Orgosolo Murals, Sardinia’s Controversial Side

Orgosolo is a small, apparently sleepy, town in central-eastern Sardinia. It’s very well-known both in the island and in the rest of the country for its stormy past. This was, in fact, the place where misunderstandings would be solved with blood feuds involving entire families for generations.

Truth or legend, there is a whole oral tradition of tales around Orgosolo’s past, although this history of violence, lawlessness and complicity is widely shared among other villages in the same territory of Nuoro’s province, such as Mamoiada and Lula, hometown of Matteo Boe, former bandit who kidnapped seven-year-old Farouk Kassam, son of businessman Fateh Kassam, and for which crime he’s still serving twenty years of prison.

⇒ Tip: To reach Orgosolo, rent a car as public transport is seldom seen.

Mural welcoming to Orgosolo
Welcome to Orgosolo

Apart from stories of bandits, murders, and kidnappings, Orgosolo is famous also for its murales, a sort of street art graffiti, where local artists paint the walls of the town with stories of its past and with tales reproducing the main events of Italy’s history and world affairs. For this, I think it’s one of the places worth visiting in Sardinia.

All graffiti have a strong political background and are very controversial in the measure that they outspokenly attack historical figures studied and considered as “heroes” by mainstream media and school textbooks.

In a land that was invaded by literally everybody, from Italians to Spanish, to Arabs, it’s normal that its natives are born with the protest in their blood.

In this photo essay from Orgosolo, I want to share some of the pictures I took there, in the hope to give my readers an idea of what is the spirit of this village, semi-hidden in the harshest mountains of the island.

Search for hotels in Orgosolo and in Nuoro province.
Orgosolo on the map
Introducing Orgosolo and pointing it on Sardinia’s map, expressing love for the island by respecting its natural beauty
Orgosolo shepherd
Portrait of a Sardinian shepherd
Orgosolo polemical murals
Polemical mural stating that Italy is a “ragged, naked” fifth economic power
Sardinia's controversial side in Orgosolo murals
Piedmont troops when they invaded the island reducing the natives to the status of slaves, naming the protesters “bandits” and sacking their lands and resources
Orgosolo polemical murals
On “Cadorna Street”, a mural devoted to general Cadorna, to be considered responsible of the slaughter of Italians during World War I
Outspoken Orgosolo murals
Graffiti devoted to Claudio Varalli, student killed by a member of a far-right party, and Giannino Zibecchi, killed by the “Carabinieri” (the army’s police) during a march in memory of Claudio Varalli
Orgosolo murals tackle sensitive political issues
Mural in memory of Carlo Giuliani, activist killed by the police during a protest against the G8 held in Genoa in 2001
Historical Orgosolo murals
Painting against dictator Benito Mussolini and in memory of all partisans who fought against Fascism in Italy
Social Orgosolo murals
Mural against the dire conditions mine workers were forced to, stating that if they knew how hard working in charcoal mines was, they would have preferred to live 100 years on the run
Orgosolo murals for women's emancipation
Graffiti devoted to women’s rights and their emancipation and equality both in the private and in the working environments
Orgosolo murals for peace
Mural inviting workers of the arms industries to stop building arms as they are used only to kill other people and other workers
Orgosolo murals against poverty and hypocrisy
Painting against poverty and the hypocrisy of all the “plans” meant to fight it just by charity and without providing poor countries with the means to develop by themselves
Immigration crisis on Orgosolo murals
Painting stating “We are all illegal aliens” – devoted to all the people who arrive in Italy by boat daily out of desperation in the hope to escape poverty
Revolution on Orgosolo murals
A must in all demonstrations for justice, the slogans of the French Revolution promoting liberty, equality, solidarity
Orgosolo murals for Palestine
Devoted to the Gaza Strip and the massacres carried out by Israeli army against the Palestinian population
Orgosolo murals against dictators
In memory of Salvador Allende, Chilean President overthrown by a coup carried out by Pinochet, one of the bloodiest dictators of modern history
Orgosolo murals against poverty and injustice
To global awakening and renaissance against poverty and injustice
Orgosolo murals for women, mothers and workers
Botero-style painting devoted to women, mothers and workers

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73 Comments
  1. Maryse, Gino et moi avons admiré ton post. Pour le moment nous avons seulement regardé les photos!!! Qui sont vraiment très belles…

  2. Belle foto, ma quelle che ti spedirò dal Pantanal saranno ugualmente interessanti!!! Mi sto esercitando…..

  3. Woa! That is some amazing street art!

  4. Absolutely beautiful street art. Would love to see it up close!

  5. Wow! That town has amazing spirit, you’re right. Love the murals.

  6. Not only a town with spirit, but a town with a lot of very fine artists. I was struck by the use of the Garment Workers fire. Isn’t that the infamous one in New York City in 1908, when many Italian immigrants died?

