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Comune di Oliena
Oliena (in the foreground)
Oliena (in the foreground)
Oliena is located in Sardinia
Location of Oliena in Sardinia
Coordinates: 40°16′N 9°24′E / 40.267°N 9.400°E / 40.267; 9.400Coordinates: 40°16′N 9°24′E / 40.267°N 9.400°E / 40.267; 9.400
Country Italy
Region Sardinia
Province / Metropolitan city Nuoro (NU)
 • Total 165.37 km2 (63.85 sq mi)
Elevation 365 m (1,198 ft)
Population (December 31, 2010)[1]
 • Total 7,418
 • Density 45/km2 (120/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Olianesi
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 08025
Dialing code 0784
Patron saint Saint Ignatius of Loyola, San Lussorio
Saint day 31 July – 21 August
Website Official website
Domo comunale

Oliena (Italian pronunciation: [oˈliːena] or less correctly [oˈljɛːna]; Sardinian: Ulìana [uˈli.ana]) is a commune in the province of Nuoro, Sardinia, Italy.


Belonging to the Giudicato of Torres, Oliena was one of the curatorie of Posada. During the war between Aragona and Arborea, the commune was occupied by Eleonora D'Arborea's troops. The village, developed in medieval times, at the foot of a castle remembered in toponomy, belonged to Arborea until the fall of the Giudicato.

Oliena was passed to the Carrozs, and later annexed to the Marchesato of Quirra, as a feudal state of the Carrozs and then of the Osorios, from which it was released in 1839.

Lamarmora thinks the name "Oliena" dates back to the time of the first Oriental people, and comes from Helion (i.e. very high), because of the peaks at whose foot the village is situated.

Almost of proto-sardinian origin, judging from the numerous archaeological remains present in the territory, the name Oliena is connected with a group of Trojans who, after the fall of Troy, left to find safer lands. Probably, some of them landed in Sardinia, giving birth to the people of Ilienses.

At the beginning of 1300, Oliena was under the Pisan Rule in the Giudicato of Gallura, in the curatoria of Posada and Galtellì. At that time, the centre might have been substantial, judging from its income compared to the neighbouring villages. It owned a medieval castle, situated in the locality "Su Carmene" (now ruined). When the Jesuits, in the 17th century, according to popular tradition, removed the stones which it was built of, in order to build a convent and then, the church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola. In 1325, the village of Oliena and its territory were assigned to Berengario Carroz together, with the village of Calogonis (now disappeared).

In the 17th century, the Jesuits inhabited Oliena giving impulse to different activities,[clarification needed]beginning the construction of the College and the present parish church.

Some scholars link the name to the olive trees in this zone, but this interpretation is groundless, because the largest cultivation of olive groves has taken place in recent years.

In fact, the inhabitants were mostly given to stock-raising, and the cultivated lands were few. The increasing of cultivation of olives started after the Jesuits arrived, and later developed as a result of incentives by Spaniards and Savoias, who promised noble titles for them, who grafted thousands of wild olive-trees.

Salvatore Satta, a sardinian writer, wrote in his book Il Giorno del Giudizio (The Day of Judgment):

"... Oliena, as the papers say, but its real and poetic name is Ulìana, with the accent on the "i". It is a wonderful village standing at the foot of the most beautiful mountain that God has ever created, and produce a wine in which all the essences of our earth, the mirtle, the strawberry-tree, the cisto and the mastic tree".



The territory of Oliena extends towards the north-eastern slope of the Supramonte,[2] as far as the eastern foot of mount Ortobene, embracing the valley crossed by Cedrino river, which opens towards the plains of Galtellì and Orosei.

The inhabited centre lies about 380 metres (1,250 ft) above sea level at the foot of a mountain that rises vertically with the well-known peaks Corrasi.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The territory presents a great botanic richness. Particular and rarest species living in the most inaccessibles zones of the Mount Corrasi, are:

The fauna of the territory of is richly varied. The most important species living in it are:

Main sights[edit]


The church of Santa Maria is at the centre of Oliena.

The church of Santa Maria was built during the Pisan period. This church with the ex-temple of Sant'Ignazio, represents the main cult place.

Outside the church, S. Maria Romanesque - Gothic style is presented. It is an isolated building standing in a square, and once surrounded by a cemetery.

A bell tower, culminating in a cusp, rises on the right side. Looking at its planimetry, it is possible to see the Gothic-Catalan pattern which spread after the Aragonese conquest.

The parish church of Saint Ignatius (Santu Nascìu) stands in the college square.

One can enter through double flight of a steps against the facade. In the large internal room, there is a single nave with three chapels for each side. The stately facade, vertically and horizontally, is divided into three parts by pilaster strips and cornices.

