184/377: Castelsardo



Today is really windy and I have to do a lot of climbing. I pass the hamlet of Valledoria La Muddizza, with the particular church of Our Lady of Fatima visible on the road, and I head towards the hills surrounding Castelsardo. There are still many clouds but it seems that they will be swept away. I arrive at a crossroads, on the left I see the famous elephant rock in the distance, I notice it because of a bus stopped nearby and a group of tourists. I continue and finally after a bend the fantastic view of the sea and of Castelsardo opens up, all colored, perched on the promontory.

The only contacts I have here are tourist guides, who in turn put me in touch with a b&b for lodging, right in front of the main square overlooking the gulf and the beaches. I leave my luggage and walk up a steep flight of steps towards the historic center, at the top. Here a little bus arrives with tourists along with Maria, the guide who contacted me. They are a group of Sicilians to whom I can join for the guided tour of the center.


We begin by entering the Doria castle, a family I have already talked about in previous articles that dominated these territories in the medieval period. At that time Castelsardo was called Castelgenovese precisely because of this domination. The walls of the castle surround the entire historic center and, from the bottom up, this setting reminds me of the Edinburgh castle. From the base of the walls one looks out on the new town, made up of colorful houses, and on the hinterland. Some tourists decide to pay a visit to the castle while another party decides to explore the streets around. I also opt for the second option, and wander around the narrow streets. A bartender recognises me and pulls me into her bar where she offers me a coffee! I continue through the narrow streets of ancient houses, passing under arcades, and I find a lady who weaves baskets, typical art of this area well documented in the Mediterranean Weaving Museum, right inside the Castle.


I go back towards the castle walls where we meet again with everyone, and we continue the visit of the center, passing next to the historic building La Loggia, headquarters of the Municipality, where once lived Eleanor of Arborea. From here we come to a beautiful little square where the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is located, peculiar because it has no facade. From here on Monday before Easter the brotherhood starts in procession up to the village of Tergu. During the rituals of Holy Week the center at night lights up with torchlight processions and the choirs of the brotherhoods sing the songs, a bit like I have already seen in Orosei. In this church I am struck by a black Christ from the 1300s and some baroque wooden altars.


Left the church we head towards the slope of the fortress overlooking the sea. Although very windy, the day has cleared up and the view of the sea infuses power, you can also see the mountains of Corsica in the distance. We arrive at the Sant’Antonio Abate cathedral, overlooking the cliff, all of dark volcanic stone, like most of the buildings here, with an imposing bell tower. We go in. The chapels are all decorated with Baroque wooden altars. There is an eighteenth-century organ (how I would like to try it!) and on the main altar a painting by the master of Castelsardo, an anonymous painter, probably Spanish, who in reality is only a piece of a larger altarpiece with four panels. We move into the crypt, where once there were burials, and now there is a beautiful display of the works of the master of Castelsardo, statues and various reliquaries.


When the guided tour ends I leave the large group of tourists and have lunch with some sandwiches, then my friend Alberto, in the area to do some work, arrives and takes me in the van to have a coffee in Lu Bagnu, a hamlet of Castelsardo, on a partly rocky coast, partly with beautiful beaches. From here Alberto then shows me the way that I will have to cycle tomorrow to climb to Tergu … indeed he decides to arrive at the entrance of Tergu! We return passing by the beautiful panoramic road, passing the tourist harbor, and I return to the b&b where I rest a little and work.

In the evening I meet with three other guides, Annalisa, Angela and Stefania at the Episcopio palace, which was the Bishop’s seat since 1500, moved here from the now disappeared Ampurias, in the territory of Valledoria. In this period the fortress was conquered by the Spaniards and changed its name to Castel Aragonese. In this historic building there is now a fine exhibition on the Inquisition, rooms that describe all the actions taken against witchcraft, the phases of the trials, the tortures and their instruments, some impressive. Once left, I walk a little further along the beautiful streets of the center, while the sun begins to set, and I project myself into other eras imagining medieval characters, then Spaniards who populated this neighborhood.


Alberto picks me up again for dinner and takes me to the La Vela restaurant in La Muddizza, near where I went this morning, owned by Andrea and Pierina. But first we stop at one of the most important natural and archaeological monuments in the area, the Rock of the Elephant, so called because of its obvious shape, but which is striking because inside it contains beautiful domus de janas (burial caves.) We take pictures from different angles and with the sun now down.






Arrived in the restaurant, we receive a treatment worthy of the Aragonese crown: fish dinner, royal quantities, superb quality. After dinner we spend time with the owner Andrea, who is also a sculptor and shows us some of his beautiful works, including a stone Castelsardo in reduced size. When Alberto takes me back, in the distance the lights of the town seem to come out of Andrea’s sculpture.

The important Festival sui Bocche, conceived by the musician Enzo Favata, this year arrived at the 19th edition, and it has moved to Castelsardo. Let’s wait to see in which fantastic scenarios the concerts will take place (the program at the time of my visit has not yet come out.) Best wishes for this start in a new location!