    • Which one are you referring to, Vera? The one in New York is the one devoted to women’s rights, and it mentions the fire on March 8th 1908 when 129 women died inside a factory, after which the International Women Day was established.

  7. Wow- these are awesome. Besides being really well done, I’m amazed at how much of a story they tell. We were driving outside of Joshua Tree and stumbled on a small town that had a ton of murals too. I loved it. Such spirit and charm.

  8. Ooohhh… I love wall art! Even nicely done non-approved graffiti. We have a nice treasure here right in the states – in Philadelphia. If you haven’t seen it, Philly has the nation’s largest mural arts program. It was initially created to rid the city of crappy graffiti taggings. Now the city has hundreds of walls covered with the most amazing art.

  9. Wow. I would love to visit this place one day. My ancestors are from Sicily, so maybe I will go here too.

  10. Wonderful post Angela, I’ll share it right now!

  11. What an interesting place!! :D

  12. Love those murals. Wow, those are beautiful. And I’m digging the little shoutout to Botero

  13. I was most interested to see your pictures and article on Orgosolo, which I visited in the old days, when it was known as the bandit village and extremely dangerous. I give a description of this in my recently published novel, Sardinian Silver, You might like to have a look at this. See my website, http://www.sardiniansilver.com. There are also extracts on http://www.acolinwright.ca and http://www.authorsden.com. It is listed and available on any Amazon site. Orgosolo was one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been to.

    A. Colin Wright

    • Thanks so much for your comment and for the links. It’s amazing that you visited Orgosolo when it was infamous for its stories of violence and vendettas, and it’s amazing that you liked it!
      Of course, some of the bandits were genuinely criminals, and for that they got to jail, but many people arbitrarily defined as “bandits” in the island were actually normal people who tried to resist the last occupation by the Piedmont kingdom.
      Very interesting in this sense is the work of Sardinian journalist and writer Ugo Dessy, who wrote many books about the island’s banditism, one of which aptly titled “Quali banditi?”.
      Thanks for stopping by, your book look very interesting!

  14. I have seen some blog posts where bloggers highlight plain old graffiti as street art. They should take a look at your pictures as all of them are inspiring and works of art. Great collection.

  15. Nice post, great pics…Well, “business as usual” in Angela’s Wanderland ;-) Congrats!

  16. So sad that so many of the murals are based on painful experiences. They are very beautiful nonetheless…

  17. Wow! I’ve been in Sardinia (and loved it) but I’ve never heard of this town. It looks absolutely fascinating – the history, the evocative street art, the spirit that must undoubtedly be present in the people that produce this. I’m definitely putting this on my list! Excellent post and photos.

    • Thanks Sophie, I’m glad you like them, they are truly inspiring, and the artists really great. They’ve been painting for years, and they always give a deep meaning to their work. Definitely worth a visit when you come back :)

  18. Wow! I am loving this post! Nice job on the story and photos. I’m a big fan of street art, but had no idea about this. I’ve been wanting to go to Sardinia for awhile, but now I can’t wait! Great work.

    • If you love street art and you go to Sardinia, you can’t miss Orgosolo for sure, you will love dawdling about all its murals. And you’ll certainly enjoy people’s hospitality :)

  19. Wow, what an excellent political mural collection this place has. Beautiful way to express political issues…

  20. Street art & murals are fascinating aspects of visiting a new area. I really enjoyed these – it reminded me of what I saw in South America.

  21. Great pictures! Are the murals updated regularly, or once they’re there do they then stay forever? I notice that there appear to be two distinct styles to them – does this mean that there are only specific artists that execute them? Fascinating stuff. I’m hoping to go to Sardegna in September, so I shall add Orgosolo to my list of places to visit, for sure.

    Just FYI, the landscape pictures aren’t rendering properly on my screen – they’re too wide and the right hand side of the pictures and text is cut off by the right hand column, so you might want to reduce the width a little bit. I’m using Chrome on a Mac. :)

    • Many artists do the murals in Orgosolo, but all locals. They paint and they stay like that, until they just fade away and I guess they are covered with other paintings, not sure.. Strange that you can’t see the pictures well, I have no problem with my computer, I do have a big screen though…

  22. Political murals make me think of Belfast yet these are so much more diverse. I hope to visit Sardinia this year and this is certainly something to think about when planning the holiday.

