Mamoiada is a lovely small town near Nuoro, in the Barbagia di Ollolai. People in Sardinia particularly love it for its carnival, during which you can watch the unique parade of the Mamuthones and Issohadores, two typical masked figures that characterize this ancient festival.
Located on an elevated position, Mamoiada is surrounded by a territory mainly used for grazing and cultivation, which also has many water sources. Due to its richness, the territory of the Barbagia di Ollolai has been populated since Neolithic times, as testified by several menhirs and dolmens found in the region.
If you are planning a trip into the Barbagia di Ollolai or in the Nuoro province, and especially if you are planning on visiting Sardinia in winter, then continue reading to learn more about Mamoiada, its Carnival and other places worth seeing.
What To See And Do In Mamoiada
Carnevale di Mamoiada
The Carnival of Mamoiada (Carnevale di Mamoiada in Italian) is one of the oldest folkloristic celebrations in all of Sardinia. It is held during the Carnival days, that is, in mid-February, or between late February and early March – depending when Easter falls.
While this region of Sardinia can get bitterly cold in the winter months, this is actually the best time to visit Mamoiada, since you’ll be able to admire the unique parade of the Mamuthones and the Issohadores.
The Mamuthones and the Issohadores are two typical masks of the Carnevale di Mamoiada. These two distinct figures participate in the parade with different roles. While the Mamuthones move solemnly and in silence, the more colorful Issohadores give dynamism and energy to the procession. The Mamuthones have a darker look, with a black wooden mask, a robe made of black sheepskins, while on their shoulders they carry cowbells.
On the other hand, the Issohadores are decidedly more cheerful, with a white mask and a berritta, the typical Sardinian headdress. Issohadores also wear white pants, a red shirt and a colorful leather strap, while in their hands they carry a light rope.
The origin of these masks is still debated: according to some scholars, the Mamuthones are a figure present since the Nuragic age, used for divinatory rites, animal worship or even Dionysian rites. Others think that the Mamuthones are masks used in the past, to celebrate the victory of the Sardinian shepherds on the Moor invaders.
The two masks parade through the town square from afternoon until the evening. Shaking their shoulders, the Mamuthones ring the bells on their backs, moving slowly, while the Issohadores proceed with faster steps, using their light rope to catch young women, to wish them good health and fertility.
Wine is another important part of the Carnevale di Mamoiada celebrations, specifically the Cannonau wine, a grape endemic to Sardinia. Wine and sweets are offered to the inhabitants of Mamoiada, as well as to tourists and visitors who attend the parade.
Autunno in Barbagia
Mamoiada is one of the towns that take part in the Autunno in Barbagia, an event that sees the participation of 32 Sardinian municipalities of the Barbagia region and that takes place every weekend during the fall season.
During the event, the courtyards of the Sardinian houses are opened to the public to showcase the history, culture and typical culinary traditions of Sardinia. Specifically, in Mamoiada the event is usually scheduled in early November and is a great opportunity to try great food and taste wine from the territory.
Head over to my post A Brief Guide To Autunno In Barbagia.
Cannonau Wine tasting
When talking about Sardinian wine, the first name that comes to mind is probably Cannonau. The Mamoiada area is particularly well known for the strong presence of the indigenous Cannonau, characterized by dark grapes and low vines.
The importance of this wine, led to the founding of the Mamojà association, which helped make the wine better known throughout the territory, in Italy and also abroad. Thanks to the association, now there are about 20 Cannonau wineries, and a total production of 250 thousand bottles.
If you are a wine lover and want to try some excellent Cannonau, among the best wineries I suggest Cantina Osvaldu Soddu, Cantina Merzeoro and Cantina Antonio Mele.
Make sure to read my post A Great Guide To Sardinian Wines.
Museo delle Maschere Mediterranee
To find out more about the history of the Mamuthones and Issohadores, you can visit the Museo delle Maschere Mediterranee, located in the center of Mamoiada. The museum is divided into two different exhibits, introduced by pictures, music and evocative sounds.
