This happy position on the hills that surround the Gennargentu massif has made Aritzo a popular holiday resort already chosen in prehistory as a strategic point of ancient Sardinian civilizations.
The domus de janas of Is Forros that are not allowed in that area are evidence of a history that dates back to the Neolithic Age to then continue with the great epic nuraghi of the Bronze age in which remain the great tombs of the giants in the locality of Su Carragione.
Roman populations also dwelt here, there remains a trace in discoveries in the area called “Monte Longu” and “Antoni Sperizi”.
The origins of the present town center sank in the Middle Ages, when the village, belonging to the Giudicato di Arborea, was included in the district of the Barbagia di Belvì. The proud inhabitants gave warriors to the giudicati army and for this they enjoyed special administrative freedom.
After the outbreak of the great war between the Sardinian Kings and the Iberians that ended only in the fifteenth century with the Aragonese conquest and the fall of the judged, the villa of Ariccu (thus appears in documents of the peace agreement signed in 1388 between the parties) was granted to the fiefdom of Pardo. However, in 1450 they had to withdraw because of the strong conflicts with the population that tolerated the loss of its historic autonomy. A new attempt took place in 1481 with the feudalisation of Pages that provoked repeated rebellions forcing the family to refund the feud to real assets.
The constant struggle to defend itself against the feudal exactions were obtained in 1507. The privilege with which the village best expresses its creativity to be administered by an elected official from among the heads of the fathers of the incontrada Belvi.
The town was no longer a fiefdom until the arrival of the Savoy in the eighteenth century that in 1767 subjugated to the lordship of Lostia, causing new disturbances. Only in 1838 Aritzo managed to throw away from feudal yoke.
Between different productive activities that marked the history of the country there is that of the trade of the snow collected by niargios and conserved in domos de su nie (neviere). Many of these wells were still used until the first half of the Twentieth Century for the production of the typical dessert of Aritzo: sa Carapigna, a delicate lemon sorbet created with the snow kept in the mountains.
In the nineteenth century the town began to benefit economically from mountain tourism for healthy air and the richness of its lands, characterized by the wonderful woods of chestnut trees and stones, and its countless sources of pure water.
Lying on a valley at the foot of the Gennargentu mountains is the country of Aritzo, surrounded by landscapes of enchanting beauty rich in fresh water sources.
The area is abounded with forests of chestnut trees whose wood produces the famous handicrafts from the local handcraftsmen that is still today an important economic activity.
The environmental tourism is another resource of the mountain town: many visitors travel along the beautiful pathways that lead to the beauty of the territory of Su Texile and ancient neviere. (a sort of ice cellar, a circular hole dug outside that was use to collect snow during winter).
The heel of Su Texile and rocks of limestone formation stand out from a ridge as a hilltop isolated and has very steep vertical walls. Evidence of the Mesozoic era stands alone in the panorama, and has become an identification symbol in the whole area.
On the slopes of the tip of Funtana Cungiada (1458 m), the highest of the massif are the ancient domos de su nie, i.e. the ‘houses of snow’ in which snow was preserved and sold in the summer months in boxes lined in straw, a trade very important for the economy of the town until the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
Numerous springs flow in the surroundings of Aritzo; among the best known is the spring of Is Alinos that boasts diuretic properties, and the Funtana de Sant Antoni, which has very light and fresh water.
The clever and ingenious inhabitants of Aritzo became famous for the construction of de sas domos de su nie i.e. the ‘houses of snow’. Dated from the Seventeenth Century were the first written notes on the construction of the deep wells that kept the snow: Collected in the Gennargentu massif during the winter by niargios and pressed by the neviere, the snow was then covered by a thick layer of ferns, then by logs and earth so that it could be sold during the summer to cool drinks and foods in different centers of Sardinia.
From this important industry were created the most important commercial activities of the town: the preparation of the famous carapigna, a sort of delicious lemon sorbet packaged with lemon, sugar and water in a suitable sorbet chilled with the snow collected from domos de su nie. Even today, this product of the local gastronomy is present in festivals and the most important feasts of the Island.
The charming historical town preserves the typical houses in shale and mud with the long wooden balconies, the work of local skilled craftsmen that have made carving a real art.
Among the old homes there is the eighteenth century building of the old jails. The stable is made in the traditional style and is characterised by an arched subway called “sa bovida” (the vault); it derives from the name of the prisons. Inside, there are the ancient cells now used as exhibition spaces for the staging of “Bruxas”, an exhibition dedicated to magic and witchcraft, which includes a section on the Inquisition in Sardinia between the XV and XVII century.
Other important structures of the town are the charming Casa Devilla, dating back to the XVII century. It belonged to a family of landowners in the area, and the Castle Arangino, built in the early Twentieth Century with references to the medieval era, followed the trend of the architectural era by the noble homes.
Along the steep alleys you arrive at the parish church of San Michele Arcangelo, built in the sixteenth century on an old plant of the XIV century and heavily restored in 1914. The bell-tower, which has not undergone processing, was built with trachyte of Fordongianus in a gothic-aragonese style.
Of great interest is the Museum of the Sardinian mountains or the Gennargentu that hosts a ethnographic collection of more than three thousand exhibits. The reconstructions of the environments that are typical of the rural and pastoral times provide a relevant documentation of craft activities: in addition to the ancient instruments for the preparation of the carapigna and a rare collection of ancient carved wood chests noted on the Island as “cashiers of Aritzo” or “Barbagia”.
In the surroundings there are several testimonies of prehistoric times. Worth visiting, is the tombstone at the locality Is Forros. On a schistose rock are two excavated domus de janas, burials from the Nuraghic Age: the one on the right has only one environment while the second one has developed on salt.