It seems that the name gairo means ‘land that flows’. It is not by chance that the events that tormented this place, starting at the end of the 19th century, precisely due to the instability of the land on which it stands, had a dramatic outcome in October 1951. Today, in ‘old’ Gairo, you can see the ruins of the buildings that have remained tenaciously clinging to the rock of the Trunconi mountain, which dominates the valley of the Pardu rivulet below, with little dirt and cobblestone alleys linked by steps and sloping lanes. In fact, the roads delimited the terraces on which the buildings stood and they are therefore positioned horizontally, on staggered levels, along the slope.
Accounts tell the story of five days of incessant rain and wind in Ogliastra that made the original centre of Gairo, already exhausted by half a century of collapsing grounds and landslides, unsafe for people and animals. The streets turned into raging torrents, making the land ‘slide’ dramatically towards the valley. For obvious reasons of safety, the village was gradually abandoned: the last of its inhabitants left their homes during the decade that followed. The families of Gairo were able to choose where to live and divided themselves between: the ‘new’ Gairo, which is the present-day Gairo Sant’Elena, built a few dozen metres upstream, a village a few kilometres away surrounded by greenery, namely the hamlet of Gairo Taquisara, and a village much further downstream that took the name of Cardedu, which was built from scratch on the plain located a short distance from the splendid beaches of Marina of Cardedu itself and that of Gairo.
You will experience a timeless atmosphere while observing buildings made of granite and schist, bound by mud or sand and lime mortar. The lime was produced in a kiln that was active until a few decades ago, located where the hamlet of Taquisara emerged. Some buildings had three or four floors and today, the wrought iron balconies still resist in some of the façades. Entering the village on foot or by bike and peeping into the houses from the road, you will notice fireplaces, staircases, windows and plastered walls painted blue. Your thoughts will carry you back to moments of intimate family life in a distant past. The feeling of abandonment increases as you observe the vegetation making its way through the ruins and reclaiming spaces that once belonged to it. Every now and then, vegetable gardens pop up, some of which are apparently still being cared for.
After visiting the village, you can continue the excursion in the surrounding area: near Gairo Taquisara, a lush holm oak wood contains is Tostoinus, an oasis in which there are typical cuiles – stone and wood buildings used by shepherds -, perennial springs and the remains of a Nuragic village. Following the ‘path of the eagles’ you can reach the top of the ‘butte’ of Perdu Isu, where there is a 360-degree view, and visit the archaeological complex consisting of nuraghe, a village and a sacred well. On top of another butte, that of Osini, stands the impressive nuraghe Serbissi, exactly ten kilometres from another village, namely Osini vecchio, which shares the same fate and the same poignant atmosphere with Gairo vecchio.