A stone arched passageway and a narrow stairway connect the upper and lower parts of Aritzo, a mountain village nestled in the woods of the Barbagia di Belvì. Once through the vaulted passageway (sa bovida, in Sardinian) you’ll find yourself in front of an imposing 17th century building built of blocks of shale, sand and mud, infamous for being a maximum-security prison. Over the centuries, this Spanish prison took the name of its celebrated pointed arch, and dozens of prisoners at a time were locked up within its walls, in dire conditions, until the 1940s. Among the inmates locked up in its dank cells were also some French officers captured during an attempted landing by Napoleon in 1793.
The interior was recently renovated and you will be able to visit four of the rooms. The first one was the surveillance room, the others were cells for male and female inmates, while one of the rooms had no door at all, until one was recently put in. Today, the prison is a museum where you can see an exhibit entitled Bruxas, dedicated to witchcraft in Sardinia between the 15th and 17th centuries. You will see religious, magical and esoteric ritual objects like cloth dolls, potions, herbs and medicines, as well as cauldrons and mortars. One section of the exhibit is dedicated to the Inquisition and features a collection of instruments of torture. You'll also see a sanbenito, a penitential dress that suspected witches were forced to wear. Finally, you’ll see an ancient sundial in the internal courtyard.
Aritzo is also the town of chestnuts, surrounded by forests and streams, including is Alinos and the funtana of sant’Antoni. To enjoy its enchanting landscapes, you can take a walk to Texile, a 24 mt high, mushroom shaped, natural monument of limestone. In town you can visit sa Bovida, casa Devilla, a 17th century Spanish building, the Arangino castle, a medieval-style building constructed in 1917, and the ethnographic museum, where you can immerse yourself in local pastoral culture admiring artisanal masks, tradition garments and tools used in daily life.