In the Barbagia Carnival Hall, visitors can see some masks typical of the central Sardinian area. The Mediterranean Hall, on the other hand, hosts an exhibition of masks from different places in the Mediterranean basin, such as the Iberian Peninsula and the Balkan countries.
You can get tickets to Mamoiada Mask Museum here.
Check out my post The 18 Best Museums In Sardinia.
Museo della Cultura e del Lavoro
Another important museum in Mamoiada, the Museo della Cultura e del Lavoro is dedicated to the traditions of the town and the territory. It is a journey through the culture and history of Mamoiada and Barbagia, with a single exhibit dedicated to the traditional economic activities of Mamoiada, illustrating the lifestyle of men and women during the mid-20th century.
Chiesa di Nostra Signora di Loreto
Located on a small round square in the historic center of Mamoiada, the Nostra Signora di Loreto is one of its most distinctive religious buildings in town. The church probably dates back to the 18th century and has been restored over several years.
Some studies attribute the base of the church to the Middle Ages, more specifically to the Pisan period. Its circular shape culminates in a hexagonal dome, while in the interior apse it is possible to admire some recently restored frescoes, made by unknown painters.
Sa Conchedda Istevene
Just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Mamoiada, there is a complex of tombs (Domus de Janas) dating back to 3200 BCE. The six tombs are carved into the rock, divided in a corridor by main chambers and niches. In one of them it is possible to admire low-relief carvings and sculptures, typical of Sardinian domus de janas.
Make sure to also read my post The Prettiest Domus De Janas In Sardinia.
Sa Perda Pinta
One of the most interesting and peculiar archaeological finds in Mamoiada, Sa Perda Pinta (the painted stone) is a 2.70-meter-high menhir, characterized by carvings in the shape of spirals and cup-marks. Steeped in mystery, the menhir dates back to 3500 BC.
According to scholars, the spirals represent the cycle of life-birth-death-rebirth, while the cup marks are a symbol of prosperity. Interestingly, menhirs of similar size have also been found in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Where to stay in Mamoiada
Mamoiada offers several accommodation options, such as B&Bs and rooms for rent. If you intend to visit for the carnival celebrations, you should book well in advance as it’s a very popular event and rooms may get sold out. Here are some of the best places for your stay in Mamoiada:
B&B Domus Deiana
Rooms at this family run bed and breakfast are spotless, and decorated in very traditional style – some have antique furnishing. There’s a nice garden where guests can relax on sunny days (but I shall warn you, Mamoida can be bitterly cold in the winter) and a good breakfast is served every day.
Modern, comfortable rooms – there’s also the option for a family room – and a sun terrace make this guest house one of the best places to stay in Mamoiada. The view of the surrounding mountains from the terrace are very soothing!
B&B da Anna
This recently opened bed and breakfast literally only has one room – big enough for three guests. The room has fabulous mountain and village views. An Italian style breakfast is included in the price of the room.
How to get to Mamoiada
You can get to Mamoiada by car or by bus.
From Nuoro – Nuoro is the closest town to Mamoiada. Take State Road 129 Trasversale Sarda and follow for State Road 389 of Buddusò and Correboi to Mamoiada. It will take you around 20 to 25 minutes.
From Olbia – take SS131 DCN towards Nuoro, turn at the Lanuesei junction and thereafter continue for 10 km (6.2 miles), until the junction with Mamoiada. It will take you around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
From Cagliari – take the E25 northbound towards Abbasanta. Afterwards, take the SS131 DCN to Nuoro and after 10 km (6.2 miles), exit at Mamoiada. The overall trip is a little over 2 hours.
You can take the Lina 302 from Nuoro – Lanusei – Barisardo – Tortolì, or Line 433 Cagliari – Laconi – Nuoro. If you are traveling from Cagliari, the trip is actually quite long and I advise against trying to visit for just a day.