Published on: 15 December 2016 | Last updated: 23 December 2019
At a glance
Easy-ish: there are a couple of small climbs with a gentle gradient otherwise pretty flat.
Once you are out of Oristano the route follows quiet roads.
The whole section is on surfaced roads in good condition.
The route passes through the Marmilla hills and the wheat-growing country of the Campidano before returning to the coast.
The Burumini site has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site (whc.unesco.org: Su Nuraxi di Burumini] the Genna Maria site is less well-known (and less crowded) but with its location high on the top of a hill looking out to sea it is just as much worth the effort as the more famous site.
Map and altitude profile
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|Oristano to Barumini||58 kms|
|Barumini to Villanovaforru||35 kms|
|Villanovaforru to Sant’Antonio di Santadi||48 kms|
Oristano to Barumini
The route passes the Basilica di Santa Giusta (en.wikipedia.org: Santa Giusta Cathedral) on its way out of Oristano. Built by the Pisans in the 12th century it is said to be one of the most important examples of Romanesque architecture in Sardegna. The basilica is on the shore of the Stagno di Santa Giusta to the south of the city.
From the cathedral you take the SP53 out of town. The road goes over the railway line and then underneath the SS 131. The route skirts round Palmas Arborea and heads towards the village of Tiria. At the junction with the SP68 just outside Tiria turn left and then there is a short stretch on the SP 68 before you turn right onto a quiet country road following the signed for Villaurbana (Biddobrana).
The road starts to climb gently towards the and the Marmilla hills. When you come to a roundabout on the edge of the Villaurbana turn left and continue through the village passing the municipio (council offices) the church. You then come out onto the main road.
As you come out onto the main road look to your left and there’s a mural about breadmaking. To the right of the mural there’s a little piazzetta named after two judges, Giovanni Falcone and Paulo Borsellino who were assassinated by the Mafia in Sicilia in 1992. There is a small mural (just opposite the bar/cafe where they will make you a very nice panino) and the inscription reads:
“ those who keep quiet, and bow their heads, die every time that they do it: whoever talks and walks with their head held high dies only once ”
You head out of Villaurbana on the SP35 - the road that takes you most of the way from here to Barumini. There’s a wind farm in the hills to your left. As the road climbs, olive trees give way to woodland and macchia.
The first village on the road is Usellus (which, if you’re wondering, is pronounced Oooh-sell-us). From here the road descends to Gonnosnò.
At the border with the neighbouring provincia of Medio Campidano the road number changes to the SP46. Another kilometre or so further on, just before the village of until almost into the village of Ussaramanna, turn left at the junction following the signs for Turri and Tuili.
We are very definitely now in wheat-growing country with wheatfields almost as far as the eye can see. The new road (the SP44) takes you all the way into Barumini. This is mainly sheep-farming country, and if you’re lucky your final kilometres might be accompanied by the tinkling of sheep bells.
As you approach Barumini you can see the site clearly on the horizon
The Su Nuraxi site at Barumini doesn’t look particularly impressive from the outside. For hundreds of years, it was buried in what looked like a hill, with only the name to give a clue to what lay beneath the surface. A lot of the structure still looks like a hill from the outside and to appreciate it you need to get inside.
That site dates back almost 4 millennia to the 17th century BCE and was in use until the first century BCE when it was finally abandoned. The oldest part of the nuraghe is a central 18-metre stone tower . The site Four towers and wall were added around the central tower, and even later a massive retaining wall was built to stop the nuraghe sliding down the slope. Even later, a village was built around the nuraghe
If you want to see what the complex would have looked like, go to the nearby Centro Giovanni Lilliu which has a large model.
No one knows what the purpose of the nuraghe was. It might have been defensive, or ceremonial or religious. Or even that it was used for the storage of grain.
Adding to the puzzle is the fact that there is another nuraghe just down the road at the Casa Zapata. The sixteenth century palazzo was bought by the local council with the aim of converting it into a museum. When the builders went in they discovered the remains of the nuraghe.
