Fonte Sacra Su Tempiesu

Eastern Sardinia

Set in dramatic hill country near the dusty town of Orune, this sophisticated and elegant nuraghic well temple dates from the 2nd millennium BC. Reached by a steadily descending 800m nature trail with signposts offering background on local flora and fauna, the temple has a distinctive keyhole-shaped entrance, with stairs leading down to the well bottom – all oriented in such a way that on the day of the summer solstice, sunlight shines directly down the well shaft.

Water brims to the top of the stairs and trickles down a runnel to another small well, part of the original, more primitive temple that was built around 1600 BC. The newer temple, dating to about 1000 BC, is a (partially restored) masterpiece. Above the well and stairs rises an A-frame structure of carefully carved interlocking stones of basalt and trachyte (sealed watertight with lead). The stone was transported from as far away as Dorgali. No other such structure has been found in Sardinia, and this one (excavation only began in 1981) was for centuries hidden by a landslide that had buried it back in the Iron Age.

Getting here is a problem if you don’t have your own transport. Head for Orune, 18km northeast of Nuoro (turn off the SS131dcn highway at the Ponte Marreri exit for the 11km climb to the town). From Orune it is a 5km drive southeast down a sometimes precarious dirt track (signposted). Buses run only as far as Orune. From the ticket office you walk 800m downhill to the temple. You may be accompanied by a guide (in Italian).

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