Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of prehistoric nuraghic settlements in the Nuoro area. A popular theory maintains that the city was established when locals opposed to Roman rule grouped together around Monte Ortobene. But little is known of the city before the Middle Ages, when it was passed from one feudal family to another under the Aragonese and, later, Spain.

By the 18th century the town, now under Piedmontese control, had a population of around 3000, mostly farmers and shepherds. A tough, often violent, place, it rose in rebellion in 1868 when citizens burned down the town hall to protest attempts to privatise public land (and thus hand it to the rich landowners). This action, known as Su Connuttu, no doubt confirmed the new Italian nation’s view of the whole Nuoro district as a ‘crime zone’, an attitude reflected in its treatment of the area, which only served to further alienate the Nuoresi and cement their mistrust of authority.

Nuoro was appointed a provincial capital in 1927. It quickly developed into a bustling administrative centre. Although the traditional problem of banditry has long since subsided and the town presents a cheerful enough visage, Nuoro remains troubled, as high unemployment forces many young people to leave in search of work.