Visiting Su Naraxi
You can only visit the nuraghe itself as part of a guided visit. The first guided visit is at 9:00 and they continue, starting every half hour, until the early evening. Tickets cost 10 euros (check admission times and prices: fondazionebarumini.it: opening times and admission prices | 2016 Tariffario e orari .
If you can do it’s probably best to aim to get there when it’s cooler, and before the first coach parties arrive, or after they’ve gone. There’s an excellent little hotel the (Hotel Su Nuraxi) a couple of minutes walk from the site, so you could visit Su Nuraxi at the end of the day and the Casa Zapata the following morning —or the other way round.
Barumini to Villanovaforru
Looking from Barumini the major landmark is a conical hill, and on top of it the ruins of the Castello di Las Plassas. The next section of the route takes us past the castle and then past the castles of Sanluri and San Gavino Monreale. The three castles formed part of the system of defences of the Giudicato di Arborea] whose capital was in Oristano.
At its height the giudicato extended across the whole island. It suffered a major defeat to the Catalan-Aragonese army on the plain to the south of Sanluri in 1410. The fall of Oristano later that summer marked the end of a seventy-year struggle for control of the island.
From Barumini you pick up the SS197 going towards the village of Las Plassas with the castello above it. The road is fairly quiet, but what traffic there is fast-moving, although there is plenty of space for cars to pass. Just before the village of Villamar (Mara Arbarei) turn left following the signs for Segariu. If you’re in a hurry you could stay on the SS197 and it will take you to Furtei where you rejoin the route. Alternatively, you could head direct for Villanovaforru
The new road is SP43: it’s really super-quiet. The road goes over a bridge and at the crossroads turns right. At Segariu, it crosses over the river. Turn right onto the SS547, which in turn joins the SS197. You take the SS197 for a brief stretch before turning right onto the SP48 which takes you the remaining 3 kilometres into San Luri.
The castello at Sanluri was built to control (and tax) traffic on what was the main road between northern and southern Sardegna. The castle has survived intact although it was later turned into a palazzo. You can visit the castle but it’s probably only worth doing if you are interested in period furniture. The castle houses a museum of articles from the First World War (including a folding Bianchi with suspension built into the frame).
From San Luri you head out of town on the Via Sant Antioco. At the fork in the road bear right following the signs for Villanovaforru. This almost-deserted road is really special as it climbs along a ridge between two valleys, the views on both sides are truly panoramic. There are a few rough spots to watch out for, but nothing to worry about. On the left-hand side look out for the ruined castle on a peak at San Gavino Monreale. On the top of the ridge, there is a wind farm; if you are unlucky you may discover why the turbines are located where they are.
The Genna Maria
Genna Maria means ‘gateway to the sea’. The site is located high on a hill overlooking the historic route between the Golfo di Cagliari and the Golfo di Oristano. It’s a simpler site than the Su Nuraxi at Barumini, but no less evocative.
Before heading out of the Villanovaforru the Museum on the main piazza is worth a stop. Perhaps the star sight is the collection of hundreds of earthenware lamps left at the Genna Maria site during the Roman era when it became a place of worship. There’s a free audioguide.
From April to September both the museum and the Parco Archeologico are open from 9:30 to 13:30 and from 15:30 to 19:00, both are closed on Mondays (check opening times and prices: gennamaria.it: Orari e Tariffe .
As you come out of the village ignore the signs for the SS131, and continue straight on. You should see the signs for the Parco Archeologico otherwise the road signs are for Collinas and Gonnostramatza.
Back to the coast: Villanovaforru to Sant’Antonio di Santadi
After Genna Maria it’s back to the SP49 (although this may be marked on your map as the SP53). The road climbs for a little bit more, and then starts to descend with views over the coast. As the next village (Collinas/Forru) you need to turn right following the signs for Gonnostramatza. As you go out of the village you’ll pass a small shaded seating area with water fountain keep straight on going downhill on the SP69 (which may be marked on your map as the SP73).
