Lanusei is found in the center of Ogliastra, a few kilometers from the port of Arbatax, in a hilly village that reaches 772 meters for the homes that border the Pissicuccu hill. Its territory is divided into two parts, one adjacent to the town and the other separate, in Quirra, resulting from dividing Salto di Castiadas, Salto di Alussara and Salto di Quirra, in the late 19th century. The little "Green Train" railway line, travels through much of the Lanusei landscape that winds from the town to the picturesque hills of Pizzu Cuccu and Su Carmu, where the spectacular views of the Ogliastra valleys can be admired.
In the Middle Ages, Lanusei belonged to the Suelli Diocese, initially under the judicature of Cagliari, and later of Gallura, while the first official document naming Lanusei as a central town, dates back to the 14th century, during the Pisa domination. Following the Aragonese occupation of Lanusei, it was conquered and turned into a feudal town, as was all of Ogliastra, by Berengario Carroz, Count of Quirra. In 1720, it was handed down to Piedmont, and from 1821 to 1859, it was the seat of the local province; lastly, in 1859, it became the leading town of the district and in 1927, it was merged into the newly created province of Nuoro. The town is rich with historic buildings winding down the most ancient narrow streets with the oldest palaces and orderly squares, enhanced by a unique landscape background: within the emerald hinterland and along the turquoise sea, natural beauty and places known for tourism and cultural relevance seem to appear before visitor's spellbound eyes.
Lanusei is set around the cathedral of Santa Maria Maddalena, seat of the diocese, which dates back to 1860: within the cathedral there is a remarkable set of frescoes dedicated to the life of Mary Magdalene and Christ, created by Mario Delitala in 1927, among the most well-known and prominent Sardinian artist of the 20th century. The Diocesan Museum of Ogliastra, located on the premises of the Episcopal Seminary in Via Roma, is also noteworthy for historical and cultural relevance. Lastly, during a visit to this town, the commemorative plaques dedicated to famous people who resided in the elegant nineteenth century buildings can be viewed, for instance, a sign paying homage to the composer of the Italian national anthem, Goffredo Mameli.
First and foremost, Lanusei is fascinating for its architectural beauty; the picturesque historical town center offers visitors exciting views and hidden nooks that evoke the ancient history of the town. That is not all. The wooded area offers nature and hiking lover’s breathtaking views and scenery, such as those viewable from its highest peaks: Mount Tricoli (1,211 m.) and Mount Armidda (1,270 m.), the latter the headquarters of the "F. Caliumi" Astronomical Observatory, open year-round to visitors by reservation.
The view from nuraghe Gennaccili overlooking the forest of Selene, the Sarcerei pass and Abbafrida valley, which steeply slopes down to the sea, is certainly of incomparable beauty. Here, those who like to engage in sports can practice clay pigeon shooting in the Sarcerei facilities or dabble in challenging mountain biking along the steep paths of Mount Armidda and Abbafrida, the setting for numerous sporting events every year.
The enchanting forest of Selene surrounds Lanusei; watered by fresh springs and a tourist destination equipped for camping and dining, but also a must for those who like to go biking on its scenic nature trails, immersed in a pristine environment. An archaeological complex, which includes a Nuragic village with huts and tombs of the giants, is also located in this area. In addition to the fantastic beaches of Ogliastra, within minutes, it is also possible to reach the Gennargentu Mountains, the lake of Villanova, the Ulassai caves and "Tacchi" [Heels outcrops of rocks] of Ulassai and Jerzu.
To appreciate and discover the beauty of the marine area of Lanusei, on the other hand, it is best to reach Portu Santoru, located over the Marina di Tertenia, where a harbor dotted with basalt rock outcrops opens up. Everything is in perfect harmony in the Ogliastra landscape filled with great charm and value, precisely because of its breathtaking beaches, crystalline waters and a habitat that is still protected and almost unexplored.
In particular, Lanusei is renowned for its pleasant climate, especially due to the presence, a few kilometers from the town center, of a forest of holm-oaks and chestnut trees, springs that have water with healing qualities, and a rich variety of animals such as wild boars, foxes, pigeons, raptors, etc.
The territory holds remnants of numerous nuraghi demonstrating the presence of human settlements in ancient times. Traces that point to the third millennium BC, to the time that the Domus de Janas of Cuccuru Longu was created. There are many interesting archaeological sites, but the most relevant place both for location and for discoveries that emerged during recent excavations, is that of the municipal forest of Selene, which covers 1,413 hectares a few kilometers from the town. Remnants of the nuraghi of Gennaccili and the adjoining village can be viewed here, which boasted a sacred well Nuragic Temple and the two tombs of the giants. These nuraghi have been excavated and restored recently; the first has a semicircular exedra, made up of stones set into the ground, while the burial chamber is a tunnel, built with rows of stones and originally equipped with a pillar-door. The monument in local granite dates back to the fifteenth century BC. On the other hand, the second tomb is larger and dates to the fourteenth century BC, both the facade and the exedra are built with rows of hewn stone; the chamber still has the original floor paved in granite, and the entrance architrave. Nearby, there is a stone with three holes, which was originally placed above the entrance of the tomb.
Further removed from Selene, however, the significant nuragic ruins of Perda ‘e Froris can be found, where in 1883, statuettes, bronze earrings and other items also in bronze and lead, were found. These precious historical artifacts, the "phalerae" and clay cinerarium urns found in 1860 in the area below the Cathedral during the excavations for the extension works of the building, are kept in the Archaeological Museum of Cagliari.
Today Lanusei is enhanced by two museums: the Diocesan Museum that collects and preserves precious finds and evidence of the history of the Diocese and the "Franco Ferrai" museum, a facility created by renovating a building complex in the historic center currently housing a collection of works by the great Ogliastra artist after which it is named. Also noteworthy and worth a visit are the two typical rural churches of S. Maria Ausiliatrice and SS. Cosma a Damiano, famous for the water in their fountains.
In addition to the natural beauty and history, Lanusei is known for the renowned production of some of its food products, such as pistoccu, and culurgionis, typical sweets, cherries and s’anguli ‘e cibudda, a rustic focaccia with onions and zucchini that is predominantly prepared in the summer. The first Sunday of June is dedicated to the Patron of the city of San Giovanni Bosco and, for the occasion, sports and poetry competitions as well as religious rituals, are organized.
The area is particularly known for the production of cherries , for which there is an annual festival on the last Sunday of June, accompanied by the exhibition of local handicrafts. To date, the festival has successfully been held for the past eighteen years, making the cherry festival one of the not-to-be-missed events in June. Lastly, the Summer includes various events, among which "Non solo mare" ["Not only sea"], held every Friday from late June to early September, with demonstrations, tastings of local products and shopping under the stars. While between August 20 and September 27 there are celebrations dedicated to the Saints Cosma and Damiano with religious processions and traditional dances.