“A fabulous horizon surrounds the village, the high mountains of Gennargentu, with luminous peaks that shine like silver, dominate the great valleys in the Barbagia, that rise, immense grey and green shells up to the crests where Fonni, with its flint houses and pebble alleys stand up to wind and lightning.” That is how the Nobel Prize author Grazia Deledda describes that what is now the largest town in the Barbagia di Ollolai (4,000 inhabitants) in her book Ashes (1903). The town sits at a thousand metres and is also a celebrated ski resort, thanks to the ski lifts that rise to the summits of Spada and Bruncu Spina (in excess of 1800 m). The snow falls thick in winter, the peaks turn white, while other seasons are graced with enchanting colours: peonies, gentian, rosehip and purple that surround the forest. It’s an area perfect for long hikes through woods and over brooks in nature reserves where rare species can be spotted along the trail. It is home to the Fonni Shepherd a breed of dog that specialises in protecting land and herds.
In the historic districts of town you’ll find mountain houses covered in scandulas, old wooden tiles, and admire the picturesque murals. During the Autumn in Barbagia festival make sure you visit the loggias and cantinas open to the public for the occasion. In the centre of town are the late-Gothic church of San Giovanni Battista, the basilica of the Vergine dei Martiri, surrounded by cumbessias and flanked by a Franciscan convent (1610) and the oratory of St, Michele (1760). It is enriched with frescoes, silver reliquaries and an underground sanctuary. Next door is the Museum of Pastoral Culture, set up in an 1800s residence. Here you can get an idea of what life was like in the country. Other churches in this devout and traditional town include del Rosario, Santa Croce and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte. You will appreciate the delicious sweets produced here (called savoiardi), you will enjoy the Fonni Palio in early August and the Fonni Carnival festivities, featuring Urthos and Buttudos masks. The area’s archaeological gem is just outside of town, as you head to Pratobello, a Nuragic Age complex known as Gremanu. Set in a thick oak woods, it is the island’s only Nuragic aqueduct, associated with the Madau necropolis, made up of four Giant tombs with a shape resembling a bull’s head and horns. The settlement dates to between the XV and IX century BC and, further down towards the valley, has three temples (a large circular one, a megaron and a semicircular one) built with alternating basalt, limestone and trachyte to create pleasant chromatic effects. There are sacred enclosures, some one hundred huts and, further up, an articulated system to use the water from the springs for both sacred rites and daily use.