Casteldoria in Sardinia

The Coghinas river marks the western border of the Gallura and it is one of the main watercourses in northern Sardinia. Between Lake Coghinas and the sea, this river passes through a nearly untouched area that is sometimes dry and arid, but also lush and verdant in parts. Above all, it is an oasis of peace and silence.

The itinerary that explores this corner of Sardinia starts in Castelsardo, one of the most beautiful hamlets on the island. It sits on a rocky headland, standing sheer over the sea, to the west of the mouth of the Coghinas river. The layout is definitely medieval with evident Ligurian aspects in the tight web of narrow streets behind the town walls, which is unsurprising since it was founded by the Doria family of Genoa in 1102.

The numerous monuments from varying periods are an indication of the various conquerors of the settlement – Genoa, Catalonia, Piedmont. All these ‘occupiers’ also left traces that can be found in the language and trades. Even the name, now linked to the final conqueror, has changed from Castelgenovese to Castellaragonese and then to Castelsardo.

Casteldoria The old centre, known locally as casteddu, is perched on the rock and appears rather unexpectedly at the end of a long climb out of the new districts: after a steep street with arches and linked balconies, you come to the most panoramic spot, where you also find the castle housing the museum of Mediterranean weaving.

After the castle, you head down to the seat of the Town Hall, with a Gothic portico, and the Franciscan church of S. Maria delle Grazie, with the adjacent convent. The church houses the crucifix of Criltu Nieddu (Black Christ), which is one of the oldest in Sardinia. If you continue down, you come to the 16th-century Cathedral of San Antonio Abate, located in the shadow of an Aragonese bell-tower with a majolica dome. The cathedral houses various works by the Maestro di Castelsardo, an important 15th-century Sardinian artist.

Another town that is well worth seeing is Sèdini, lying between two hills, namely Maglina and LuPadru. The dates of the first settlement on this site remain a mystery, but it was probably already inhabited in the Stone Age, especially since there are many caves that offer good shelter. The most beautiful cave is on Lu Padru: inside, there are chambers that rise to 10 m-high, with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites.

Aside from the Lu Padri nuraghe, you should see the various rural churches. Perhaps the most beautiful of these is the ruins of S. Nicola di Silanis, a Benedictine building made of white volcanic rock and clearly influenced by Lombard and Tuscan ideas. It was built in the second decade of the 12th century with a basilical plan.

It had a nave and two aisles with vaults – this was a unique feature on the island and, perhaps, it was too bold an attempt since the church had to be abandoned in the 15th century as it was unstable. San Pancrazio di Nursis was probably a centre for communal life built on the ruins of an ancient monastery. It seems that the structure was used as a communal room with a fire and it then became a church in the 11th or 12th century.

The Parish church is dedicated to St Andrew, the patron saint of Sèdini. THE ITINERARY Head east out of Castelsardo on the SS134 road and, after crossing the SS200 road, you pass in front of the Roccia dell’Elefante (elephant rock), a giant block of trachyte that resembles an elephant with its trunk arched. Parts of the rock have been hollowed out to create some domus de janas, which are Stone Age burial niches. Note, on the right hollow, the low relief of two pairs of opposing bull horns. Not far away, along the SS200 road, lies the Paddaggiu (or Su Tesoru) nuraghe. Continue along the SS134 road to Sèdini, where there is a limestone mass in which many large domus de janas have been cut. These were originally tombs, but where later used as prisons (19/20C) and then as houses. Next, head on towards Bulzi. In the centre of this little town, on a dirt road that runs next to the sports field, you come to the suggestive ruins of S. Nicola (1.5 km). A further 4 km and you come to a short detour, on an unpaved road, that leads left to the church of S. Pietro di Simbranos (or ‘delle Immagini’).

This simple building with a single aisle that leads into the apse was built in two phases in the 12th and 13th centuries. Note the particularly beautiful two-coloured façade, with three levels of arches decorated by alternating layers of light and dark ashlar. After 2 km the SS134 road joins the SS127 road, which you head left on towards Perfugas. After passing this small village, head left onto the road to Valledoria. For a section, this road runs parallel to an especially beautiful part of the Coghinas river lined with lush vegetation and quite a few nuraghe. Various trails lead down to the river, which is soon joined by the Giobaduras river and then washes against the ruins of a Roman bridge (near Pont’Ezzi, meaning ‘old bridge’).

If you take a road to the right, you get to the district of Scopaggiu, where you can follow a trail that takes you down to the shores of Lake Casteldoria. This is actually an artificial lake that was created in 1926 to provide water for hydroelectricity and irrigation. The numerous fish here make this a favoured destination for wading birds. After returning to the road to Valledoria, you need to continue north. You can see the outline of Mt Ruiu, a pinkish granite mass on the other side of the lake. The summit is formed by two rather unusual needles that are locally called Su Padre and Sa Monza because, at sunset, the silhouettes against the glowing sky look somewhat like a friar wearing a hood and a monk. At this stage, you head away from the lake to reach Santa Maria Coghinas. Here, a short detour to the right takes you to the Casteldoria gullies. These are cut into the pinkish granite rock and are overlooked by the tower of the Doria castle (12C).

The road ends at the Casteldoria spa, built on the site of a hot spring (160°F) that pours its water (rich in bromide) into the Coghinas. The spa is set in a large park with a nature trail. Not far from here is the Casteldoria hydroelectric plant. This power station began operating in 1963. It is fed by a 45 m penstock that drives a 5,000 kW turbine/alternator capable of producing 10 million kWh a year, meaning enough power for about 3,000 families.


In collaboration with the Badesi, Santa Maria Coghinas and Viddalba municipalities, Enel has identified and created various Energy and Nature Trails around the Casteldoria hydroelectric power station. These trails, possible either on foot or bicycle, make it possible to explore splendid natural and historical places. The start is near the Doria castle, in an area of deep red rock on top of a hill that rises to 228 m above sea level. From there, you head to the spa and then continue along the Coghinas river to the mouth.

If you head along the right bank, you will pass the small Romanesque churches of S. Giovanni, which is in excellent condition, and S. Maria delle Grazie, which still has its Gothic façade (in line with this church, a Roman bridge crosses the river). If you head along the left bank, you go along a trail that ends at Villadoria. The trails cross through an area of lush Mediterranean scrubland that is filled with wild olives, cork trees and other typical plants, such as the mastic tree, alaternus, myrtle, cistus and broom. As you near the sea, the scrubland becomes sparser, giving way to large sand dunes. Various mammals live in the area, including the wild boar, Sardinian fox, porcupine, weasel, pine marten and wild cat. There are also many birds that sometimes find shelter in the scrubland or on the dunes, including the heron, Sardinian partridge and osprey. This is also an ideal habitat for turtles and mullet.

How to get there
From Tempio Pausania on the SS127 road that passes through the Coghinas valley, and then the SS134 that leads to Castelsardo. From Sassari you can go directly to Castelsardo on the SS200 road.

Useful addresses
Provoncial Body for Tourist in Sassari viale Caprera 36, Sassari tel. 079299544.

Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

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