Travel and Culture in Sardinia
The old town centre overlooks the harbour (where the Archeological Museum was raised to contain the finds that are kept, pro tempore, in Cagliari and some Roman and Giudicati ships that were found in the most recent excavations) and the sea, where the town was born and extends around a granite paved street, Corso Umberto I.
For the inhabitants of Olbia this has always been the public walk street, but this is the town’s quietest corner for tourists, too: you can walk through nineteenth century buildings (the Town Hall, the Library, the Scolastico Palace), through lanes and alleys which are bordered by typical granite houses, cafès, restaurants, ice-cream shops and various small stores and then you will reach Regina Margherita Square and Giacomo Matteotti Square.
In one of these alleys you can find St Paul church (it was built in 1700 and it unites the typical local style of the outside in granite with the Arabian influences of the many-coloured and glazed dome).
A few steps from the Corso, beyond the station, you can find St Simplicio Basilica: it is the most precious monument – and certainly the most beloved one – for the inhabitants of Olbia – a symbol of the town in Romanesque style (this is the only example of Romanesque architecture in Gallura). The basilica, almost entirely built with granite, was realized in several periods between the eleventh and the twelfth centuries and it reveals some influences in Pisan style, too. The inside is full of atmosphere because of its simpleness and what you can feel brings you back in centuries: three naves separated by columns and granite millars corroded by time, a severe style, imposing walls, a surreal silence, a scent of stone that has been living for almost a millenium. The relics of St Simplicio (Olbia’s patron saint) and of other martyrs, that have been found thanks to the excavations made in the nineteenth century, are jelously kept inside the church.
Outside the centre: among the funds of the nuraghic period, you can visit the Tombs of the Giants in Su Monte’e sa’Abe (18th-17th century B.C., funeral monuments), the Sa Testa sacred well (2nd millenium B.C., one of the biggest sanctuaries of the cult of the water, that was practiced by the Nuraghic people) and the ruins of the nuraghic fortress Rio Molinu (9th-8th century B.C.; of the Roman period, the ruins of the S’Imbalconadu farm and of the waterworks (2nd century B.C.).
The Pedres Castle is a building that belongs to the Giudicale period (Gallura, with Olbia as its capital city, was one of the four Giudicati that composed Sardinia at that time) and that was the scene of the harsh quarrels among the local judges, the Pisan, the Genoese and the Aragonese, who continued to fight with much bloodshed during the fourteenth century for the control of the territory.
By Studitalia - School of Italian language and culture, Olbia