The name may derive from the Greek words Oros (upland) and tello (arise, originate) due to its location in the hills, or, according to another interpretation, the etymology goes back to Latin and evokes a "golden land", given the abundance of wheat. However, more recent studies argue that the name derives from a Phoenician term meaning "protected", due to the internal position of the village.
Undoubtedly, Orotelli has ancient origins, dating back to the Nuragic period, as witnessed by the several archaeological findings throughout the area, like the small Nuraghe Càlone,which, from the hill top, dominates the entrance to the village.
In the Middle Ages, Orotelli was initially under the rule of the Curatoria of Sarule of the Giudicato of Logudoro, later under the Giudicato of Arborea and, finally, under the Crown of Aragon. In 1617 the village was included in the Marquisate of Orani and later passed under the rule of the family De Silva that administered the village until 1839, the year of independence.
According to an ancient legend, handed down from father to son, the first settler of Orani is traditionally believed to be a shepherd from a nearby village who had lost his flock. After a long search, the man found his animals drinking in a fountain called “Iscatthai” (one of today’s Orotelli’s districts) and, intrigued by the source of water and the beauty of the area, decided not to leave and moved there with his family, thus founding the village.
Environment and land
Orotelli is located in the most authentic part of Sardinia, where today’s life is still marked by ancient traditions and folk customs. The village lies in the southern part of the mountain chain Marghine that features singular granite rocks. Due to the peculiar conformation of the territory, characterized by a syncline, the town developed into two separate parts: the older one, with the old town around the Church of St. John the Baptist, and the new district “Mussinzua”, founded in the thirties and still under construction. The village features robust houses built with local granite stone.
The area surrounding Orotelli not only features much archeological evidence dating back to the pre-nuragic Age, including the dolmen in the Sinne district, and to the nuragic Age, including the nuraghe “Aeddos”, “Athentu”, “Calone”, “Corcove”, “Passarinu”, “Sarcanai”, but also the two important Giants’ Graves “Forolo” and “Sa turre ‘e su campanile”.
The nuraghe Aeddos, in particular, which dates back to the Bronze Age and was built with granite blocks, stands out for its huge dimensions. Despite the passing of time, the monument is still intact and survives at its original height.
Orotelli’s architectural heritage boasts a great number of religious buildings.
The parish Church of St. John the Baptist (Chiesa parrocchiale di San Giovanni Battista), located on one of the highest altitudes of the territory, is one of the most important church buildings. It was built around 1116 and was temporarily used as bishop’s throne by the bishop of Othana (today’s Ottana) between 1116 and 1139. The original Romanesque structure featured a Tau Cross floor plan and only one apsidal nave with exposed trachyte stones and wooden trussed roof. The transept wings are covered by cross-shaped plastered vaults. A lancet window with a carved Greek cross is at the center of the apse. Despite the several renovations over the centuries, the belfry with bas-relief decorations of mysterious figures and symbols, dating back to the fourteenth-century, still exists. In the 1960s, the old seventeenth-century wooden altar was removed, whereas two side aisles were added to increase the capacity of the central part. Outside, on the north side, the Church features a recently renovated portal with a round arch, which, in the past, was the entrance to the Benedictine convent and also bordered the old cemetery.
Other important places of worship in the village are the Church of Saint Luxorius (Chiesa di San Lussorio), a few dozen meters away from the parish Church, and the rural Church “Santissimo Salvatore”, which was annexed to the graveyard and features a large presbytery where a pointed arch separates it from the central part.
Some villages that were inhabited in the Middle Ages can be easily identified today thanks to the several, still accessible, country Churches, including the Church “San Pietro di Oddini”, in the village Oddini, and the Chiesa di “Nostra Signora di Sinne”.
The tastes, the smells and the names of local typical food, including su coccoi, cozzula, carasau, chibarzu, civraxiu, moddizzosu, pillonca, tundus, pan ‘e scetti, pan ‘e simula, may be unusual and difficult to pronounce to visitors.
“Su Pistiddu” is one of the typical sweets of Orotelli, which was originally prepared on the occasion of the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot. It is a straw-colored, round and flat cake and filled with “sapa” or honey (the recipe may differ from village to village; Orotelli’s recipe traditionally includes honey), orange peel and other typical flavorings that make it a refined and irresistible sweet.
The events not to be missed include the celebrations in honor of St. Anthony the Abbot, on January 16th, when the young men of the village named Antonio stack the wood collected in the woods in the middle of the main square and light big bonfires (“Su vocu e Sant’Antoni”) in the evening. Typical Sardinian dances and the traditional local masks Sos Thurpos, which make their first appearance of the year, are an integral part of the celebrations.
Another important event is the Carnival, “Su carrasecare”, where "Sos Thurpos" and the small “thurpeddos” and “Eritajos” parade.