The center of Sardinia features a mountainous landscape, and scattered in the mountains you will find many charming, small towns and villages. The area of Nuoro is particularly full of surprises, with places like Aritzo, a small village surrounded by nature. This is a place famous among Sardinians for its cultural events, its landscape and the fantastic festivals it hosts.
If want to find out more about Aritzo, this post is for you: here you will find many information on this beautiful town.
You should also read my post The Nicest Small Towns In Sardinia.
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Some Background Information About Aritzo
Aritzo is a small town in the province of Nuoro, located in the beautiful valley of the Gennargentu massif, about 800 meters (around 2,625 feet) above sea level. Characterized by houses with stone facades and cobblestone streets, the village of Aritzo is a lovely place to visit thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, completely surrounded by nature.
Aritzo is also famous for its chestnut woodworking, which consists in the crafting of chests, cutting boards and other objects, following a technique handed down for generations. In the past, the village used to trade ice blocks, created from snow collected in the domos de nie (Snow Houses) and was the place of production of sa carapigna, a kind of lemon sorbet that is very typical of Sardinia.
Historically, Aritzo saw the first human settlements as early as the Neolithic period. Later, the village was probably under the Punic domination, as evidenced by some archeological findings. In the Middle Ages, the town passed from the Giudicato of Arborea to the Spanish rule, after the Sardinian-Catalan war. In the mid-19th century, with the fall of feudalism in Sardinia, the town finally became a municipality.
What To See And Do In Aritzo, Sardinia
San Michele Arcangelo Church
Located in the center of the village, the parish church of San Michele Arcangelo dates back to the 11th century, but it has undergone several changes over the years. The most important one, which took place in the early 20th century, gave the church an elegant appearance, without affecting the old parts.
The main body of the church is made in Aragonese – Gothic style, which can be better observed on the outside of the tower and on the facade of the church. The painting of the patron Saint Michael can be seen on the entrance door, while the interior of the church echoes the elegance of the facade.
Sa Bovida (the Spanish Prison)
Located in the lower part of Aritzo, the imposing Sa Bovida dates back to the 17th century. Until the 20th century, Sa Bovida was a maximum security prison, used by the Spanish to lock up war prisoners among others.
It is possible to visit Sa Bovida and see some of its rooms, such as the guard station and the cells, divided for men and women. Inside the facility you can visit an interesting exhibit called Bruxas (witches), dedicated to witchcraft in 15th-century Sardinia. The exhibition features potions, ritual objects, herbs and medicines.
Casa Devilla was the home of the Devilla family, the principal owners of the aforementioned snow houses. Not surprisingly, the Devilla family earned the appellation “Snow Lords,” retaining it from the 19th century until the early 20th century, when they ceased their commercial activity.
An important small historical museum in Aritzo, Casa Devilla has changed over the years from a typically 15th century Spanish building to a more modern structure. Inside you can see the typical decor of Gennargentu mountain houses, with carved wooden furniture and shelves. Outside, Casa Devilla is striking with its trapezoidal-shaped courtyard that gives the house a distinctive perspective.
There are numerous natural monuments around Aritzo, including Su Texile, also known as Meseddu de Texile. It is a limestone taccu with sheer walls with a diameter of about 60 meters (about 197 feet) and a summit at about 1,000 meters (around 3,281 feet) above sea level. From a distance, this particular Taccu may look like a cylinder, or more precisely: a stool.
It is from this particular shape that it got the name Meseddu, a term originated from the Spanish term mesa (table) and used in Sardinian to refer to a stool carved from a log.
It is possible to get to Su Texile directly from Aritzo, driving along a two-kilometer road, immersed in a truly spectacular landscape.
Near Aritzo, in the area of Funtana Cungiada located at 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) above sea level, you can see the domos de su nie, or snow houses. These circular wells several meters deep, characterized by low walls and positioned on gullies, where used to deposit snow during the winter.
The snow was collected using buckets, deposited in the snow house and covered with straw and earth for protection. This allowed the formation of ice blocks, which during the summer where traded to other nearby locations to make sa carpigina, the famous sorbet that was invented in Aritzo.
Sagra delle Castagne
If you are planning to visit Aritzo between late October and early November, you should not miss the Sagra delle Castagne. During the two days of the festival you can enjoy various activities, such as a trip to the various chestnut groves in the area. You can also attend painting classes, taste chestnut beer, and visit the various stands dedicated to crafts and food products. Live music and performances will take place in the evening.
This festival is part of the Autunno in Barbagia event, which is usually held from early September to mid-December, and includes many small towns in the Barbagia region, the mountainous region where Aritzo is located. This event is a great opportunity to discover the oldest traditions of Sardinia, including culture, traditional cuisine, crafts and a tour of the most unique villages in the Gennargentu area.
Head over to my post The Nicest Events And Festivals In Sardinia.
Where to stay in Aritzo
Aritzo has just a handful of guest houses and bed and breakfasts – most people usually visit on day trips around the area, or even from Cagliari. But if you want to spend a bit longer, you may find that staying there is a nice experience. The two most highly rated places to stay in town are La Baita and L’Agrifoglio, both located in the center of the village.
How to get to Aritzo
The best way to get to Aritzo is by car – that will give you the chance to explore the beautiful surroundings too.
From Nuoro just take the SS389var. After driving for just about 400 meters out of town, take the Strada Statale 389 var di Buddusò e del Correboi, then follow the directions for Fonni/Ovodda/Aritzo/Sorgono. The trip will take 1 hour and 25 minutes.
If your starting point is Cagliari, you’ll have to take SS131 all the way to Ussana, and from there follow SS128. It will take you a little less than two hours.
You can also take the bus 9138 or 433 from Nuoro to Aritzo, but the trip will last almost three hours. These are actually the same buses that connect Cagliari to Nuoro, so you can also take them in the opposite direction.