Classical School Tours of Sardinia: Hellene Travel Log

Fields of Asphodel, Child Sacrifice and “Thank you Mr Churchill!”

We seemingly time travelled through early Bronze Age Nuraghic corbelled towers, villages and Necropoli, Punic and Phoenician towns, temples and Tophet, Mycenean and Classical Greek influences instigated by obsidian fever and Roman colonisation influenced by Imperialism, greed and the necessity of controlling trading routes.

If you wish to cover several millennia in one day alone, interspersed by stunning scenery and beaches – Sardinia is the place!

Nuraghic architecture is fascinating and awe inspiring. In particular, Su Nuraxi at  Barumini certainly gives the Mycenaeans a run for their money.

Monte D’Accoddi, in a beautiful setting, remains an enigma. Altar, temple or step pyramid? Certainly a sacrificial area with separate male and female designated zones.

7Nuragic burial practice varied across the centuries. The Coddu Ecchiu Tomb is a Megalithic Dolmen; but with a twist. (Fig 6) The Anghelu Ruju Necropolis offers rock cut chamber tombs with dromoi as at Dendra and Midea. We could have spent a whole day at the stunning Montessu Necropolis at Villaperuccio. Striding through fields of asphodel, exploring rock cut chamber tombs – I almost expected Ajax to emerge from one of the many houses of the dead! (right)

The Laconi Menhir Museum is unique in Europe. The adjacent Parco Aymerich is home to ilex groves, cave dwellings and waterfalls; the local ranger organises junior orienteering courses.

Monte Sirai and Sant Antioco satisfy the gruesome with Punic Tofet and possible child sacrifice. The Village Ipogeo, originally Punic chamber tombs were in use as housing until the 1960’s. Recalcitrant Group Leaders may be incarcerated here!

19Ipogeo San Salvatore has evidence multiple faith and multi century worship – with some quite specatular Roman wall paintings of Herakles, Gladiators, ships, chariots and wild animals. The Ipgoeo at Santa Cristina is a masterpiece of precision engineering and stone cutting; its Nuraghe set in a beautiful glade, perfect for a picnic lunch.

The large sites of Tharros and Nora are both spectacularly set on the coast. Originally Punic but later Romanised, they offer a wealth of housing from both civilisations. Villas, domus, insulae, theatres, temples, thermae, mosaics, roads, cisterns and cloaca maxima.

Caracallan Tempio di Antas (left)is a marvellous amalgamation of Roman and Punic construction reminiscent of Bassae. The nearby Roman quarries and Su Mannau Grotto are of both archaeological and speleological interest

21Probably one of the most atmospheric Roman Thermae lie at Fordongianus. With its river setting, bubbling waters, rising steam, mosaics and plunge pools, we couldn’t understand why we were alone.  (right)

Further evidence of Roman colonisation is to be found in Cagliari at Villa Tigellio,  the Atilia Pomptilla Tomb, huge Amphitheatre and underground excavations at Sant Eulalia.

The Cagliari Archaeological Museum on Buoncammino Hill is the perfect place to end a Sardinian Tour as its exhibits perfectly bring together all that has gone before. Most Museums offer didactic activities for school pupils but we were particularly impressed by the Tactile Museum in the Antiquarium Arborense, Oristano. (left)

23Cagliari is a city of huge contrasts. The Castello is a warren of tiny streets, Bastione S. Remy a wonderful belvedere, Via Roma a Neo Classical /1930’s miscellany, Poetto Beach an 8klm expanse of white sand, a plethora of green park spaces such as the Botanical Gardens, Devil’s SaddlePark Bonaria with stratified Phoenician, Punic and Roman Necropolis and the iconic pink flamingos of Lake Molentargius.

Not suitable for school parties (but excellent for adults!) was our excursion around the narrow back streets of the old town with Claudio Dessi (Cagliari Touring Servizi Turistici) and his trusty calessino. One of the few permitted to drive in the area we were greeted everywhere by cries of “Claudio Numero Uno!”

On expressing our dismay at the evidence of scarred public buildings damaged by Allied bombardment, he surprised us by exclaiming “No! We owe our freedom to the sacrifices of the British. Thank you Mr. Churchill!”

We offer huge thanks to Manuela Pinna of Sardiniapass for organising our reconnaissance and also to the wonderful people who offered us such excellent hospitality.