Ending in a curvilinear tympanum, the front has a window and portal along its own axis. Inside the church, there is a triumphal arch which brings, the raised presbytery with a Neoclassic altar, in the middle.

Other churches:

Santa Croce (Santa Rughe), is situated in a wide space. The Oratory is the centre of the confraternity : founded on June 16, 1580, the building is dated from the early 17th century.

It has very simple front view, animated by an undulating cornice of little crosses, and culminating in vaulted bell tower with three openings. In the altar there is a beautiful ligneous Crucifix.

San Lussorio (Santu Lussugliu), belonged to one of San Francesco Grey Friar's convents and it was left in 1644. It shows such Gothic - Catalan Styles :

Country churches:


The territorial location of Oliena was definitely propitious for human settlement.

There were two determinant factors in its expansion:

  1. The vast hilly areas is almost plain and suitable for agriculture and
  2. Mountainous region are rich in spontaneous vegetation and water; good for wild animals.

These factors determined the territory of Oliena for continuous human presence from the Palaeolithic Era until today. The archaeological findings permit ideas of alternating of different people in these zones since the Palaeolithic Era.

The first proofs about the above-mentioned presences have been found inside the Grotta Corbeddu. The Nuragic civilization was very deep-rooted but above all articulated; 54 villages, 30 nuraghes, sepulchres, buildings with a likely sacred destination were calculated.


The Nuraghe Birìai arises, between two rocky spurs, in a position that makes it able to dominate the whole Cedrino valley. The passage, leading to a suspension door to the north, forms a trapezoidal span surmounted by a powerful architrave with a window lintel.

The Nuraghe Luduruju is located on the border of the Gollei Ospène Plateau. It is a monotower with one room, built with slab-shaped blocks of local basalt.

The Nuraghe Otha'he stands on a rocky outcrop. It was surrounded along its perimeter by a wall curtain. In spite of the limestone (a rock hard to work upon), it was used.

In the interior of the Nuraghe Susùne, a tholos room opens to the internal passage. According to the transept scheme, it provided another trapezoidal light oriented to the west.

Other nuraghes:

  • Nuraghe Suvegliu


The megalithic sepulchre of Catteddu Crìspu is formed by two hangings; one external with megalithic blocks, and the other internal with the small hewns. The interior is encumbered by a large slab with three hollows carved on its ends.

The Domos de Gurpìa, are a Domos de Janas excavated in a granitic erratic block inside which, was a penimetrical platform.

The Domos de Suvangiu are Domos de Janas formed by three hypogea, the most interesting of which is bicellular. Inside it, the second room is a cabinet for offers.

Other Domos de Janas:

  • Domos de Jumpàdu,
  • Domos de Frathale, where the floor, sheltered by a rock geometric symbols difficult to interpret, are carved.

Nuragic village of Tiscali[edit]

Tiscali is situated in the gigantic grotto that shelters the village. Discovered at the end of the 17th century is commonly considered to be a nuragic site. The inhabited centre of huts, built with small stones joined together by mud, was for a long time inhabited even in the Roman and Medieval ages.

Nuragic village of Sedda 'e sos Carros[edit]

This village is located in the Lanaitho Valley, a place that still keeps the ambiental characteristics, was preferred by the ancient populations of Sardinia for their settling. Recently, a temple has been discovered, in the middle of which there is a sacred spring with aries-headed (or moufflons) ornaments.

The archaeologist do not exclude the spring situated in the interior of the village to have been used, for the normal water victualling, but its religious and cultural character appears evident on account of the materials found in its neighbourhood. There are little bronze ships (some of large dimensions), water drawing vases, and one bronze vase with a taurus-headed protome of valuable workmanship.

The spring, therefore, might have been utilized by a little domestic temple, by a small clan which lived in isolated village.

Mount Corrasi[edit]

Oliena on the right and in the background is the Mount Corrasi.

The peak Corrasi, 1,463 metres (4,800 ft), is the highest summit of the Supramonte, and the highest calcareous one in Sardinia.

The imposing calcareous whole, whose western slopes covered with extensive reforestations of imposing woods of holm-oaks, creates a scenery rich, in contrast with steep rocky walls standing out on the low and gentle cultivated plains.

Lanaitho Valley[edit]

Ancient valley runs across the Riu Sa Oche, is overlooked by the high ridges of the Supramonte and, particularly south, by the Mount Tiscali.

There are several grottoes, the deepest of which open towards the western side of the valley, such as Heli'hes artas and the well-known Grotta Corbeddu, hideout of a famous bandit[which?] and place of discovery of numerous fossil.

