Don’t Miss Orgosolo in Central Sardinia, the Town of Beautiful Street Art

Orgosolo is a small, apparently sleepy, town of central-eastern Sardinia located in the Barbagia region of the Nuoro province. It’s very well-known both on 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. The latter, also in the Barbagia area, is the hometown of Matteo Boe, a 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.

Apart from stories of bandits, murders, and kidnappings, Orgosolo is famous also for its murals, street art graffiti that make it one of the prettiest villages in Sardinia. Here, 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.

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

Mural welcoming to Orgosolo
Welcome to Orgosolo

What to do in Orgosolo, Sardinia

The Murals of Orgosolo

All across Orgosolo, hundreds of murals give a colorful account to the culture and the political ideas of the town and the area, always very sharp and quick-witted. This type of local street art, very strong and opinionated, was founded somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century by artists close to anarchic ideas and started to give a voice to the citizens who usually didn’t have one. These murals are an insightful and detailed chronicle of the local life as well as strong opinions on political events, starting from the national ones but quickly reaching international affairs.

When Fascism and WWII became a reality in Italy, new murals close to the Resistance started appearing and this idea spread also in the neighboring towns. Today, you can see beautiful murals in many towns and villages in the Barbagia region as well as in many other towns all over Sardinia, even though Orgosolo remains a milestone and its internationally-famed walls make it an open-air museum.

Orgosolo on the map
Introducing Orgosolo and pointing it on Sardinia’s map, expressing the love for the island by respecting its natural beauty

All graffiti has a strong political background and is 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, and Orgosolo, semi-hidden in the harshest mountains of the island, is living proof. Nearby, you can also visit Pratobello, the ghost town where the Army wanted to build a base in the 1960s but finally couldn’t because every single Orgosolo resident, from children to elderly, lay down on the tarmac and prevented anyone from entering.

Orgosolo murals for women, mothers and workers
Botero-style painting devoted to women, mothers, and workers
Orgosolo shepherd
Portrait of a Sardinian shepherd
Orgosolo polemical murals
Polemical mural stating that Italy is a “ragged” fifth economic power
Image: Political mural in Orgosolo, Sardinia
This murals depicts the 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
Image: Murals on the walls of Orgosolo town in central Sardinia
On “Cadorna Street”, a mural devoted to general Cadorna, to be considered responsible for the slaughter of Italians during World War I
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

More Reasons to Visit Orgosolo and Things to Do

Are the local murals the only reason to include Orgosolo in your bucket list when you are planning your trip to Sardinia? Definitely not. Orgosolo itself has a few other things to see and experience, and if you rented a car upon landing in Sardinia (which I totally recommend), you can also visit the surroundings and neighboring towns and attractions.

Here are some other attractions and things to do in and around Orgosolo besides photographing the local street art.

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
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

Discover Orgosolo Silk Art

Apart from the street art, Orgosolo is the only town in Sardinia where silk is produced from scratch and is the only material used for the lionzu, the headscarf of the traditional costume that women today wear mainly at their wedding. The lionzu is very costly and often women pass down generation after generation. This is why this art is sadly fading away and the only woman still making and weaving the local silk is struggling to keep it alive.

Image: Lionzu, silk headscarf from Orgosolo

Hike Su Gorroppu Gorge

Close to Orgosolo, nestled between the mountains of Barbagia is the famous Gorroppu canyon, one of Sardinia’s favorite hikes. If you are a sport type of traveler, by all means, descend the Gorroppu gorge for some great hiking and breathtaking views. You can do this independently or book a tour. Either way, this is going to be a fantastic experience.

Image: The Gorroppu gorge near Orgosolo in Sardinia

Take an Archaeological Tour

All around the territory of Orgosolo and Mamoiada, the local countryside is literally studded with prehistoric relics and archaeological sites. Dolmen, fairies’ houses (domus de janas), menhir, giants’ tombs, and the most ancient remains from thousands of years ago.

Celebrate an ancient Carnival in Mamoiada

The rough masks of the Mamuthones appear on the streets of Mamoiada, a town close to Orgosolo, for the first time of the year on the night between the 16th and 17th of January, on the occasion of the Sant’Antonio Abbate festival. It’s now that the Mamuthones dance around the bonfires lit up in the town’s squares. I would say that this is a more intimate event, while for Carnival, the Mamuthones mingle with the other more modern masquerades, even though remaining the stars of the show.

Images: Mamuthones masks for Carnival in Mamoiada near Orgosolo

Visit Dorgali

Dorgali is an extremely scenic town not far from Orgosolo. Surrounded by mountains, Dorgali is for the fit because walking inside the town is a succession of uphill, downhill, and narrow alleys. Some of the best things you can do here are to try the flavorful traditional food and look for the historical sites, including some vestiges from the Knights Templar presence in Sardinia. If you are in the area in summer, make sure you stay here for a couple of days as it boasts some of the best beaches in Sardinia, such as Cala Gonone.

73 thoughts on “Don’t Miss Orgosolo in Central Sardinia, the Town of Beautiful Street Art”

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

    Reply
  2. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
  5. 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

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  8. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  9. 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. :)

    Reply
    • 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…

      Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
  11. 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

    Reply
    • 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”.

      Reply
      • 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

        Reply
  12. 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

    Reply
  13. 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

    Reply
  14. 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 :)

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  15. 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.

    Reply

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