Blood feuds and murals in the dark heart of Sardinia

Orgosolo is small rural town that sits high and isolated in Sardinia’s rugged Nuoro mountains.

For hundreds of years it was infamous across Italy for its blood feuds and banditry. Vittorio De Seta set his 1961 film Banditi a Orgosolo (Bandits of Orgosolo) here, casting local shepherds in the lead roles.

In the 80s, however, the town decided to combat its image as a criminal hotbed by turning its walls over to graffiti artists.

The first murals were painted by Francesco Del Casino, a local art teacher and communist. With the help of local disadvantaged youths, he painted a huge cubist account of the Pratobello revolution, where local shepherds successfully resisted the Italian military’s plans to build a base on common grazing ground.

The murals that followed continued to reflect the town’s anti-authoritarian streak. Most depict social injustices around the world. Or celebrate the simple rural lives of the local people.

I visited the town on the journey through the sunny parts of Italy that became my book Vroom by the Sea. It was probably my imagination, but a hint of menace seemed to hang in the air.

Little old ladies watched from windows, their black shawls drawn to disguise their gaze. Young guys on quad bikes checked out my Vespa before roaring off down hidden lanes. And old guys playing cards at the local social club, stopped their games and watched me walk by in silence.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


Mural of old ladies in Orsogolo Sardinia

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