Sardinia is the home of “Nuraghi”.
There are thousands of prehistoric stone towers that only exist on Sardinia. No one knows who built them or what they were for. They look like giant bucket-sandcastles with their tops kicked off.
Much of the nuraghi’s appeal surely comes down to how neatly they reﬂect Sardinia itself – strange, delightful and never quite fully understood. This culturally convoluted island, suffused with inﬂuences from all across the Mediterranean, has an identity as slippery as the ﬁsh named after it. D.H. Lawrence was onto something when he famously described Sardinia as “lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere.”
A shy, reserved population speaking some pretty bizarre dialects make this an even more difﬁcult land to penetrate. The enigmatic nuraghi sum the place up nicely.
There are around 8000 nuraghi still standing on Sardinia today (the last of an original 30,000 or so), and only a very few of these have received a thorough goingover by archaeologists. The rest stand untouched where they’ve always stood, keeping their secrets and crumbling with inﬁnite slowness back into the soil.
They are mind-bogglingly old, built anywhere between 2500 to 4000 years ago, depending on which source you believe. Dry-stone-wall style, they stand by weight of stones alone. From a circular base, each nuraghe originally rose to a closed dome, but time has since collapsed the upper parts of most. So now the classic nuraghe is a single truncated cone, generally enjoying a panoramic setting in a sunbleached ﬁeld, or gnomically gazing out from a headland. But there are clusters too, several cones nestled together. What were they all for? Who built them? No one knows. They alone have come to define the people who made them, known only as ‘the nuragic civilisation.’ Some historians say that the nuraghi were the most sophisticated architecture in the world during the long period over which they were built. Nuraghi were certainly loved and revered by the nuraghic folk themselves, because precious tiny models of them appear at their religious sites. Nuraghi have evidently been inspiring affection right from the start.
Sardinia’s single biggest nuragic site – Su Nuraxi, is in the remote southwest corner of the island. Twelve magniﬁcent fat nuraghi clustered together overlooking the remains of an ancient village. It was wonderful. Nothing beats your ﬁrst nuraghe. The long-ago sight of that ﬁrst tower, the incredible sudden sight of it through the windscreen – Standing ancient and solitary against the cobalt blue sky – that is real magic.