The first two things that come to mind when thinking about Sardinia are the crystal clear water of the sea and the beautiful beaches on the coast. However, the island has much more to offer: beautiful natural landscapes, archaeological sites and even elegant historic buildings.
Among these, there’s Villa d’Orri. Not many know of it, even in Sardinia. We could say this is a real Sardinia hidden gem. However, of all the historic villas in Sardinia, this is probably the most important one as it is the only Royal Residence in Sardinia. In fact, it hosted Carlo Felice di Savoia king of Italy and his wife, Maria Cristina di Borbone.
Located in the municipality of Sarroch and easy to visit from Cagliari, Villa d’Orri is a neoclassical building, with a large garden on the outside. Nowadays, the Villa evokes the decadent nobility with the paintings, the unique objects and the lavish furniture.
As I have recently visited and truly enjoyed it, to inspire you to visit this unique place that tourists (and oftentimes locals too) don’t know about, I thought I’d write about it. Continue reading to discover everything you need to know about Villa d’Orri.
Table of Contents
The History Of Villa D’Orri
The history of Villa d’Orri begins in the second half of the 1700s, when the Marquis of Thiesi Giacomo Manca Amat obtains the agricultural estate “Vigna d’Orri.”
At that time, the complex featured rustic homes with arcades, courtyards and gardens among which there was the church of the Santissima Vergine del Carmelo. The area also featured a workshop, an enclosed vegetable garden, two mills, a spring, a vineyard and more than a thousand fruit trees.
The construction of the building is attributed to Giacomo’s son, Stefano Manca of Villahermosa. Thanks to Stefano’s efforts, Villa d’Orri became an important cultural center, and at the beginning of the 19th century it also became the summer residence of the exiled King Charles Felix of Savoy and his court.
After Stefano’s death, Villa d’Orri was abandoned by the Manca family, which preferred living in the city than in the countryside.
In the late 19th century, Villa d’Orri become a beloved place by foreigners, enchanted by the beauty of its surroundings. The Villa was brought back to its splendor in the early 20th century, thanks to Vincenzo Manca Aymerich.
Vincenzo had the Villa renovated and remodeled, to create his own summer residence. Vincenzo also restored the surrounding land and the park, creating a direct access to the sea from the Villa.
Now, let’s discover the main places of interest when visiting the villa.
What To See At Villa D’Orri
Villa d’Orri features a typical Italian garden, accessible by a staircase decorated with marble busts, made in the neoclassical style. The garden features several monumental trees, such as the Ficus Magnoliodes and centuries-old palm trees. It’s a lovely place to explore and relax for a few moments before the tour of the villa begins.
The Vergine del Carmelo Chapel
The Villa’s Vergine del Carmelo chapel hosts the festival of Sant’Efisio every year. The procession dedicated to the Saint, stops by the chapel to celebrate the Mass. It’s a really small, private church with just one nave, that is however richly decorated with polychromatic marbles, statues and other precious furnishings.
The entrance hall of Villa d’Orri was built as a direct continuation of the garden outside. In fact, the ceiling features a painting of the sky.
This room was mainly used to welcome guests, and it is decorated by various paintings with mythological themes.
The four niches contain busts representing portraits of the masters and guests of the Villa: Stefano Manca of Villahermosa and his wife Anna Maria Manca Amat, Carlo Felice di Savoia, and Maria Cristina di Borbone.
The Chinese Room
This is the most unique room in the entire villa. I’d love to show you, but pictures are not allowed so you will have to see it for yourself.
The Chinese Room of Villa d’Orri takes its name from its oriental-style decorations. Chinese paintings depicting scenes of daily life can be seen on the walls. The furniture also features carvings depicting oriental figures.
Room of Maria Cristina di Borbone
One of the most decorated areas of the Villa, Maria Cristina di Borbone’s room features several original objects, such as a green tortoise clock, porcelain collections, and a travel mug complete with a case.
The room contains antique furniture, and there are still some of the clothes worn by the Savoia’s family, such as Carlo Felice’s jacket.
The dining room features a painting depicting the abduction of Galatea by the dolphins, in order to escape the cyclops Polifemo’s grasp. The room also features the inscription “Omnia Labor Vincit,” which can be translated as “Hard work triumphs over all”, the motto of the Manca family.
Other notable things to see
Other notable things you will see when visiting Villa d’Orri are king Charles Felix of Savoy bedroom, which again features beautiful furnishings; and the intricate fountain that is located in the back garden of the villa, with a statue at its center.
Tickets and tours
Villa d’Orri is actually private property and not open on a regular basis. It can only be visited on guided tours that have to be booked in advance. For more information, you can send an email to [email protected].
Is it possible to take photos?
You will have noticed this post does not contain photos of the interiors of the villa.
When we visited, our guide was quite adamant (in fact, a bit pedantic) in saying that we were not allowed to take photos inside the villa, something that she reminded us of on a regular basis.
This is because the Villa contains several paintings and works of art. You may take pictures outside the Villa, and in the garden.
How to get to Villa d’Orri
Villa d’Orri is located a few km outside of Sarroch and it is only 20 km (12.4 miles) far from Cagliari. If you have a car, getting there is really easy and in fact this is a unique destination for day trips from Cagliari. You will have to take the SS 195 Sulcitana.
Alternatively, you can travel to Sarroch by bus. Take bus line 129 from Cagliari’s ARST Station in Piazza Matteotti. The only issue is that once there you will have to walk – the Villa is located outside of town, and it’s a 5.5 km (3.5 miles) along a road that can sometimes be very busy.
Looking for more places to visit outside of Cagliari? Make sure to read my post The Most Incredible Day Trips From Cagliari.
Bathrooms are only available outside Villa d’Orri. There is nothing else in terms of services – you won’t find a souvenir shop, a café to get a drink or anything else, so bring whatever you need for the day.
Villa d’Orri is a historical villa and at the moment it is not equipped to accommodate people with mobility problems or in wheelchairs.
Looking for more unique places to visit in Sardinia? Make sure to read these posts:
- A Guide To Visiting Villa Piercy, Sardinia
- 15 Great Things To Do In Cagliari, Sardinia
- A Wonderful 3 Days In Cagliari Itinerary
- A Quick Guide To The Ancient City Of Nora, Sardinia
- A Useful Guide To Pula, Sardinia