  23. I just came across this very informative site . It is so in touch with a culture few people
    hear about. I was very impressed with the way you responded to everyone. Total
    dedication to your craft. I found you on murals worldwide.
    My students completed the Chilean Miner Mural with Letters. Found on Google.com.
    I am so proud of what they have accomplished. Four schools in Las Vegas participated
    in the project that took over a year to complete. The mural has moved to the McCaw
    School of Mines in Henderson Nevada. Six thousand students in the fourth grade pass
    through the museum each year. The students are thrilled that everyone is touched by
    their letters to the miners and the families. Each of the students made a tile also.
    Your site made me realize the importance of trying to understand and appreciate other
    cultures is so important. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    Respectfully,
    Larry Rush

    Larryeugenerush@aol.com

    • Hi Larry, thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. Working on Chilean Miner Mural must have been very interesting, if you have written a post or article on it, do share the link here! We can understand foreign cultures through many aspects of their societies, and I think this is very important towards understanding each other and erasing the fear of the “unknown”.

      • Dear Angela,
        Thank you for responding and requesting a posting regarding the Chilean Miner Mural with Letters. Please listen to Elequen.com “Little White Butterfly” She is a singer/songwriter from
        Canada. She came to New Horizons Center for Learning and sang in front of the mural to
        the students who participated in the project. She wrote the song for miners when she was 16 years
        old. She is still trying to get her song to the miners in Chile. Hopefully one day the song and the mural will be presented at the same time at Camp Hope where the miners surfaced.
        I have an update , “Hope Rises” The Chilean Mine Exhibit has recently been relocated from the
        McCaw School of Mines to the Henderson Convention Center.httpwww.Facebook.com/consulchile

        • Hi Larry, thanks for the updates, looks like your initiative is spreading. Lovely song, thanks for the link, your exhibit sounds like a very emotional experience.

  24. Very nice pictures, Angela!
    I took pictures of the murales some 40 years ago: http://search.socialhistory.org/Author/Home?author=Apitzsch%2C%20Thomas%2C
    Kind regards,
    Thomas

  25. Dear Angela,
    I couldn’t believe you got back to me so promptly.Thank you for listening to Elequen. I will send her
    your reply. I am so humbled that you understand the emotional intensity of this project.
    Please listen to A Miners Song Video. On Easter I happened upon it. Your reply took me back to that
    morning . Strong emotions are never forgotten and artists make us aware they should always be held in
    high regard. Thank you for devoting your time and energy towards this humble project. I will send your
    reply to info@iloveChile.cl

  26. Dear Angela,
    Little White Butterfly goes with the Chilean Miner Mural . Elequen.

    A Miners Song is something I found on Easter an wanted to share it with you . It was so emotional I
    had to pass it along. This song is dedicated to the miners who lost their lives in Wales.

    Great News! Daniel Brewington plans to write a story in I Love Chile about the students mural. It
    Is a magazine in English based in Santiago. I am excited that they are interested in the project.

    Sorry I confused the two songs. Larry Rush

  27. Hi there. One of your photos is signed “Piedmont troops when they invaded the island reducing the natives to the status of slaves, naming the protesters “bandits” and sacking their lands and resources” and I actually think you might be mistaken in that.
    I found out that Sardinia and Piedmont were once Kingdom of Sardinia, and it was actually Piedmont that was defeated twice and then annexed by the Sardinian King, not the other way. So how and why would the sardinian natives be reduced to the status of the slaves?
    Please correct me if I’m wrong :) Or at least please give me the source of this information, I’m writing a blog post about my visit in Orgosolo and I’m looking for legit interpretation of the murals :)

    • Hi there. Yes, you are actually very wrong. I’m not sure which sources you are using, but I’ve never heard of such a thing as the “Sardinian King” (???) defeating Piedmont Kingdom! Actually it’s the very opposite, Piedmont king (the royal family of the Savoia that later became the royal family of all unified Italy) not only invaded Sardinia, but looted its resources. One among many, the forests of juniper trees in Su Gorroppu are near Dorgali and Orgosolo itself are beginning to spring again after they were all cut to be burned to make scented ashes. The moniker “bandits” used for Sardinia’s natives was coined right in this period when natives fought against the invaders, who on the other hand were considered “gentlemen”. Plenty of sources about this, in Italian of course, better if written by local historians, one among all Ugo Dessy, he wrote many books on the topic. Good luck on your article :)

  28. Let’s be careful how we use the name “italy”. Southern “Italy” was also invaded by the north killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, raping, pillaging, ecc ecc.

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