Sardinia’s geographic and spiritual heartland is a tough, mountainous area known as the Barbagia. The name derives from the Latin term ‘Barbaria’ (itself derived from the Greek word barbaros – foreign person, barbarian), which the Romans gave the area after repeatedly failing to subdue it. The dramatic topography and tough-as-hobnail-boots locals kept the legionaries out, just as they have since kept the outside world at arm’s length with their fierce inward-looking pride. Sardinian dialects are widely spoken in the Barbagia villages, traditional Sardinian music and Sardinian-language news are still broadcast on Radio Barbagia (FM103), and age-old festivities are celebrated with fervour. It’s not uncommon to see older women walking down the street wearing traditional black vestments.
At the region’s heart are the bald, windswept peaks of the Gennargentu massif, including Sardinia's highest mountain, Punta La Marmora (1834m) – and the Parco Nazionale del Golfo di Orosei e del Gennargentu, Sardinia’s largest national park.