Autunno in Barbagia 2023

The words toni and toneri indicate in Sardinian, fascinating limestone cliffs that characterize the country of Tonara from which probably derives its name. Between these extraordinary formations, from the Neolithic Period, dwelt the ancient Sardinian civilizations.

The first inhabitants of the area have left traces in the funerary cave of Pitzu de Toni call “cresiedda”: here have been found the beautiful ceramics of the culture of San Michele di Ozieri (3200-2800 B.C. ) and other artifacts of the culture of Bonnannaro (1800-1600 B.C. ). From this period are the  domus de janas of the Is furreddus in the area of Marti and monumental tombs dug in a quartz-rock called “puddinga”.During the Bronze age was founded the nuragic village which extends on the southern part of the rock of Su Nuratze, on which were found the remains of a tower that had disappeared.

Testimonies of the Roman settlements have been discovered in the regions of Perdas Lobadas, Tracullau-Tonnai and Mattale, Roman outpost that controlled the road which led to Sorabile (in the municipality of Fonni). In the area of Mammui are the ruins of three villages Trocheri, Gonnale and Idda intr’Errios (towns between the rio Pitzirimasa and rio Baueri). Probably their inhabitants moved toward the highest regions in which Tonara arose.

At the beginning of 1200 in a recorded act in the condaghe of Santa Maria di Bonarcado appears for the first time the name of the country and in 1341 by the Rationes Decimarum  Sardiniae we learn that the church of Sant'Anastasia in Tonara was already constructed in the first half of the XIV century. In the Middle Ages, the  villa di Tonara belonged to the Giudicato of Arborea and was included in “curatoria” of Mandrolisai.Also its inhabitants played the great war between the Sardinian and Iberian kings that ended up with the victory of the crown of Aragon in 1420. As a result it became part of the marquisate of Oristano and after its confiscation (1478) came under the aragonese royal administration which enabled it to keep some ancient privileges and enjoy special benefits.

In the seventeenth century a part of the inhabitants of the village of Spasule, perhaps to escape the plague, moved to Arasulè, one of the  historical districts of the city center (the other historic districts are ToneriTeliseri and Illalà). With the arrival of the Habsburgs and the passage of House of Savoy, in 1720, the center was managed by the feudal lords versus which the population tried several times to revolt, until the  redemption of the fief in 1838.

In the twentieth century the town experienced a certain development thanks to the ability of its many craftsmen and peddlers. In 1931, the  district of Illalà was definitively abandoned by the last residents who settled in the highest areas of the country. From the second half of the Twentieth Century was born the new district of Su Pranu to the west of the center.

Majestosas muntagnas / fizas de su canudu Gennargentu, / ch’in sas virdes campagnas / sas nucciolas bos faghent ornamentu, 'Majestic mountains / daughters of white Gennargentu / with the green campaigns / the gists are ornamental' Peppino Mereu (Tonara 1872-1901).

In the numerous lookouts that surround the village of Tonara sight is lost on exterminated panoramas that arrive up the gulf of Cagliari. By the reliefs of the Gennargentu extend luxuriant forests and numerous sources which is used to supply downstream watercourses.

Geological fractures dating back to the Jurassic gave rise to the so-called “toni” or “toneri”, scenic limestone heels that surround the village. Between the quarters of Toneri and Pranu is the cliff of  Su Toni that dominates the valley of S’Isca. At the base of the limestone there is the access to the deep cave called Bucca de dro (‘mouth of the dragon’), where, according to the popular legends, lived the Gianeddas, a sort of small fairy with long sun colour hair  that made falling gold coins by combing them.

The lovely expanse of chestnut, hazelnut, oak, cherry and alder trees covers the lush valley of S’Isca. The rio Pitzirimasa flows here, and form a suggestive waterfall with a drop of almost twenty meters approximately a kilometer from the village.

All the landscape are characterized by the presence  of hestnut trees but also gists and walnuts from which they obtain the fruits for the production of the renowned torrone di Tonara, invariably present in every feast and festival of the Sardinians. The woods are also constituted by holm-oaks, oaks, cork oaks, maples and shrubs of the mediterranean vegetation as lillatri and  holly of which have preserved several secular examples in the Monte de susu. In the undergrowth you can find the most appreciated edible mushrooms like porcino and the ovolo.

This is the habitat of various species of animals: wild boars, hares, wild curls, weasels, and numerous birds including major red peaks, jays and wood pigeons, but also prey (buzzards, astori, hawks, owls, and barn owls).

From the town you can organize splendid excursions by foot, by mountain bike or on horseback, up to the tip of the Monte Muggianeddu (1469 m) and on the top of the Conca Giuanni Fais (1499 m). Along the paths you can admire the troughs created during periods of heavy rainfall from the rivers, inhabited by trouts, and by the streams in which live the gray wagtail.

Land of torrone (nougat) makers Tonara is famous throughout the island for the production of the Delicious nougat sold by street vendors in all the feasts of Sardinia. Very popular are also the craftsmen who produce sonaggias and pittiolos, different types of cowbells used for their flocks. Its habitants specialize in many typical products thus preserving many of the local traditions.

Tonara is also the birthplace of the great poet Peppino Mereu (1872-1901) to whom are dedicated different angles and squares of his historical districtsArasulè, Toneri, Teliseri. Facing each other on the narrow streets of the town center there are the lovely homes in schist with the splendid covered balconiess’istauleddos ammantaos, once present on every facade that often created connections between the houses from side to side of the street. Among these there is the ancient Casa Porru, impressive house of landowners also used as a prison in the past. The building, today which hosts the Ethnographic Museum and the ancient crafts, preserves the ancient separation of the rooms with the clay floors on the ground floor and s’intaulau, the wooden loft at the base of the upper floors.

The oldest building of the country is the church of Sant’Anastasia already known in 1341 by the Rationes decimarum Sardiniae. Built in gothic style in the XIV century in the center, was abandoned in the Nineteenth Century. Today remains are only the apse part and is located outside of the village just south of the district of Toneri.

The parish church, called San Gabriel Arcangelo, was rebuilt in the Nineteenth Century on the ancient church, built in the XVII century but went to ruin. Of the previous buildings survived the bell tower erected in 1607. Another important church is the one of Sant’Antonio da Padova, built in the Sixteenth Century, preserves interesting frescoes of the Eighteenth Century considered work by The Ares.

Nearby you can visit the town church of San Sebastiano built in the XVII century in the ancient district of Ilallà, uninhabited since 1931 and of which the ruins are the only remains. The chapel is preserved in the wooden Capriata, sculptures of zoomorphic forms.

Walking along the beautiful paths between the unspoilt nature you can meet different archeological sites that document the prehistory from the culture of San Michele di Ozieri (3200-2800 B.C.) until the Roman period.

To the north of the town you will find the cresiedda a funerary cave carved into the limestone of Pitzu de Toni. Here were found the oldest remains of human presence in the territory of Tonara dating back to the Neolithic Age. Of the same age are the charming monumental tombs, the domus of Is furreddus in the area of Marti, dug in a projection of quartz rock called “puddinga”. Formed by three communicating rooms, are surrounded on the outside from ritual stones.

Of the Nuragic age remain some of the ruins of a village near the calcareous heel called “Su Nuratze” to the east of today’s district of Su Pranu. On the top was the nuraghe while on the south side are still visible entrances to tombs excavated on rocky walls.

The Roman presence is documented by the remains of Tonnai, a village from the Imperial Era in the locality of Tracullau and the nearby military outpost of Mattalè.