From Oristano we set off for a day trip to the center of the island, where wild and ancient Sardinian sights awaited. Country roads led us through sleepy looking towns, where farmers sat beside their fields selling their radishes and artichokes out of carts, and old men sat outside the local shops watching the lazy Sunday go by. We found our way to Gesturi, where the skinny mountain road, and numerous camoflauged hunters, probably out looking for wild boar, took us to the top of a plateau, the Giara di Gesturi…last remaining wild home of the island’s own cavallini, or miniature horses. At the top, we braved the dirt roads through the natural preserve in search of the elusive horses, of which only 500 are remaining in the wild. I was sure we would never be able to spot them, but eventually we caught sight of some in the distant forest and pulled over the car to catch a closer look. They’re no dog-sized pony, but are considered miniature because they have all of the proportions of a horse but are under-sized. By the end, we even caught one crossing the road, to say goodbye as we left the park.
The horses aren’t the only ones we caught in the middle of the road, though. By the end of the trip, we had braked for goats, swerved to miss calmly grazing cattle, honked at flocks of sheep crossing, and even caught a few plump pigs snuffling in the dirt on the side of the highway.
After the morning’s animal adventures, we stopped at Barumini, a small town not far from Gesturi, best known as the home of Su Nuraxi, a large complex of nuraghe–the prehistoric stone towers found all over the island–and UNESCO World Heritage site. The nuraghe are key to Sardinian cultural heritage and ancient history, as they belong to some of the earliest people of the island, despite the fact that very little is known about them. I took a tour of the nuraghic complex and was able to see the inside of the fortress as well as an overhead view of its layout, set on the bright green pastoral backdrop of Sardinian countryside.