250/377: Bortigali


Old buildings with Aragonese elements

I’m here, at the foot of the Marghine chain, the long and mighty basaltic edge that dominates the Abbasanta plain. Some peaks stand out on this chain, such as the Santu Padre, 1026 meters above sea level, which silently guards and protects the village of Bortigali.

I avoid going along the dreaded 129 state road, and enter Bortigali from the other entrance, along the main road. I immediately realise the beauty and elegance of some buildings. My mind always tries to imagine these places in a past time of wealth and splendor.

Today Giuseppe welcomes me, at the bar of his son Filippo. He’s member of the Nino Carrus Association of the nearby village Borore. He together with President Fausto, one of the most fervent supporters of the revitalisation of small villages of the interior of Sardinia, take care of my hospitality and guide me through the visit of this municipality.

Road on bare rock in the Sa Cudina area

From the first steps inside Bortigali I realise the uniqueness of this village. Many homes still have wooden balconies, a feature that was once very widespread even if today only a few of them remain.

We pass by the area called Sa Cudina, where the houses are in trachyte and the streets carved out of bare rock. I look around, we could very well be at the end of the nineteenth century.

We walk further, returning to the main road and passing the beautiful building of the former elementary schools, and we arrive at the Passino Park. Here is the entrance to an old WWII air raid shelter.

Rifugio antiaereo dove nacque Radio Sardegna

We go down inside. The humidity is high and the rock walls are damp. They tell me that this place was the hiding place of General Antonio Basso, commander of the 13th Army Corps in Sardinia. Bortigali was in fact a strategic place, just below the basaltic margin, and therefore not very visible in air raids, with little probability of being bombed.

Statue of the Madonna degli Angeli, in the Nostra Signora degli Angeli church

We continue the tour, arriving at the parish church of Nostra Signora degli Angeli, in a charming little square. The facade is all in pink trachyte and the beautiful bronze portal is by Pietro Longu, an artist from Bortigali who has works scattered throughout Sardinia, for example the siren in Golfo Aranci.

Here a group of men are rearranging the statue of the saint in the space above the altar. Today, in fact, is the day of celebration of the patron saint, and the statue, carried in procession during the morning by the brotherhoods, is placed here where mass will be celebrated in the evening.

Inside the parish church is the beautiful Retort of Bortigali, still of uncertain attribution, perhaps from the Maestro di Ozieri or his workshop, but certainly dating back to the first half of the sixteenth century.

San Palemerio church

Adjacent to the parish is the seventeenth-century church of the Rosary, whose white facade is divided by horizontal and vertical lines of pink trachyte. Inside there are ancient stone stoups from 1100.

We go up some stairs to reach the church of San Palmerio, the old parish church, very simple and suggestive. Inside there are still members of the Brotherhood of Souls who offer us a good glass of wine.

From here we walk to the area called Sette Padeddasa, made of low and very old houses. Here it is said that seven families from the Berre village, destroyed by a flood, settled.

Old wooden balconies

After a good lunch in a restaurant, on a hot afternoon, Giuseppe takes me to see the upper part of the town. Still wooden balconies, many Aragonese-style door and window frames, abandoned houses, inside which you can still see ancient objects abandoned over time.

Santu Padre mount watchtower

Just above the village there is a large anti-flood embankment that collects the waters to pour them into the Rio Manigos, which feeds the springs that give water to the village. Giuseppe tells me that once there were three mills, of which only one remained standing.

Before the sun goes down we take the car to go up to the forest lookout above Mount Santu Padre. We pass the crossroads leading to the hamlet of Mulargia, once an independent municipality, and we go up a road crossing a shepherd on a donkey, who leads his flock of sheep while talking on a cell phone.

We get to the watchtower. From here the view is breathtaking. Bortigali, tiny, below us, the Abbasanta plateau, the Tirso valley, up to the slopes of the Barbagia and Gennargentu mountains. A launch pad for paragliders has been set up nearby, the second one I see on my journey after Sedini‘s.

Nuraghe Orolo

From here we move to another hill, where the Orolo nuraghe dominates, very high and well preserved, whose basaltic stones are covered with whitish moss that the setting sun illuminates with a unique color.

In this, as in other nuraghes, there is the phenomenon whereby at dawn of the winter solstice the sun’s rays enter the window of the architrave of the entrance door, pass through the main hall and arrive in the center or in a niche. Also from here the view is incredible and we enjoy the light breeze at sunset.

We conclude the evening with Giuseppe and Fausto in a pizzeria, not far from the church of Sant’Antonio carved into the rock, and from the old station of the Nuoro-Macomer railway line, now closed. Here I am introduced to Luca Mulas, a skilled iron artist from Bortigali, whose works I have seen here and there during this long day, I no longer remember where!






Giuseppe tells me that in 1972 he founded Radio Bortigali, which broadcast until 1982 and that it could be listened to in 108 villages of Sardinia! But this was not the only radio station to broadcast from this village in the Marghine.

In fact, in the air raid shelter visited this morning, Radio Sardegna was born in 1943, on the frequency 550 mhz. The story of its birth is fascinating, linked to the events of the Second World War and to the fact that the allies wanted the enemies to believe that the invasion of Italy would take place from Sardinia.

Italians and Germans therefore decided to strengthen the defenses, transferring their most powerful radio from Rome to Lei, and then to Bortigali. The first broadcasts began with the first notes of the hymn “Cunservet Deus su Re” and then with the announcement “Radio Sardegna here, free voice of Italy, faithful to its King”.

But the most important fact for which Radio Sardegna is remembered, after it was transferred to Cagliari in 1944, is that it was the first radio station in the world to announce the end of the Second World War with the words “The war is over … the war is over! To you who listen to us, the war is over!”

And to immerse myself in those years of war, Giuseppe advises me to read the book “The great summer of Tonì”, by Tonino Putzolu, set in Bortigali, which tells the story of a child who finds the ideal space within a German camp to feed his fantasy world, unaware of the potentially violent nature of the military apparatus in which he moves.