Slow steps, curious eyes filled with splendour and a serene soul eager for emotions... this is the way to walk through the little villages and the unspoilt nature of Sardinia, lost in an atmosphere of purity and relaxation, far from crowds and confusion. It is the intimate and authentic face of a legendary land, where you can clearly see the material and other traces left behind by historical events and by religious men that, after hundreds or even thousands of years, continue to arouse the intense devotion of walkers, pilgrims and visitors to those places. Legends, traditional rituals, knowledge linked to nature, art and food inevitably intertwine with the ancestral evidence left behind. In the wake and in the footsteps of saints and martyrs, ancient and modern, you will discover situations where past and present coexist in a time that seems to be standing still and you will be welcomed by communities for whom hospitality is sacrosanct.
Memory and devotion. Ancient paths, mule tracks and disused railways along the Santa Barbara Mining Route, the only Sardinian one included in the Atlas of Italian Routes, will accompany you between the cliffs overlooking the sea, sand dunes, woods and hills once rich in deposits, today part of the Geo-mining Park of Sardinia. At the beginning of May, Sardinia stops to commemorate the story of its warrior martyr. A solemn, majestic, colourful procession has been taking place for almost four centuries and is among the oldest and longest in the world: it can be relived all year round thanks to the Path of Saint Ephysius, from Cagliari to the little church in Nora, the place of his martyrdom, next to the ruins of the ancient Phoenician-Punic and Roman city. The itinerary that retraces the evangelisation work carried out by San Giorgio, bishop of Suelli, who lived between the 11th and 12th centuries, also starts from Cagliari, crossing dozens of small and large towns, from Campidano to Trexenta and Sarcidano, as far as Ogliastra and Barbagia.
It is the most articulated and longest religious itinerary in Sardinia, inspired by Santiago de Compostela. The Path of Santu Jacu branches out along four main roads that cross the entire Island. The Route of the Sanctuaries, on the other hand, is a major route that unites country churches that glow with lights, colours and scents during the celebrations dedicated to the saints to whom they are dedicated, preceded by novenas for pilgrims staying in the muristenes or cumbessias (lodgings). From San Salvatore di Sinis to the granite landscapes of Gallura, passing through Santa Cristina in Paulilatino, San Mauro in Sorgono, Nostra Signora di Gonare, the ‘tallest’ church in Sardinia, and San Francesco di Lula. From the hinterland to the coast: have you ever thought of circumnavigating the Island on foot? There is the Path of 100 towers. Its spiritual ancestry is evident in the myriad of rural sanctuaries scattered along the coast, but the most distinguishing feature is the system of defensive fortifications, built by the Spanish Crown, to tackle pirate raids.
An experience of discovery and cultural and spiritual enrichment in unique natural contexts. The Franciscan places in Sardinia are an ‘ideal’ itinerary that involves 15 island towns. Visiting them is a dive into the indelible traces that the Franciscan Order left behind. The ‘cluster’ includes towns like Alghero, Cagliari, Iglesias, Oristano and Sassari, coastal villages such as Bosa and Castelsardo, ‘spiritual villages', such as Gesturi, Lacon and Luogosanto and other inland and coastal towns that experienced Franciscan life to the full: Bottidda, Fonni, Mores, Pula and Sanluri. The typical hospitality of the Capuchin and Conventual monks and the Friars Minor adds to the air of inner peace. Accompanying this introspective dimension is the silence of the places, as well as the welcome of the people who live there and the authenticity of their traditions.
The first Franciscans arrived in Sardinia in the 8th century. Luogosanto, itself an evocative name, was one of the first places they landed - to be precise, in a hermitage of peace and silence in a cave where, they say, Saints Nicholas and Trano lived. 21 other sanctuaries bear witness to the fervent religiosity of the Luogosanto community, starting with the basilica of Nostra Signora di Gallura, famous for the privilege of receiving the Holy Door. This Gallura village is the northernmost of several ‘devoted’ places, ‘chosen’ as pilgrimage destinations in Sardinia. Each has its own distinctive features, each is linked to prominent personalities in the Sardinian Church, saints or beatified people, and each is a starting point for itineraries allowing you to discover the area. Laconi, in the Sarcidano area, is a village ‘of faith’ surrounded by woods and prehistoric remains, where St Ignatius was born and lived. The Blessed Nicola was born not far away, in Gesturi, in Marmilla.
Their birthplaces are spiritual oases and museums, with landscapes of extraordinary beauty standing out in the background.
At the foot of the Supramonte, the murals of Orgosolo tell stories of the fight against injustice. The very young Blessed Antonia Mesina, who defended her chastity to the end, became a symbol of this fight. The place in which she lost her life is now a place of prayer and reflection. Another woman, Maria Gabriella Sagheddu, contributed to the strong spiritual impact of Dorgali with her example. You will sense it in the narrow streets of the village and in its immense territory, ‘suspended’ between rugged hills and the enchanting Gulf of Orosei coast. Galtellì, a quaint village honoured by Grazia Deledda in ‘Reeds in the Wind’, is a place of veneration for los milagros (the miracle) of the Holy Crucifix dating back to 1611, kept in one of its many churches. It is also home to sos gozzos, liturgical chants that accompany walks and processions, including the one that leads to the top of Mount Tuttavista, where a huge statue of Christ has been installed.
Sardinia is a land of martyrs, like Ephysius and others. The first evangelisers left a legacy of legends, monuments, traditions and the places linked to them have been destinations for pilgrimages, since time immemorial. Sant’Antioco and Porto Torres, for example, share extraordinary devotion to two holy martyrs. Antiochus, patron saint of Sardinia, gave his name to the island and town in Sulcis and one of the oldest celebrations in Europe is dedicated to him. In Porto Torres, stands the largest Romanesque basilica on the island, dedicated to Saint Gavinus. The devotional path touches the picturesque little church of Balai Vicino, among others, where the martyr may have been buried. It ends with a sense of majesty and composed simplicity that pervade San Pietro di Sorres in the Logudoro village of Borutta. The fraternal welcome of the monks of the Benedictine monastery adds to the beauty of the church.