Hiking in Limbara: Badu e’ furru

The Limbara is a mountain massif in North – East Sardinia dividing the two geographical sub regions of Gallura and Logudoro. Its name probably comes from the ancient Latin “Limen Balares”, the border line that divided the territories inhabited by Balari (Balares) from the one inhabited by Corsi, the present Gallura. Its peak is Punta Balestrieri. At 1362 m. above sea level, it offers a great view over Gallura, Monte Acuto, Lougudoro and across to nearby Corsica. You can reach this massif from different towns and this is a first taste of the diversity Limbara can offer. One of our preferred hike starts from the Berchidda side. Berchidda is a little town where there are good friends of us and it’s possible to taste good typical food and great wine and we surely speak about it other times. The starting point is inside the forestation site of the Regional Agency Forestas, check the opening times which you have to respect. The hike begins on a dirt road that quickly carries us to a stream. Limbara usually has plenty of water and given that in Sardinia this is not so common, one of the things I like most on this path is the sound of water.

Little waterfall on the path
Little waterfall and smooth stones

The stream flows down gurgling, with the water that seems to brush the smooth stones, making little falls and fresh pools.

Crossing the stream
The path crosses a little stream

We cross and we are welcomed by a dense strawberry tree wood made up of quite young trees. Wood cutters worked hard here and while walking it’s possible to understand that this forest was really impressive before they cut the original trees down. Now, from huge trunks are growing new trees. And it’s amazing to see how these are twisted, searching for light. The bark has little red scales.

The path crosses a dense wood
The dense strawberry tree wood
A twisted trunk of strawberry tree
A strawberry tree trunk twisted in search of light

In autumn these trees have plenty of red berries, for the joy of foxes and birds. And in the same period the branches hold their white flowers, filling the air with a sweet scent. The strawberry tree honey keeps this sweet smell in spite of its bitter taste. As we carry on, the path begins to steepen and with the increasing altitude the trees give way to tall shrubs. In late Spring wild violets peep out from the grass, gently colouring the ground.

A wild violet flower
In late Spring wild violets colour the ground

Big boulders appear, reminding us of a different climate, with ice carrying them and then melting and leaving behind chaos. This grey granite is ancient and tough and among these rocks we like to look for a particular lizard, a very shy one. It’s the Archeolacerta bedriaga, which is endemic to Corsica and Sardinia and prefers rock walls and isolated boulders. I don’t know if it’s because I’m fascinated by the name, but I find this lizard particularly interesting, with this prefix Archeo that makes me think about something ancient. I like its brown skin with its snout with evident scales. I think it goes perfectly with this setting of granite.

Archeolacerta bredriaga
The Bedriaga’s rock lizard prefers rock walls and isolated boulders

Looking for the lizard helps us not to feel the effort of the ascent! The path brings us to the top, Punta Bandera, with its narrow turns.

The path to the top
Limbara, a group hiking to Punta Bandera

On the top, if it’s a clear day, we can enjoy one of the most spectacular views of the entire Gallura. The panorama encompasses nearby Corsica, the valley of Olbia, the ridge of the mountains near Alà dei Sardi with its wind farm and, in the distance, Monte Albo and its white limestone. Of course we can see Tavolara, the island which signifies the edge of the Gulf of Olbia.

A panoramic view from the top
Panorama, on the horizon Tavolara
A big granite boulder
A big boulder stands out against the blue sky

If the day is warm, we can look up to the sky for Golden Eagles. They prefer to fly on good, sunny days, taking advantage of the hot air going up from the ground. In this way they can easily fly without moving their wings. At least two or three pairs of this magnificent bird of prey live here. The way back is on the same path, allowing us to meet again the points of this hike we love most. If you want to discover more hiking paths in Gallura read San PantaleoCapo Testa and Capo Ceraso, too.

 

San Pantaleo

Balba Cana, a granite peak near San Pantaleo
A big granite peak called Balba Cana

Fifteen kilometers from Olbia and only some kilometers from Costa Smeralda, it’s possible to find a little treasure: San Pantaleo. It’ s a town surrounded by granite peaks, where the houses around the piazza are the ancient “stazzi”, typical traditional buildings in this part of the island. The walls are built with big granite blocks, left uncovered and usually the door and two windows complete the facade. If you sit in the piazza, drinking something in one of the bars you can see the granite peaks dominating the town. Among this granite, carved into incredible shapes by the water and the winds, there are some amazing paths that are perfect if you want to discover something more. The starting point is on a dirty road passing through big holm and cork oaks. When it finishes, you find an ancient stazzo, Stazzo Manzoni, named after the owner.

