Last week, on the night between the 16th and 17th of January, the whole island of Sardinia celebrated the Saint Anthony Bonfires, one of the most awaited celebrations of the year and best representation of Sardinian folklore. A mixture of Christian traditions and pagan worship, the origins of this ritual has ancient roots and in the past, it represented one the main events for the rural communities of the island as a propitiatory rite for the new harvest year and in honour of Saint Anthony the Abbot.

But what is the story behind this cult of fire, a blend of sacred and profane?

According to the legend, in ancient times, temperatures in Sardinia were so low that Saint Anthony descended into hell to steal a spark of fire, to bring it on earth and give fire to humanity. This ceremony, full of symbols and meanings, has remained almost unchanged from the past. The fire, the main feature of the feast and symbol of community and the life cycle, is made of different wood, for example, rosemary brushwood or large hollow tree trunks, and takes different names depending on the area.

During the cold night of the 16th of January, the fire burns all night; creating a suggestive and magic atmosphere, with breath-taking contrasts between the lights and the shadows that warm the heart and soul. It is a custom that people gather on the firewood, where they dance together, sing traditional songs and enjoy eating the typical Sardinian sweets with a good glass of Cannonau.

Saint Anthony Bonfires is celebrated in more than 100 villages across the island, and each village has its own unique way to celebrate and cherish the tradition of this event. For many villages of Sardinia, especially in the inland area of Barbagia, these particular days are the most awaited by the locals since it represents the beginning of the Sardinian Carnival and the first appearance of “Sá Prima Essià”: the traditional masks crafted by local artisan. The small village of Ottana is the house of Boes and Merdules and in the small town of Orotelli, you can see the first parade of Sos Thurpos, or in Mamoiada, the first parade of Mamuthones and Issohadores, just to name a few.

What you could experience

Far from the beaches and the coastal areas, Barbagia is a tough place of mountains and shepherds. With Your Sardinia Experience, you can have the fantastic opportunity to learn the traditions of these small treasures in the heart of the island and live an authentic journey with the Barbagia Experience Tour!

A whole day dedicated to the discovery of the heritage and enogastronomic traditions of two of the most popular and picturesque town in Sardinia: Mamoiada and Orgosolo. Mamoiada is a small village with a population of less than 3000 inhabitants famous for the specific local masks, Mamuthones and Issohadores, and its wine, named after the grape variety, called Cannonau. Even Orgosolo is a small town with an estimate of 4000 inhabitants, and it is particularly renowned for its colourful and meaningful murals; a real outdoor museum in the centre of the island!

Some of the great experiences included in the Barbagia Experience tour are the visit to the MaMu, also known as the Mamoiada Museums network, the visit at the local wine cellar with the food&wine experience and the last stop is the walking tour in the village of Orgosolo between the murals and the old historic centre.

What are you waiting for?
Join us and enjoy an authentic and memorable experience in the heart of Sardinia!

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Elisa Mameli | all rights reserved ©
Your Sardinia Experience | 2020
Photo credits: Valerio Deidda