Sardinia, land of mystery. Part 1: Tales and unexplained facts

Bronze-Age stone tower called “nuraghe”

There are many places in the world that are known for their rich culture, oral traditions and unexplainable facts that happen on their soil.

It goes without saying that so far, the most colorful country I’ve been to is Incredible India, with Her unbelievable religious tales, historical heritage and picturesque customs.

I don’t know if it’s because I go straight looking for the quirky side of a destination, or because always more people try to reconnect with their origins, but I’m finding that almost everywhere natives like to indulge in mystery tales that inevitably have that sense of ancestral we need in order to understand where we come from.

Even if with less colors than India, Europe too has its fair share of mystery, and my hometown, Sardinia, the big Italian island off Lazio’s coast, can be certainly included right on top of the list. Here, nobody is surprised when strange things happen.

Interior of the Cathedral in Cagliari, Sardinia’s main city

Natives not only strongly believe it, but they also like to remember them at night during some family reunion, in part to carry on with the oral tradition, in part to keep children from running too far by scaring them with stories of ancient monsters.

Apart from the tales of fantastic creatures, particularly popular here are the legends involving real people and unexplainable events they experienced first-hand, the kind of stories the island definitely doesn’t lack of.

Sardinia is dotted with nuraghi, Bronze-Age stone towers that in the prehistoric nuragic era were used both as stronghold and as habitation. During the summer solstice, for about a week, in the nuraghe called “Aias” in an area known as Mandra Edera, near the town of Abbasanta, around noon the sunlight comes in through the open roof and lights up the interior of the tower.

If during this process a photo is taken inside the nuraghe, it would come out as negative, as opposite of any other moment when photos would come normal. It has happened that a man was photographed during this particular moment, and the pictures showed not only his skeletal system like an x-ray, but also that he had a cancer. This person, in fact, died some months later.

According to some, there are other nuraghi around the island, especially in a region known as “Barigadu“, in central Sardinia, with the same properties, and the only assumption I’ve heard so far is that there are radiations on the stones of this area, and that the very first natives of the island knew about it.

The Cross, core symbol of the Catholic religion

Another unexplainable fact happened in a village near my hometown to a woman nicknamed Zuanna Surda, “Zuanna” meaning “Giovanna” in the local language, and “Surda” meaning “deaf”, again in the local language. Every night, and sometimes daytime too, there was the noise of soldiers marching in her house.

Of course, being Zuanna deaf, she couldn’t hear them, but she could see her furniture shaking, while her son could hear them, and her small daughter even see them parade. After the description, they understood they were German soldiers, and the elderly of the town remembered that during World War II, the village was a camp where German soldiers were based.

Her small daughter fell sick and soon died terrified. As it happens in Italy in these cases, the priest was called many times to bless the house, but since nothing worked, the house was abandoned and is still empty, as nobody wants to live in it anymore.

Sanctuary of “San Costantino”, where apparently the German camp was during World War II

Heading north-east, a while ago another fact happened, and it still makes people shiver. In many villages in Sardinia there is the tradition, on the night between November 1st and 2nd, to leave the table set up and even prepared with food. This is because it’s the night of the dead, and the food is meant for the dead people of the family to have a meal.

This tradition is carried out in central Sardinia, in villages such as Sedilo, but not in the towns of Nuoro province. The morning of the 2nd of November 1987, the relatives of a woman who lived in Nuoro went to visit her, and since she hadn’t picked up the phone nor opened the door, they broke in the house, finding her dead on her bed. They also found the table set up and prepared with a meal.

This woman, in fact, had heard about this quirky tradition that was used in many places, and although in her village nobody had ever done it, she got curious and wanted to try it for the first and obviously only time in her life. Still now her family and friends comment that she has participated herself to the meal she organized for the deceased members of her family, since it was established that she died right after having prepared everything.

Main altar in Cagliari cathedral, Sardinia

These are only some of the countless tales of this kind Sardinia’s oral tradition is rich of. Obviously there can be scientific explanations for all of them, such as that the people involved dreamed everything, or that the woman who died on the night of the dead would have died anyway at the same time, but also these are hypothesis.

Natives don’t even try to give a scientific explanation to such events, which contribute to enriching our already abundant oral tradition, and of course retain the very useful effect of keeping children close to their parents during night-time family gatherings.

In Sardinia, all festivals date back to pagan times, and although they were all incorporated by the Catholic religion, they still keep their ancestral sense of a connection with Mother Nature, exactly like our predecessors meant them to be. Like the festivals, also our oral tradition relates to its pagan origins that the Christian rule, despite all its efforts, didn’t manage to erase.

  1. Wow.. these are very interesting, and intriguing. Have you visited any of these ‘ghostly’ places yourself? Did you feel anything paranormal/ghostly there? :)

    • I have visited also because the villages where the things I’ve mentioned happened are actually near my hometown, but I’ve never felt or experienced anything paranormal, that’s why I’m pretty skeptical. I don’t want to take all the magic away, also because there are indeed facts that still have no exhaustive explanation..

  2. Molto interessante e suggestivo!

  3. Les histoires sont très captivantes et racontées avec un style impeccable! Compliments!!!

  4. Gorgeous photos. I must visit one day!

  5. You have a knack to bring a story a life. And I am a sucker for the mysteries and quirky side a country has to offer :)

  6. The narration combined with the pics thrill me as well as a chill runs through my body!! Ghostly place, but beautiful nonetheless…
    Have a fabulous week ahead Angela:)

  7. I too like learning about mysterious tales of a particular place I’m visiting. I think it makes being there a little more interesting, for visitors and locals alike. So chilling are these stories from Sardinia that sometimes you have to wonder if they’re just stories. But beneath every story there is at least some truth. And because of that, I would really like to visit some of these places some day. So intriguing! :)

  8. I had a dream a couple of years ago that I lived near the sea in Sardinia. I have never been there, and have no idea where that dream came from…but I think I’m meant to go! Thanks for the great article.


  9. Dear Angela,
    Your ‘Night of the death’ made me think of a Dutch poem of P.N. van Eyck, translated by David Colmer. You find it here: Somehow the woman was ‘forced’ to do this by some feeling deep into herself…
    I thank you for the story.

  10. Now I must visit Sardinia and take a photo from inside the nuraghe.

  11. Fantastic post on Sardinia and her Nuraghe!

  12. These stories are chilling. I love stories like this though, more so than the possible scientific explanations. ;) *sigh* I can’t wait to return to Italy.

  13. Angela, rimango sempre piu’ affascinata dai tuoi racconti di viaggio. Complimenti per il tuo blog :)! Non smettere mai di “narrare” la nostra bellissima e misteriosa Sardegna

  14. Sardinia is a pretty nice area, mostly known for its beautiful landscape – interesting to discover another aspect of this place. Great Pictures!

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    Chasing The Unexpected