The city of Nuoro has its roots in the stories of the struggle for freedom and the cultural ferment that from the nineteenth century earned it the nickname Athens of Sardinia.
There is much evidence of remains of prehistoric life: from the Domus de Janas, those of Maria Frunza and Janna Ventosa dated between the fourth and third millennium BC, to about 30 nuraghi among which are those of Tanca Manna and Noddule.
The city is part of a larger area described by ancient sources as the territory of the Sardinians “Pelliti”, so called because they wore skins, subsequently defined barbaricini. These peoples were recognized by their opponents as great fighters: they gave a hard time even to the great army of the Roman Empire.
The Roman settlement in the area occurred as a result of the spread of Christianity, which we witness in the letters of Pope Gregory the Great (late sixth century AD) to Opitone, head of barbaricini. The first city nucleus is documented by the archaeological remains found near the banks of the stream Ribu de Seuna dating back to the Roman Age. In the Dark Ages the population moved close to the source Sa Bena creating Seuna, the oldest district of the city.
During the Judicial age Nuoro was first part of the District of Torres then of the one of Arborea. With the end of the district and the defeat of Leonardo Alagon the village knew the harsh feudal system imposed by the crown of Aragon and, later, by that of Spain.
During the domination of the House of Savoy graveness transformed the city into a scene of major riots becoming the symbol of the rebellion to the e dict of chiudende which imposed private ownership eliminating the use of community land. In April 1868 the population rose to the “to connottu” (lit. ‘to the known’) which imposed to go back to the old habits. The harsh repression of the uprising did not extinguish the discontent of the population. Despite the difficulties, the center had not stopped growing: the city developed from the two historic districts of Seuna and Santu Predu (St. Peter).
In spite of the isolation in which it was abandoned, the great cultural movement brought the city to the europeans attention; artists, scholars and writers, including Francis Ciusa, Salvatore Satta, Sebastiano Satta and Grazia Deledda, gave luster to the capital Barbaricina.
Over time, the service sector has gradually taken the place of the primary sector (agriculture and livestock), transforming the city’s appearance. With the creation of the Higher Regional and ethnographic and of the museums of excellence such as the MAN, Nuoro retains its role as the cultural capital of the island.
Nuoro is located in the heart of Sardinia, guarded by Su Monte (‘The Mount’) as the nuoresi affectionately call it. Suspended between the past and the present Ortobene is the most important natural monument of the municipal territory. Nestled between the rio Cedrino and the river Marreri, it features solemn towers and pinnacles separated by steep gorges and surrounded by beautiful valleys.
Walking the paths granite plateau identifies the suggestive tafoni, rocks shaped by the elements to form large cavities, re-used by people who for centuries have inhabited these lands. The millennial erosion exerted by wind and water has given rise to numerous other rock formations: rocks similar to the shape of animals or statues, walls honeycomb that evoke fairy tales and myths of the past. In the most picturesque nooks in the woods of holm oaks and oaks, are numerous sources including waterfalls and small streams. The vegetation alternates between dense scrub and woodland of arbutus, juniper, cistus, lentiscus and olive. The richness of the flora is well represented by the variety of orchids which have been recorded to be 18 species belonging to 9 different genres.
The Ortobene mount is the habitat for numerous species of animals: in the forest live marten, garden dormouse and common dormouse while in the valley closer to the pastures is the weasel and fox. There are also wild boars, hares, wild cats, common firecrest, blue tits, wrens, red woodpecker, some local varieties including the Sardinian partridge, the Sardinian hare and birds of prey such as jays, buzzards, goshawks, and the legendary golden eagle.
On top of the mountain every year, the last week of August, a festival takes place in honor of the Redeemer, the imposing statue by the sculptor Vincenzo Jerace, installed in 1901. The pilgrims climb the mountain dressed in traditional clothing while the songs of the local choirs enliven the procession.
The town of Nuoro is considered the city symbol of Sardinian culture and traditions : the work of great writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals of the 800-900 centuries gave it the title of “Sardinian Athens”.
The numerous archeological testimonies of this territory are a great asset to the knowledge of the ancient civilization of Sardinia: between the most representative sites there is Noddule where is kept a nuraghe complex with three towers enclosed, one giant tomb and a sacred spring.
The National Archaeological Museum offers an interesting exposition of the rich heritage found in the province of Nuoro from the Neolithic to the Early Middle Ages.
The city is the seat of the High Regional Ethnographic institute that manages the important Museum of Life and Popular Sardinian Traditions in which are represented the lifestyle and material culture of the islanders (clothing, masks, food, musical instruments).
The Museum Deleddiano is taken care of by the ISRE: it is the birthplace of Grazia Deledda in which was set up a trip back in time to discover the companies, places and personal belongings of the writer, who won a Nobel Prize for Literature. The building is located in the district of Santu Predu that still retains many of the typical houses built with blocks of granite on two or more floors. In the streets of the center is set piazza Sebastiano Satta made by the famous Costantino Nivola, it was built in 1967 in honor of the local poet depicted in bronze statues inserted into the cavity of beautiful granite boulders.
In Sèuna, the oldest neighborhood, there’s the seventeenth century Church della Vergine delle Grazie to which the people from Nuoro are very devoted. The facade is embellished by a large rose window and a portal, mainly with shapes from the Renaissance, with decorations that recall the Catalan Gothic style. The Cathedral, dedicated to Santa Maria della Neve, dates back to mid-800. The spectacular neoclassical façade overlooks the square behind and is enclosed between two twin bell towers.
The capital was the home of famous artists such as Antonio Ballerò and Giovanni Ciusa Romagna. Some of their works, along with those of the most prestigious masters of the sardinian art of the twentieth century are kept in the renowned MAN (Art Museum of Nuoro province), which organizes a number of events including important temporary exhibitions and exhibitions of contemporary art.
Of great charm is the Ciusa museum dedicated to the works of the great sculptor from Nuoro, author of La madre dell’ucciso in 1907 that earned him critical recognition at the Venice Biennale.