"Sa Oche" locality[edit]

This locality stands in the centre of the fruitful Lanaitho Valley which, has same grotto opening as the karst massif. And, it is enclosed by the calcareous walls of the same massif.

Among the many archaeologic findings, from the palaeolithic era to the Roman period, it must be segnalized for the Tombs of Giants, located near the grotto Sa oche.

Sa Oche cave[edit]

Sa Oche, (the voice) is grotto, with a wide entrance inside of which, are three lakes. The terminal siphon is in communication with the near cave of Su Bentu.

Su Gologone spring[edit]

Recognized as a natural monument, since 1988, Su Gologone is the biggest karst source in Sardinia. It emanates from the base of the big rocks of the Supramonte.

In the rainy periods, the springs of this zone have considerable increase of their waters: the discharge of Su Gologone has been estimated at 400 litres per second (14 cu ft/s).


Agriculture and typical products[edit]

The position of the territory is favourable, thanks to its healthiness abìnd the presence of plentiful spring-waters still today, permitting to practise a rich variety of cultures on the plains (olive-groves, orchards, vineyards, kitchen gardens), and to enjoy wide mountainous and hilly expanses of good pastures prevalently destined to sheep and cattle-breeding.

The typical products are:

  • sardinian "Pecorino" cheese ( sheep's milk cheese),
  • cheese cream, Sa Vrughe ( a kind of cheese),
  • sausages,
  • ham,
  • bacon, tammati 'hin vrughe salìa, (tomatoes and salty kind of cheese)

The pasta:

  • angelottos
  • ma'harrones de bocciu (gnocchi)
  • maharrones de busa.

The sweets:

  • Sevadas
  • 'hasadinas
  • marigosos
  • amarettos
  • guelfos
  • hidongiadu
  • pistoccos 'hin sa cappa
  • aranciada
  • ori'heddos
  • meli'heddas.

The bread:

The Nepente wine[edit]

The Nepente of Oliena is a vintage wine, appreciated and celebrated by Gabriele D'Annunzio (a well known Italian writer), and is obtained from an accurate selection of grapes Cannonau cultivated in the municipality of Oliena.

The wine is red-brown and becomes amaranth when aged. It exhances a fragrance with a persistent aroma, which is typical for particular type of this wine.

Culture and traditions[edit]

Oliena traditional costume[edit]

Girl wearing the traditional costume of Oliena.

Women wedding dress composes, the square shaped black shawl, Su muncadore, rolled up on forehead, and the rich silk embroidery called sa triccia. The edges of the shawl end with a long fringes sas 'himulas. The blouse, sa 'hammisa, is a white-bluish cotton; the waist-coat, sa pala; the jacket, su gippone; the skirt, sa tunica; the apron, sa vranda; the shoes decorateds with a tassels, sas is'harpas.

The blouse has golden buttons, a cloth neck lace with a golden pendant Su Sole; a red coral and gold neck lace, sa gutturada and a silver toothpick, s'isprugadentes.

The masculine costume is composed of the cap, sa berritta, a long hood made of a black cloth; the shirt is of a white cotton with collar fastened by golden buttons, sos buttones; the jacket, Su gippone, made up of red trimmed cloth is worn open. The shirt slevees and jacket leaves the decorated leather belt,sa 'hintoglia, uncovered. It holds the black wollen fabric short skirt called su carcione de uresi. Cotton trousers carciones de tela are worn inside. And inside the gaiters, miggias (sort of fabric boots) are worn which at the terminal has the black boots of leather, sas is'harpas. The waistcoat of black lambskin is sas peddes.


  • Saint Anthony's feast – 17 January : the bonfires are lit in the squares of the village and the traditional sweet su pistiddu is prepared.
  • the Carnival -February.

Holy week:

  • The rite of S'IscravamentuGood Friday: the Deposition of Christ;
  • The rite of S'Incontru. On Easter Sunday, in the Santa Maria's Square, the ancient rite of S'Incontru is observed.

Introduced into Sardinia, in 1400 by the Spaniards, the rite, every year, lives again with unchanged expressive strength. It recalls the meeting of the Christ with the virgin.

Starting from the churches of San Francesco and Santa Croce two processions, one prevalently formed by men taking the simulacrum of Christ, and the other by women who take the virgin, follow two different ways : meeting each other in the main square of the village among sounds of bells and feast reports of a guns. Then, to go together to the parish church.

