Ogliastra, an island in the Island
We often hear that Sardinia, thanks to its countless environments, climates and landscapes, is not just an island, but a continent. What most people don’t know is that such continent has another one in itself: Ogliastra, a varied and beautiful territory, ranging from the eastern slopes of Gennargentu to the perhaps most beautiful seas of the island, a land that hosts touristic resorts and abandoned towns, festivals that attract visitors from the rest of Sardinia (and beyond) and natural monuments immersed in silence. Without pretending to write an in-depth guide of what may indeed resemble a continent more than a territory, let’s imagine a journey that crosses Ogliastra from north to south, allowing us to see some of its marvels. Such journey can’t begin anywhere but along the local route 66: the SS 125.
Headed southward, just a few kilometers after entering Ogliastra, we will find ourselves at over 1000 meters of altitude, at Genna Silana, one of the highest mountain passes in Sardinia. We can park our cars here and descend down the steep path that, almost 700 meters below, will lead us to the mouth of the largest canyon in Europe: Su Gorroppu. Whether starting from the bottom of Su Gorroppu or from the pass of Genna Silana, the possibilities for nature lovers are endless: the gorge itself winds for several kilometers and, in the surrounding area, there are natural pools where we could cool off, high walls that we could try to climb, “cuili” (old recovers for sheep and goats, built with dry stone and juniper wood) where we could camp, caves and gorges we could explore.
Continuing along the SS 125, the small village of Urzulei, just over 1000 inhabitants perched at over 500 meters of altitude in one of the most isolated towns of the island, is surely worth a visit. The town feeds on numerous festivals, especially when the international tournament of Murra takes place, hosting players from all the Mediterranean countries.
Another notable deviation on the SS 125 track is found shortly after the one headed to Urzulei and leads us instead to the path to the beach of Cala Luna, the most famous of the numerous coves of the Gulf of Orosei, likely among Sardinia’s most beautiful but reachable only by boat or through several hours of trekking. Recently, it was discovered that the Codula di Luna (the often dry mountain stream that descends down to the beach) is part of a single karstic system, the largest in Italy with its over 70 km of underground caves leading to Grotta del Bue Marino.