350/377: Villanovafranca


The Civic Tower

On a grey and rainy day I descend a hilly area that brings me back to Marmilla, passing by the village of San Simone in the territory of Escolca.

I arrive at the Town Hall of Villanovafranca, on a square where the Civic Tower dominates, and I am greeted by the policeman Sergio who, instructed by the Mayor Matteo, will be my guide for the morning.

Lanterns at the Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum also overlooks the square in the building of the former Monte Granatico. Here I can admire a whole series of finds from the Su Mulinu nuraghe including an impressive number of oil lamps, apparently one thousand five hundred. This nuraghe was an important place of worship in the late Nuragic period. Other finds come from the Tuppedili and Barraca de is dragonis nuraghi. I pause in the interesting tactile section dedicated to the discovery of the shapes of the finds for the blind.

Sacrificial altar inside the nuraghe Su Mulinu

Taken the car, we head to see the site of the Su Mulinu nuraghe, on a hill from which, even on such a grey day, one can enjoy a view that extends throughout the Marmilla. The site is well managed and there are many accessible areas. The most interesting is the room where there is a sacrificial altar in the shape of a nuraghe, one of the most beautiful artefacts I have ever seen. The whole site was also used extensively during the epochs following the Nuragic period.

We walk along the municipal kart track San Lorenzo, currently closed, to arrive at the country church of the Madonna della Salute, recently built and surrounded by centuries-old olive trees.

An unmissable element in the towns of Sardinia: the “Apixedda”

Back in the village, I settle into the accommodation and wait for the rain to stop before going out for a stroll through the deserted streets of this village, built almost entirely of limestone and marl from the surrounding hills. Many houses have large courtyards that open onto the street through important stone portals and wooden doors.

The chapel of souls next to the old cemetery

I walk up to the parish church of San Lorenzo next to the old cemetery and the chapel of souls. Inside there are important furnishings and precious marbles, the sacristy is frescoed and there are ancient paintings portraying Vincenzo Raimondo Porru, presbyter from Villanovafranca, as well as a linguist famous for his Italian-Sardinian dictionary of 1832. In this area there is also a small private chapel once owned by the Santa Cruz family and the remains of old Austrian prisons.





For dinner I am a guest of Ivan, creator of Zafferano Cortis. Indeed, Villanovafranca, together with Turri and San Gavino Monreale, is the only municipality where PDO saffron is produced.

In front of a pizza and some bottles of Ichnusa beer Ivan tells me that cultivating saffron has always been his passion, ever since, in 1987, he was struck by an expanse of fragrant saffron flowers that were born around the property of his uncle Claudio and that he decided to give him.

Even the grandfather was involved in the sale of saffron and almonds. So Ivan had no doubts in embarking on this new adventure, first as a hobby in 2005, then as a real profession, obtaining the Saffron of Sardinia PDO recognition as producer, processor and packer. His mission? Always and only aim for excellence to ensure the highest quality saffron production.

At the end of dinner Ivan gives me a jar of saffron stigmas. He tells me that it was grown exclusively in the Villanovafranca area according to traditional methods. The flowers are picked by hand early in the morning, when they are still closed in order to retain the best organoleptic substances. During the day, the separation of the purple petals from the red stigmas takes place; the stigmas are then dried through their exposure to mild heat sources.

I thank Ivan for the gift, I have no idea how I will have to use it later, but he tells me that on the website you can find all the instructions and recipes. I can’t wait to try it as soon as I get the chance, I think when the trip is over!