  • Saint John's country feast – 24 June: celebrated in the country church of San Giovanni Battista.
  • The feast of San Lussorio – 21 August. It is the most important feast of the village lasting for some days. In the afternoon, the procession starts with the statue of the saint carried on shoulder by four young men wearing traditional costumes, walking down the streets of the village. Particularly evocative, it represents the only opportunity for admiring the wonderful traditional costumes, worn in that day by a great number of people. In the evening, and for some days after, the festivities is celebrated with dances and songs, carried out by groups from different villages of Sardinia.
  • Monserrata's country feast – 8 September: celebrated in the country church of N.S. di Monserrat.
  • Cortes Apertas – September: This enterprising arises, with the intention of proposing a recoverly of the traditions and multifarious aspects of the Oliena culture.


Folk dances[edit]

Oliena preserve intact tradition of the characteristic dance of Sardinia, Su ballu tundu. The dancers placed side by side, joint arms (in different way depending on gender), form a compact circle and dance, under the accompaniment of the voice or barrel organ.

These are the different olianeses variants of the ballu tundu:

  • Su passu torràu;
  • Su nugoresu;
  • Su dennaru;
  • S'arcìu;
  • S'arcìu anti'hu;
  • Su durdurinu.

Su tenore[edit]

Typical of the central area of Sardinia, the cantu a tenore is a song "a cappella", sung by a group of four men with different vocal keys. In Oliena, they are called:

  • Sa vo'he: the voice of placement and direction;
  • Su basciu: the voice of bass;
  • Sa 'hontra: the voice of counterpoint;
  • Sa mesuvo'he: the high voice.

Notable people[edit]

  • Monserrato Tolo, 16th century, aristocratic olianese.
  • Padre Giovanni Antonio Solinas (1643–1683), a Paraguayan martyr.
  • Raimondo Congiu (1762–1813), famous sardinian poet.
  • Giovanni Corbeddu Salis (1844–1898), famous bandit considered as "The Robin Hood of Sardinia".
  • Antonio Puligheddu (1898–1957), a philanthropist doctor.
  • Giovanni Battista "Titino" Melis (1904–1976), politician antifascist and militant in Sardinian Action Party.
  • Pietro Serafino Monni (1906–1993), president of Sardinian Regional Council in 1974.
  • Pietrino Melis (1907–1969), politician and regional councillor responsible for industry from 1958–1963.
  • Antonio"Totoni" Catte (1912–1949), magistrate antifascist and partisan.
  • Antonio Gardu (1913–1988), politician and regional councillor responsible for transports from 1955–1957.
  • Giuseppe "Peppino" Puligheddu (1914–1991), politician and regional councillor responsible for agriculture from 1965–1967; kidnapped in 1982, he was released 39 days later.
  • Sebastiano Putzu (1916–2006), freelance journalist, writer and mayor.
  • Giuseppe "Peppino" Catte (1916–1975) politician and militant in Italian Socialist Party, regional councillor responsible for Agriculture and Forest from 1967–1969 and 1974–1975.
  • Mario Melis (1921–2003), politician and brother of Titino and Pietrino, was militant in Sardinian Action Party and mayor (1956; 1960; 1964–1968; 1976–1980); regional councillor responsible for local Authoritys, Personnel and General Affairs (1973), Environment (1980–1982); Governor of Sardinia 1984–1989. Member of the Italian Senate in VII legislature and Deputy in IX legislature. Euro MP (1989–1994).
  • Giuseppe "Peppeddu" Palimodde (1925–1996), tourist entrepreneur and founder of hotel "Su Gologone".
  • Dolores Turchi (1935), student of sardinian popular traditions.
  • Mario Massaiu (1942–1994), politician and student of literature who won a Grazia Deledda Prize.
  • Antonio Catte (1942), politician and militant in Italian Republican Party, member of City Council (1971) and Mayor of Oliena; also regional councillor (1979); regional councillor responsible for Environment (1982–1984); regional councillor responsible for agriculture (1989); regional councillor responsible for industry (1992–1994).
  • Gianfranco Zola, former Chelsea FC and Cagliari player, and former West Ham United manager.


  1. ^ All demographics and other statistics from the Italian statistical institute (Istat)
  2. ^ http://www.bestsmalltownsitaly.com/town/oliena-sardinia-south-islands/


  • Dolores Turchi, Sardegna mediterranea - 1999
  • Gianfranca Salis, Ambiente e Archeologia - 1999
  • Geol. Francesco Murgia, Lanaitho valley, Sa Ohe, Su Gologone - 1999
  • Angelino Congiu, Flora and Fauna, 1999
  • Oliena - 1999
  • Michele Pintus, Franco Masala, Luciano Ramon, Oliena: territorio, ambiente, architettura.
  • Pausania, De Rebus phoceens.
  • G. Aleo, Successos generales, tome I, page 86.
  • Luisa Lecca, Sebastiano Carai, Oliena. Storia, cultura, ambiente, tradizione, 2009

External links[edit]