Category Archives: Italian History

Hiking into history


In this post I moan about having to go to the beach and more interestingly describe a hike to the Tiscali   archaeological site.

It’s well known amongst my friends that I have a strong, shall we call it, ‘dislike’ of sun, sea and beaches. Unfortunately for me the other members of my family are big fans of such places and so the compromise on our recent trip to Sardinia was to base ourselves at an agritourism, I Mandorli, near the coastal town of San Maria Navarrese and more importantly on the edge of the mountains.

This location gave us the chance to spend some time driving and walking through the Sardinian mountain country, villages, and visit a few archaeological sites, thus reducing the time available for me to moan about sand, heat and boredom – I really, really don’t understand why people find laying on sand and burning in the sun so enjoyable but then luckily we are not all the same.

So trapped in my idea of hell the only escape was, as I say, to make the most of the opportunity to drive up into the hills and mountains. On one such trip I was able to combine two of my interests – hiking and archaeological. R and I also discovered that our daughters long held dislike of any form of walking does not in fact include climbing over rocky paths and undertaking steep narrow routes so long as climbing over rocks is a big part of the experience.

The destination for our hiking trip was the hidden village of Tiscali, an interesting and rather curious historical ruin. As we stood looking at the information board, at the start of our journey, we were approached by two hikers who, taking one look at 8 year old H (who would wish me to point out she is almost 9), suggested that the route would be to challenging – steep climb, rocks and over two hours walking in the heat were all described. After a short family conference it was agreed that we would try the path and could always turn round and return to our starting point where a shallow, gently flowing, river offered an inviting alternative afternoons entertainment.

Initially we walked for a short way along a dirt track which had the river to our right and the mountains to our left. It was at the moment when the comment was made that ‘if the path was like this for much of the way, but steeper, there would be no real problems’ that our route suddenly turned and we found ourselves on a stony path which rapidly ascended the mountainside. With shouts of ‘cool’ H discovered her enthusiasm for hiking which grew stronger as the route increasingly included climbing over rocks. For about 20 minutes we scrambled our way along and up this rocky route with the path taking us towards a gap between our mountain and the one we had walked past at the beginning of the hike.

Once we reached the gap the path levelled off and we took a few minutes breather and consumed a small quantity of what was to become our very precious water. We continued our walk along the now undulating path and comments were exchanged regarding the benefits of walking under the shelter of the trees. Much as I enjoy hiking, I have to admit that I am currently (again) in a truly unfit condition and so was feeling the 33C heat and sun more than I should have. However, this in no way detracted from the pleasure of the walk.

Quite soon we were on a downward slope on a rocky but well established path which was comfortable to travel along. This then turned into a flatter path with a far less noticeable incline and we found ourselves in a much denser part of the woods. At this stage, based upon definite misunderstandings, I thought we were now going to continue walking through the valley and emerge from the woods onto the site of Tiscali. I was therefore not surprise when the woodland started to thin and we found ourselves in an area with hills all round except to the fore where the valley continued to descend and appeared to turn off to the left. At a junction on the path we encountered a sign which told us about the 5 Euro entry fee and that Tiscali was only another twenty minutes away. After another much needed water break (our supply was now down to one third) we started the walk up the gentle slope indicated by the sign.

Very quickly we realised that the gentle slope was in fact becoming somewhat steeper again and was about to turn up along the side of the mountain. So once again H was shouting with glee as we climbed another rocky path which narrowed at regard intervals into a ledge. Up until this stage the few fellow walks we had encountered had all been wearing hiking boots or other appropriate footwear plus carrying rucksacks etc. Now as we climbed and traverse this steep and rocky path we encountered a family with young children all in sandal looking as though they had just left the beach. We then passed a couple who again appeared to be attired for a stroll along the promenade. Now all these people seemed to be fine and as far as I know all happily returned to their cars safely. Anyone taking on this or any other hike could get into difficulty and have to be rescued. But why, oh why, do people think its ok to wander into mountains etc inappropriately dressed and in so doing add to the work of emergency services?

The path finally brought us to the entrance to a crater at the top of the mountains. We descended the few steps cut into the rock with the aid of a rope. The bell attached to the rope alerted the guardian of the site to the arrival of new visitors. The chap who took our entry fee and provided us with information sheets (in both English and German) was also helpful in explaining a little about the geography of the site and what is known/assumed/not known. In chatting with him we discovered that he was one of a group of people who looked after and protected the site. Like us he had walked up to the site and would stay for a few nights until relieved by another colleague.

Seeing the evidence of habitation within this natural bowl (even if no one is sure how long people actually lived here and why) added something to what had been an enjoyable hike in its own right. The first group of structures we saw were said to been house for those who had lived here. On the other side of the crater we viewed the structures believed to have housed the livestock. It must have been an interesting experience to have live, even for a short time, in this natural bowl but as the sites custodian and the literature both said you did wonder about how people and animals could maintain an existing in a place with no spring and limited options for growing food.

When the time came to head back we scrambled down the first part of the mountain and then after another water and photo break half way down found ourselves back on the valley floor sitting next to the Tiscali sign again. On our descent we fulfilled what is clearly the traditional role of all those coming down the mountain, that is to confirm to those going up that yes it’s not  too far now but you will have a bit of a climb, especially over the last section.

With the sun still beating down and the heat remaining in the mid 30’s we took sips of our now very limited supplies of water and re-entered to denser woods that marked the next stage of our journey. As the gentle upward path turned steeper the breaks became more frequent and the last of our water was consumed. This walk really wasn’t overly demanding and as I have already admitted I’m currently seriously unfit. However, it does involve some scrambling over rocks and in the heat you really need to take a large supply of water between you.

As we started down the mountainside I could see the river and our destination seemed tantalisingly close. Alas I’m not a crow and so had to take the rather longer meandering route. The pace of our descent was slowed a little by the need to watch ones footing as the path was often made up of loose stones and larger jagged rocks.

Once off the mountain I stepped up the pace, leaving H & R to wander along as they were busy in some discussion. When they eventually caught up with me I was sitting by the river with my feet being gently soothed by the flow of the water. R joined me in the foot soaking, whilst H rolled up her trousers and went paddling in the shallower part of the river.

If you do find yourself in Sardinia and like both hiking and archaeological then I would recommend this trip. However, be warned, if you are coming down the main road the turn-off is not signed (but clearly signed coming up) and it is further to drive to the end of the side road than some guidebooks suggest.

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Filed under History, Italian History, Out of Austria, Sardinia