogoro, just behind Cantina Il Nuraghe alongside the ss131, on the edge of a plateau where it offers a magnificent view overlooking the Campidano plains and the Bay of Oristano with the mountains of the Iglesiente to the west. A little further to the north you can see the castle of Monreale. The nuraghe is of particular interest, a complex nuraghe built around a protonuraghe with a corridor, with traces of a village nearby and a stone wall of a probably even older date.
The advantage of maintained archaeological sites is the possibility to learn something through the guides, all trained and certified experts, some with a degree in archaeology. They know what they are talking about and love their profession. Nuraghe Cuccurada was not the only nuraghe we visited. The next was Su Mulinu at Villanovafranca, a complex nuraghe with a long history. Here you will find different building techniques in one site, different levels ranging from the early Bronze Age to the Roman and early medieval times. It started as a protonuraghe and ended up as a sanctuary, probably dedicated to Kore and Demeter. The site is in fact surrounded by fertile hills covered with grain. What you see of the nuraghe is only part of it, like an iceberg the largest part is hidden to our eyes.
If you want to go nuraghe spotting in the northeast of Sardinia it will be a bit harder but not impossible. The Gallura is not particularly densely inhabited, never was, and nuraghi were not so common. However, just outside Arzachena you will find what you may be looking for, a really impressive complex nuraghe with a village, still under excavation and visitable by the public. Here they will explain all about the prehistory of Sardinia, the architecture of nuraghi and about the settlement around it, the relation the nuraghi had with the burial sites called Tombe di Giganti (Giants Tombs) of which two particular examples can be found nearby. Should you want to pull away from the dazzling beaches, just to gain your breath again by doing something completely different, go and visit this site.
One day we went nuraghe spotting by following the map as we drove along the secondary roads of Sardinia. I had in mind to visit the nuraghe Lugherras near Paulilatino and see if I could spot other nuraghi on the way. Most nuraghi are hard to spot, only those that have survived in some measure are clear markers in the landscape, others are hidden by the vegetation or just resemble a heap of stones. Because of the large number it is almost impossible to maintain all of these towers in good shape and in the past, up until only a few decades ago, the towers were a useful resource for building materials.
We drove from Santu Lussurgiu to Paulilatino and we managed to spot two nuraghi, one barely visible from the road, the other even more overgrown with trees and macchia where you could only see a few orderly placed stones. Other nuraghi we could not even discover, at least not from the car. We drove al the way to Paulilatino without seeing any signs of nuraghe Lugherras, then we took the road back to Bonarcado and turned up a track. A very bumpy track for a small car (we even had to stop for a partridge blocking our way) and in the end we saw the nuraghe from some distance but we did not get near it. We turned back the same track, drove along the road another few hundred meters and saw a sign indicating the nuraghe. Again we turned right and followed this second bumpy track. At every turn some insect hit our car, some thorny bush scratched the side or some stone attempted to make a hole in the tyres. Finally we arrived at the nuraghe where there was enough space to turn the car. The municipality had placed a new information sign near the nuraghe and the area was cleaned up. Sometimes you will find nuraghi surrounded by kneehigh grass like we did at Sedilo (nuraghe Iloi) or during a previous visit at the nuraghe of San Vero Milis (s'Uraki), or even completely inaccessible like the nuraghe at Uras (sa Domu Beccia). But apart from the bumpy road nuraghe Lugherras presented itself in good shape and accessible. The air was filled with the smell of herbs and flowers and the sound of buzzing insects.
It is without doubt a more adventurous way of nuraghe spotting and there are some do's and don'ts you will have to keep in mind.
Don't forget you are visiting an archaeological site so don't start digging, moving stones, trampling the environment or leaving litter about. Show respect for something humans built and has been standing there for much longer than you can immagine.
Don't forget you are visiting a perilous building; you can bump your head, slip on stones, fall or hurt yourself. If you visit managed archaeological sites they will not let you near the dangerous parts because you might get hurt and it is their responsibility. If you visit an unattended nuraghe the responsibility is entirely your own, just try getting help if your smartphone receives no signal. We even received hard hats at nuraghe Su Mulinu, the only site apart from the mines at Montevecchio where we were asked to wear them for our safety.
Don't forget you will be following trails that lead past or to private properties. Do not trespass, you may not see anyone but you will be seen. Don't forget you may bump into stray dogs or dogs herding sheep and goats. Keep your distance (always have a cane at hand just in case).
Do take your time to look for the nuraghe, it may not be that visible at first. Do greet anyone you encounter and look them in the face. Do take pictures of the nuraghe and if you have any picture you want to share I will be happy to put it on my list of nuraghi and mention your name.