Stazzo Manzoni, where you find the starting point of this hike
The starting point for our path is near Stazzo Manzoni

Here different paths begin. The big peak called Balba Cana, that looks like the face of an old man, is on your left side; on the right the view can sweep as far as the horizon in a clear day.

Balba Cana and beautiful Mediterranean vegetation
All around the path, beautiful Mediterranean vegetation

All around there is beautiful Mediterranean vegetation, with juniper trees, strawberry trees, heathers; the path crosses some little streams. In spring, flowering lavander bushes scent the air together with the yellow Helicrysum. If you choose the walk to “Stazzo Li Pinnitteddi” in thirty minutes you can reach the ruins of this traditional house. Go inside and you can have a look at the ancient way to build a roof, using reed in the inside of the home. You can also understand how hard life was, in the past: the house is a simple one room, with a fireplace and nothing else. Not very comfortable, indeed! In spite of this, probably a whole family lived here.

Stazzo Li Pinniteddi
The stazzo, typical ancient house in this area of Sardinia
The roof of an ancient stazzo
The roof was usually made with juniper beams and reeds

Carrying on, you can find a very old holm oak, with a trunk so big, that it isn’t possible to put your arm around it if you are alone. But a big hug can offers a quiet break, helping us to better understand the energy of nature around. This tree survived the wood cutters who produced charcoal or provided the Italian mainland with railway sleepers and seeing it, it’s possible to imagine how great the forest would have been without human exploitation. Thankfully the wood is now growing again and in the future we hope it’ll be possible to have more and more big trees to hug.

A big Holm oak
This big Holm oak survived to wood cutters

Along the path you can notice some trakcs, footprints and some digging in the ground or in the mud: the wildboars are many here.

A Wild boar
These animals are common but it’s quite unusual to see them in daylight

During Autumn and early Winter they are hunted with the traditional “battuta”: many men are involved and everyone has his own task. There are some sitting with the rifles almost all day long, waiting for the boars passing near them, chased by the other hunters screaming and following the tracks with barking dogs. A powerful scene for me too even though I don’t love hunting at all. Something really ancestral that finishes with a big “spuntino”, that is eating all together at the end of the day. Usually men of the same hunting group are good friends and this shared effort of hunting is one of the very traditional ways for men to stay together. The hunting group usually has something like a defined hunting ground, so it’s not a good idea to take the path during the wildboar hunting season! It’s better to wait for the beginning of Spring, when the peace is back again.  If the days are mild and not windy it’s possible to see a very colourful little lizard, Podarcis tiliguerta, that is common in Sardinia and Corsica. With its blue and green skin, it seems to be inspired by our sea.

A lizard sunbathing
A Tyrrhenian wall lizard basking on granite. Its colours seem to be inspired by the sea

And during the hike the jays will go with you, screaming noisily from the trees. The way back is on the same path.

Pink flowers

Pink is a colour that is common in Spring flowering. Enjoy with us these shots! If you love flowers and colours have a look at Spring in yellow, too.

Tree mallow with flowers
Tree mallow is a common species on the little islets around the North-Est Sardinian coast
Matthiola sinuata flowers
Matthiola sinuata
Pink pale flower of Silene sp.
Silene sp. with a light pink flower
Pink flower with pollen
This pink flower offers its pollen

 

Spring in yellow

When spring arrives the countryside is dressed with colours. In this period yellow is the one you can see the most.

A Chrysanthemum flower
A very common and colourful Chrysanthemum sp. flower

Entire hills are covered with Calycotome, with its rich colour.

Calycotome flowers
A branch of Calycotome with its yellow flowers

Looking around there are more and more species, herbaceous ones or shrubs, with a great range of hues. Enjoy this pleasure with us!

Yellow bright Ranunculus
The bright colour of a Ranunculus
Yellow flowers
Taraxacum sp. flower
A Cistacea flower with its light yellow
The light yellow of a Cistacea flower

Happy Easter!