As you come to the border with the Provincia di Oristano. There is a noticeable improvement in the condition of the road surface. The new road is the SP 46. The road comes into the splendidly-named village of Gonnostramatza and crosses over the Rio Mannu.
As you come into the village there’s an interesting murale on a wall next door to the Municipio (Council offices). If the church is open pop in to admire the lovely altar painting painted in 1501 by Lorenzo Cavaro. There’s a photo-gallery on the village’s website (comune.gonnostramatza.or.gov.it: retablo photogallery).
For Italian speakers there’s an excellent Museo Multimediale Turcos e Morus that tells the story of the pirates who raided the coast and of the system of towers built to defend the island. It’s a fascinating museum and the story includes the fact that there were turcos di professione - Sardinians who, in the search for wealth and power, joined the pirates and converted to Islam. These included the Sardinian who rose to become Barbarossa’s right-hand man who ruled the pirate city of Tunis in Barbarossa’s absence. The museum is housed in the restored montegranatico - grain stores that provided an emergency reserve for years of poor harvests.
From July to September the museum is open every day except Monday (9.30-13:30 and 15.30-19.30). During the rest of the year it is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Check opening times and prices: turcusemorus.it: Orari e Tariffe.
Heading out of Gonnostramatza follow the signs for Mogoro. The S73 strada provinciale takes you into Mogoro. Left following the Via Emilio Lusso look out for the church (Chiesa del Carmine) on the left-hand side at the crossroads, turn left onto the Via Antonio Gramsci (SP44).
The road descends down into the valley and crosses over the SS131 (no bikes). Just keep straight on. We are now on the SP98.
This section of the route is pretty flat, and you’ll be relieved to know that it goes around the jagged wall of rock that seems to lie ahead. At the junction turn right following the signs for the SS126.
As you get closer to the SS126 there is a rather nice looking Agriturismo Su Dominariu (open every day at lunchtime). It also has accommodation.
At junction with the strada statale continue straight on. Just before you the line of hills that run along the coast, the road comes to a junction and you turn right onto the SP65.
The road continues north following the shore of the Stagno di Marceddi. As it continues you may be able to spot flamingos feeding in the shallows. From here the next stop is the village of Sant’Antonio di Santadi where there are a couple of bars - the last chance to get something to eat or drink for some way.
For me the coast of south-west Sardegna was one of the highlights. However, if you have limited time then another option would be to head east towards Muravera on the eastern coast rather than returning to the west coast. There’s a route in the Guida Cicloturistica della Sardegna. You could also head northeast from Barumini to Laconi and the Gennargentu mountains.
Near to Barumini there’s an altopiano which rises abruptly from the surrounding plains. The Giara di Gesturi is famous for its wild cavallini (little horses). The altopiano is a protected area. Its sides are pretty steep but you can get up there on a tarmac road. There’s a single dirt road on the plateau itself and lots of footpaths.
If you prefer to continue south. I would suggest taking the imaginatively-named Strada Longitudinale 22 (yes it really is called that) through Arborea and then the causeway over the estuary between Marceddi and Sant’Antonio di Santadi. For some reason this isn’t shown on Google maps, but, trust me, it’s there (and if you don’t trust me, here it is on Google Streetview).
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs etc
You can find hotels and B&Bs inland — the best bets are at Villanovaforru and Barumini.
I stayed at, and would recommend:
- the Hotel Su Nuraxi in Barumini a couple of minutes walk from the Su Nuraxi and runs by a charming elderly couple
- the Hotel Funtana Noa in Villanovaforru
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
Campsites and Hostels
There are no campsites or hostels along this section of the route.
Transport and services
The nearest train station to this section of the route is at San Gavino Monreale near Sanluri.
You’ll find some services along the route in the main villages.
Articles in this series
- Sardegna West Coast: Introduction
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 1: Alghero to Bosa
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 2: Bosa to Is Arenas
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 3: Is Arenas to Oristano
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 4: Barumini and Genna Maria
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 5: the Costa delle Miniere
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 6: the Costa delle Miniere
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 7: the Isola di San Pietro
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 8: Calasetta to Pula