122/377: Arzana



Today’s route is 4 km of descent (with planes and light climbs) and 4 of a super hard climb! Sooner or later, if I make a ranking of the toughest climbs of this trip, this will certainly be one of them! There is a lot of wind and the sky is a bit hazy. It seems that the notorious “crazy March” has started.

I arrive at the central square where Maria Carla and Federica are waiting for me, two girls contacted through Barbara, the councilor of Tertenia. After a coffee we take a nice walk in the historic center of Arzana, full of beautiful renovated buildings, and characteristic corners. The square, where an old fountain is located, was the first core of the village. Not far away is the modern church of San Giovanni Battista, the patron saint. Inside there is a statue of the Madonna brought from Medjugorje, to which two important healings are attributed in the village, and for this reason the church has been the destination of pilgrimages.


Maria Carla tells me a bit about the history of the town, how a part of the inhabitants of the now abndoned village Ruinas, at the foot of the Gennargentu, left to move here, and settled in the upper part. We move on to the Pro Loco association headquarter, where Pina emails me a document with all the detailed history of Arzana. We continue the tour stopping at the clay laboratory Mammaterra (the earthworm) of Maria Rosa, who illustrates the work that has been done by young people who have just been released from prison, jars and containers for medicinal herbs, very common in this area, and who have also learned to cultivate.


We continue to walk through the center, passing the beautiful monument to the fallen of Pinuccio Sciola, a small square with a monument in honor of the exhibition Il Porcino d’Oro, the birthplace of the artist Stanis Dessy, and a beautiful panoramic terrace. Not far away is the Preventorio, a former nursing home for tuberculosis patients, now a large abandoned building. In these streets was born Samuele Stochino, a famous bandit nicknamed “the Tiger of Ogliastra”.

Before lunch we go to the Town Hall to say hi to the Mayor Marco and the deputy Fabrizio, and then we head to the restaurant La Pineta, in a high area from which you can enjoy a beautiful view, from a slightly different angle than that from Villagrande Strisaili. The pistoccu (hard thin bread) is very good, even more the selection of culrgiones (a type of local ravioli) of five different tastes, cheese, mushrooms, asparagus, herbs, and tomato sauce.


After lunch we go to see the church of San Vincenzo Ferrer, which overlooks a beautiful lookout. In this predominantly granitic area, there are strands of red porphyry (the same as the famous Red Rocks in Arbatax). Some houses are built with both types. We move on to the sports field, which is 805 meters above sea level. A beautiful facility where the Terra Sarda event was held, in which great champions, Pistorius, Owen, participated, among others. I also do a run on the beautiful track!


Francesca and Andrea join us with the Labrador Mustache, and despite the strong wind we decide to go up to the pine forest, where the statue of San Michele is, to vigil the town. We are around 1000 meters above sea level, and the view on the Ogliastrina coast is incredible, but it is hard to stand upright in the wind!

The last stop is certainly one of the most interesting. We drive for quite a while, skirting the Lago Alto Flumendosa, on the same road I traveled yesterday to get to Villagrande Strisaili, to reach the foot of the Gennargentu and visit the ancient village of Ruinas. Here is a beautiful nuraghe and the remains of what was the village, which was inhabited until 1600 and then abandoned probably due to a pestilence. What remains are piles of stones, beautiful granite, “ruinas” in fact, of those that were first a nuragic village, then medieval and then older. Thanks to the Labrador Mustache we find in the middle of the stones the entrance of a sacred nuragic well to which the dog is drinking! There is a strong wind and cold air that comes from the Gennargentu, with its highest peak, Punta La Marmora, 1834 meters, right in the territory of Arzana.


We drive through granite valleys, with breathtaking views, to return to the village, cold and wind-swept, and conclude the evening with a quiet dinner at Francesca’s house, together with her mother. They will host me for the night, making me feel at home.






It seems that in Arzana there is the highest longevity index in the world (surely the neighboring villages will have to say about this!) Here, one of the 5 ‘blue zones’, scholars come from all over the world to try to understand (and grab) the secrets of the centenarians. Someone attributes particular properties to the air. In these areas, in fact, we find unique medicinal herbs, which grow only at high altitudes, around the Gennargentu. Their presence would make the air particularly beneficial, after all the name Arzana would come from the Latin Aer Sana, healthy air.

In the morning walk we stop by Dr. Sesto, the village doctor, who confirms the high number of centenarians here. He tells me that one of the factors could be genetic, and in particular he makes a hypothesis about the fact that these genes could have been transmitted by the ancient inhabitants of Ruinas, just below the Gennargentu. Once they left the country they dispersed throughout the surrounding territory, often rejected by other villages, and finding hospitality in Arzana.

Finally Dr. Sesto tells me a funny anecdote. A very old patient went to ask him if he would live up to a hundred years. The doctor asks him some questions: ‘Do you smoke?’ Answer ‘no’, ‘Do you drink?’ Answer ‘no’, ‘Do you make love?’ Answer ‘no’ … and the doctor continues ‘and then why do you care about living up to a hundred?’