Sardinian sheep grazing
Sheep grazing on fresh pasture

In Sardinia we have more sheep than people. Like dots, they are almost everywhere on our landscapes.

Sardinian landscape with sheep
Sardinian typical landascape with sheep grazing.

Their presence is a part of our culture and everyday life, aboveall in small towns. In the past this bond was even tighter. Sheep provided milk and meat and a coarse wool for clothes, blankets and rugs. Together with the other domestic animals they played a big role in the subsistence economy of families. Nowday life is definitively easier but Sardinia is still a a region where sheep are queens of the countryside.

Sheep near a farm
Sheep grazing near a farm

In spring their milking season begins and it’s easy to find fresh soft ricotta, a sort of creamy cheese produced by local farmers. Traditional recipes follow the season and approaching Easter time ravioli, pasta filled with ricotta, appear on the table.

Fresh soft creamy cheese, ricotta
Fresh ricotta is perfect for ravioli
Durum wheat semolina and eggs
Pasta for ravioli is made with durum wheat semolina and eggs

In Gallura, the local name for the north eastern part of the island, the ravioli are sweetened in a very delicate way, softly enhancing the taste of the filling. I prepare ravioli with my Granny’s recipe and I remember that she always prepared a big one, called “maccu”, crazy, for the master of the house. A treat for her life-companion in their matriarchal family.

Raviolo "maccu"
The big raviolo, called “maccu”
Ravioli in the table
Handmade ravioli with fresh ricotta filling

Like the swallow so proud and free

I’ve discovered right now that the italian proverb “una rondine non fa primavera” is translated into English as “one Swallow does not make a summer”. Amazing! For us this migratory species, arriving from its wintering grounds in Africa, annouces the arrival of spring. It’s an elegant, long-tailed bird that appears to be black and white if you look at it from a distance. But if you see it close up, you could catch its blue plumage. And, if you are lucky, you can see its red throat and forehead.

A swallow
A swallow and its amazing blue plumage
Swallow with mud
A swallow with the mud for the nest

This species is a well known symbol of freedom, with its flight, fast, powerful and really graceful. Once more abundant and spread aboveall in farmland, the swallow can now be seen in the urban environment too. In springtime it’s possible to find the pairs collecting mud for the nest, together with the related species, the House Martin.

House martin
House martins collecting mud

And when I see them flying they always remind me of the verse of the Jewish folk song performed by  Joan Baez among others.

“Who told you a calf to be?

Why don’t you have wings to fly with

Like the swallow so proud and free?”

Fascinating courtyards

I find that courtyards are really fascinating places. I say this thinking about the typical Sardinian houses: the front of the buildings facing the main street and the yard open at the back. This snug location seems to protect the life going on there. In spite of its messy urban development, in Olbia, too, it’s possible to find some traditional courtyards, hidden to a stranger’s gaze. And for me it’s impossible not to remember the time I spent in my grandparents’ courtyard. Throughout spring and summer the afternoon life was there. In a cool shadow provided by the house itself, we played while our aunts attended to their business, sewing or embroidering. Big fern plants surrounded little chairs and tables. In the afternoon the neighbours would come to visit and spent some time together. I’m aware that these memories tell us about a time that is now probably gone, but I know for sure that there are plenty of little towns in Sardinia where you can still find children playing in these open spaces in the back of the house, while their grandparents chat away. And I have noticed that in these courtyards, the ones still being used and these I remeber from my childhood, there are the same old-fashioned flowers.

A Calla Lily flower
Calla Lily after rain

One of these is the Calla lily, with its beautiful white flower, usually planted near the well, another is Maule’s quince with its cascading pink flowers. You could find little areas, marked out with tiles, where parsley and basil are grown to provide herbs for fresh tomatoe sauce.

Maule's Quince with flowers
Pink flowers on a Maule’s Quince
Quince tree with its flowers
Flowers on a Quince tree

 If there is enough room, some Lemon trees, or Quince and Medlar ones. Humble trees for poor courtyards with a hidden grace.

Quince flower
A delicate Quince flower with raindrops
Lemon tree
Behind the stone wall, a Lemon tree
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