Heading inland from the sweeping mountains and stunning coastlines of Sardinia’s Golfo di Orosei, you’ll find the oddly charming city of Nuoro.
From Baunei, it takes around an hour to reach, driving along the beautiful (and at points terrifying) road that twists it’s way around the mountains of the Gennargentu National Park, bypassing the breathtaking Gola su Gorrupu – the “Grand Canyon of Europe” – on the way.
These parts used to be known as bandit territory, but nowadays your biggest concern will be keeping your eyes off the surrounding scenery and on the road. I was taking the bus (placing your life in the hands of a Sardinian bus driver on this route, on a foggy day, is not something I’d quickly recommend) which takes around two hours to reach Nuoro.
The city lies next to Monte Ortobene, the 900m-odd mountain capped with a huge bronze statue of Christ the Redeemer. There are retro cafes, chic boutiques, bustling restaurants and hidden art around every corner in the old town. The newer part, in stark contradiction, has a rough, industrial feel, although not entirely without it’s own style; graffiti and street art can be found on almost every available surface.
I took the bus from Baunei ridiculously early in the morning (off-peak, buses are few and far between) and arrived in Nuoro just in time for the schools going in (Tip: don’t do this – there are literally hundreds of teens swarming the streets and it can be rather difficult to make your way around them.) The bus station is a 15 minute walk from the old town and the main shopping/eating area, centred around Corso Garibaldi.
I started my Nuoro day with a shot of caffeine at one of Retro Cafe’s outside tables, just of off the main street of Garibaldi. A little melting pot of people, I made friends with an elderly Italian woman and her incredibly cute dog within five minutes of sitting down! With a serious coffee buzz, I headed in the direction of the MAN – Nuoro’s modern art gallery and pretty much the only place in Sardinia where you’ll find a decent collection of contemporary art. The work of the island’s most famous artists are permanently shown here, alongside visiting exhibitions. The gallery costs €4 to get in and is closed on a Monday year-round.
Around the corner is Piazza Satta – a pretty piazza dedicated to Sardinian poet Sebastiano Satta. Strange stone structures sit in the middle of the square, each one holding a little bronze figure representing characters from the poet’s work.
A five minute walk from the piazza brings you to Museo Deleddiano – a small museum founded in the house where Nobel Prize winner Grazia Deledda was born in. The museum was closed when I visited but the interior is said to be an excellent example of what a 19th century, well-to-do house in Nuoro would have looked like.
Another short walk (all the main sights are within easy reach of each other) takes you to Nuoro’s Cathedral – Cattedrale di Santa Maria della Neve. Set in a beautiful, tree lined square (currently full of gorgeous autumn colours!) the Cathedral is big, a really striking shade of pink and seems a bit out of place against the rest of the city.
After a morning of art and history, I indulged in one of Nuoro’s other popular past times – shopping.
Corso Garibaldi is lined with shops, both chain and boutique, sitting alongside restaurants, cafes and bars. Having stayed in the tiny town of Baunei for three weeks, I had been needing to pick up a few essentials and this seemed like the perfect opportunity!
Without a plan for the afternoon, I spent the next couple of hours wandering and photographing the streets of the old town and stumbled upon this incredible viewpoint.
Before I was due to catch the bus back to Baunei, I had time for one last stop – the quirky and cool La Caffetteria Cioccolateria Due Archi on Via Lamarmora.
Full of delicious sweet treats and some seriously artisan coffee, this was my favourite find from my day in Nuoro.
It also made for an excellent people watching spot – the best being a very stylish woman, drinking her espresso in one elegant move at the bar, whilst casually holding her dog under her arm and chatting to the barista – classic Italian!
It might not be particularly big or look like much from the outside but Nuoro has it’s own charm, style and some seriously worthwhile points of interest, making it a perfect day-trip for those looking for a change from Sardinia’s beach-side scenery.