261/377: Orotelli


Berries bush at Sa Serra

I leave Bultei happy, because I am returning to Nuorese, after almost a year, and I already appreciate the color and the scents of the plants, the rocks and, soon, in Orotelli I will hear the Nuorese accent again!

I pedal on quiet roads, along the Tirso valley, light ups and downs in the shade of the cork oaks, and just before arriving I walk a short stretch of state road 129 that I have avoided like a plague in recent weeks.

As I reflect on the fact that I am only a few hundred meters away, a hijacker starts overtaking, despite having seen me, and I have to stop in a ditch to avoid being run over. He passes really close to me, nearly touching me. I make a gesture with my hand, but he does the same and, with the window open, yells at me some swear words. No comment.

I leave with my heart beating fast, and cycle the last stretch that climbs towards the village, where, at the entrance sign, to witness my usual gesture of placing a sticker testifying my passage here, they are waiting for me in a group. They are the guys of the Festina Lente association, and they will take care of my welcome: Franco, Angelo, Marco with his son Antonio, Francesco and Nicolina. There is also Fabrizio, with his dog Simba, who will host me tonight in the studio where he teaches yoga. I am welcomed with great human warmth and I have no doubt that even today will be a fantastic day, even if it is hot.

Nuraghe Aeddos

We equip ourselves with bottles of water and get on a spartan off-road car to visit the territory of Orotelli. It is here that the territory of the “Civitates Barbariae”, the Barbagie, began for the Romans. It is here that the border of the Giudicato di Torres passed, and this is the border between the provinces of Sassari and Nuoro. Sa Janna Bassa, the small door, has always been a a crossroads for people, including cattle thieves and bandits.

We walk uphill and enter an oak forest arriving at the Sa Serra plateau, from where we can enjoy an exceptional view of the area. Between cork and blackberry brambles, I can see the mountains of Goceano and Marghine and the plain of Ottana.

We arrive at the Nuraghe Aeddos and, finally, the dog Simba can run around happily here and there, while we enter the massive building, built with huge blocks of granite. Inside we enjoy a bit of coolness until we go up to the top to further enjoy the view around.

After having quenched our thirst, we take the car again to visit the country church of San Pietro Apostolo di Oddini, all in red trachyte, with a beautiful pulpit. Oddini was the name of a village that has now disappeared. The guys tell me that nearby there were also the churches of Sant’Anastasia, which was demolished, and that of San Michele, of which only ruins remain.

The “trim”

Back in the village, a royal lunch awaits me, at Francesco and Nicolina’s house, with other friends and children, which lasts until late afternoon. Before resuming my visit to the village, Franco, who from the beginning I felt like a kindred soul for his thick and well-kept beard, he wants to fix my beard, now untrimmed from the beginning of the trip (to tell the truth, I had tiny adjustments even if they are not visible.)

So in the courtyard of Fabrizio’s house I sit on a chair and Franco begins to “trim”. I advised him not to shorten it, but in the end Franco gets a little carried away and leaves the length only under the chin, while the sides are considerably shorter!

The aqueduct from 1929

With a decidedly “clean” face, we begin the tour around the village. We start with the old aqueduct, a granite construction from 1929, sober, in “Mussolini’s style”. We can also climb above it, from the back, and admire the rounded granite peaks that stand out around the village, Monte Nasudu, Monte Fruschina. Actually, the whole village is built on very hard and very high quality granite, which also crops up in the gardens and between the houses.

Granite peaking out of the village

From the new district of Mussinzua we head to the historic centre. Architecture changes radically. Very old houses, many abandoned, but with beautiful details: windows, jambs, balconies, all in granite. We walk through very narrow streets, some without asphalt or flagstone pavement, concrete that looks like outcropping stone, and we peek into the gardens and windows of uninhabited houses.

Alleys in the historic centre

When the sun goes down we arrive at the beautiful church of San Giovanni Battista, all in red trachyte, Romanesque style, with a beautiful bell tower and an access portal to the square. Not far from here is the other important church of the town, San Lussorio, all in granite and more recent, from the 1700s.

San Giovanni Battista church

After a visit to the Multipurpose Center, where we hope to be able to improvise an event for the population without positive results, we retire for dinner, again at Francesco and Nicolina’s house. Under the stars, the only sound is chatter and the ukulele, while Bernardo, a friend who joined us, tells millions of stories from his childhood in Orortelli, which he is collecting in a forthcoming book.

PS The morning before departure we have breakfast in a cafe on the 129 state road. A gentleman approaches and asks me “are you the cyclist who threw himself into the ditch yesterday? I was in the car that was being overtaken and for a moment I saw you dead!”






The Festina Lente association takes its name from a Latin phrase that means “hurry up slowly”. It seems the story of my journey, a slow journey, but in a hurry, to see as much as possible, to meet characters, to participate in lunches, dinners, concerts etc.

The association was formed very recently and their mission stems from the same consideration that J.F. Kennedy made: “Don’t ask yourself what your country can do for you, ask yourself what you can do for your country”.

The guys started with book presentations, such as Franca Menneas’s “Sa lota ‘e Pratobello”, or documentary screenings, such as Antonio Sanna’s “Senza pass dal via”, about the story of the Ottana factory, to raise awareness among the population to historical and cultural events, and not only in these territories.

Thanks to Festina Lente I discover that the Orotelli carnival is characterized by the Sos Thurpos parade, unique masks. They also remind me that the writer and journalist Salvatore Cambosu was born in Orotelli. And he himself, in his most famous work, tells of the carnivals in the area: “if you want a carnival that there is no other on the whole earth, go to Mamoiada which inaugurates it on St. Anthony’s day: you will see the herd with wooden masks, the dumb and captive herd, the old vanquished, the young winners, a sad carnival, a carnival of ashes, our everyday history, joy seasoned with a little bit of gall and vinegar, bitter honey”.