The scenario that frames our sporting activity is the Montiferru, a majestic volcanic massif whose origin can be traced back to a period between 5 and 1.6 million years ago, with a decidedly intense shaping phase around 3.6 million years ago.
What happened in such distant eras, combined with subsequent erosion phenomena, has given us a landscape without equal in Sardinia, a junction point between the fertile plain of Campidano and the nearby plateaus of Campeda and Abbasanta. The suggestive basaltic rock formations, emerging at all altitudes, bear evidence of a stormy tectonic/volcanic past. This gives us the current landscape with magnificent views of the coast, with high cliffs directly on the sea but also more or less extensive portions of low and sandy beaches.
Another consequence of our geological history is the abundance of perennial freshwater sources and springs, with underground deposits, in some cases of considerable size. Some of the most importante in the area are: Sant’Antioco (in Scano di Montiferro, with a water flow rate that reaches 200 l/s), the source of Elighes Buttiosos (in Santu Lussurgiu, well known also for the spectacular view dominating a large part of the Gulf of Oristano), but also that of San Leonardo di Siete Fuentes, and Funtana Fraigada (an ancient Roman era spring in the area of Seneghe, renowned for its capillary network of springs and rural drinking troughs). The surface hydrographic network is expresseed in two important water courses: the Rio Mannu, which after having covered 28km flows into the sea; the Rio di Mare Foghe, 48km long, the main tributary of the Cabras pond.
On the marine side, the rivers often flow into the sea near seaside localties. How can we fail to mention the white cliffs of Santa Caterina di Pittinuri and S’Archittu, with its natural arch created by the constant action of the sea? Or the breath-taking Capo Nieddu Waterfall?
Climate is strongly influenced by the sea proximity and by the reliefs configuration, and can be classified as sub-humid Mediterranean with rainfall concentrated above all in winter and spring. In summer it is not uncommon for temperatures to exceed 40°C, while in winter it often drops below 0°C, with still frequent snowfalls and frosts, especially at the top of the Montiferru, characterised by important temperature variations between day and night, at any time of the year.
Flora is extremely varied and ranges from coastal vegetation to Mediterranean bush, up to the holm oak and pine woods of recent reforestation. The Montiferru primeval forests, mainly made up of holm oaks already centuries-old in the 18th century, were subjected to indiscriminate cutting (it is estimated that this process eliminated over 500,000 hectares of woods), carried out in the Savoy era and subsequently, mainly to allocate new and large portions of land to grazing and agriculture. In addition to the holm oak, other species present but less widespread are the oak, the downy oak, the lentisk, the strawberry tree, the wild pear tree, the yew and the holly, which survived in a few compact formations between Santu Lussurgiu and San Leonardo in the area of S’Olostriches (which means “The Hollies”).
The under cover of holm oak is often made inaccessible by liana species, while rich of cyclamen, laurel, polypodium (fern), wild fennel, hawthorn, peony, foxglove, belladonna, lilac, butcher’s broom and rare wild orchids. On the peaks, the constant presence of the wind makes it difficult for medium and tall trees to proliferate and therefore the landscape is dominated by shrub species. The few trees present are typically bent by the action of the frequent mistral.
Descending in altitude, in the less immpervious area, low Mediterranean scrub dominates with myrtle, broom, rosemary, gigaro, asphodel, cistus, euphorbia, large hedges of prickly pear, the heather, tamarisks and wild olive trees. Considerable portions of the territory are planted with olive trees: this is the case with large areas in the territories of Seneghe, Bonarcado, Narbolia, Cuglieri and Scano di Montiferro. The vine is also quite widespread (less than in the past), with vineyards being diffused especially on the sea side, and in the hills. Worth noting is the typical vegetation of the dune system of Is Arenas, largely converted into a pine forest to halt the advance of the sands around the Fifties: here there are pines of different species but also psammophilous ones such as the radish, the calcatreppola , the thistle and the weed of the beaches, which help to consolidate the sandy formations.
In terms of fauna, the wild boar is particularly widespread throughout the area. During the day it takes refuge in inaccessible places, while at night it moves in search of tubers and acorns, sometimes invading cultivated lands and vegetable gardens.
The fox, the largest land predator in Sardinia, is easily encountered in our area, as is the Sardinian hare, reduced to the advantage of the wild rabbit, that best adapts to the characteristics of the places. There are hedgehogs, weasels, martens and the rarely visible wild cat.
During the Seventies and Wighties the mouflon, the Sardinian deer and the griffon were reintrouced in the mount. The first is visible on rocky peaks exposed to the winds, while the second prefers the thick vegetation where it is not improbable to be spotted, even while cycling, especially in the morning or late in the evening.
Among the important birds we can find, in addition to the griffon, the vulture, the hooded crow, the buzzard, the kestrel, the peregrine falcon. At lower altitudes there are instead the hoopoe, the jay, the thrush, the robin, the lark, the cuckoo, the crow, the citril finch. Belonging to the group of birds of prey are the barn owl, the owl and the scops owl, often busy in their characteristic song during the summer nights.
The presence of the coast and the cliffs generate the ideal environment for some species of birds, such as the greater and lesser shearwater, the herring gull, the Audouin’s gull, the cormorant, the pigeon and the bee-eater.
Obviously there is no shortage of reptiles. At least three species of snakes can be numbered: the coluber, commonly called “biscia“; the collared snake; the rat snake. Toad, tree frog and Sardinian painted frog are the most widespread amphibians.
Human activities in Montiferru are lost in the mists of time, with testimonies that span the entire history of humanity. In all the territories of the municipalities falling within the Montiferru area there are numerous prehistoric archaeological sites, from the Domos de sas Janas to the typical buildings of the Nuragic civilization, with numerous proto-nuraghes, simple and complex nuraghes, remains of ancient villages and giants’ graves (Sardinian megalithic gallery graves). Particularly important is the sacred area of the Sardinian-Punic city of Cornus (nerve center of the Sardinian-Punic rebellions against the Roman occupation of the island, between 218 and 215 BC): Columbaris, with burials and remains of early Christian religious buildings testifying the centuries-old frequentation of the city (Nuragic, Punic, Roman and medieval), located precisely in the area of “Campu ‘e Corra”, a plateau that stands out over the bay of S’Archittu and Torre del Pozzo.
Equally important are the evidence from the Middle Ages, with the remains of rural villages and churches spread throughout the area (more information can be found HERE). In the territory of Cuglieri, 3km from the town, there is the only castle in the area, Casteddu Etzu, a fortification that allowed to control the southern borders of the Judicate of Torres. It is impossible not to mention extraordinary religious buildings such as the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Bonacatu, administered by the Camaldolese monks from San Zeno di Pisa, with the Byzantine era building facing the parish church with basaltic ashlars and trachytic inserts, whose act of consecration dates back to 1146; the church of San Leonardo di Siete Fuentes, in the aforementioned town of the same name, dating back to the 12th century; the church of San Pietro di Milis Pitzinnu, also dating back to the 12th century, surrounded by the churchyard and next to an homonymous complex nuraghe.
Some of the most relevant buildings of industrial archeology date back to the Savoy era, such as the iron mines of Su Enturgiu, in the Seneghe area, which can be reached through an exciting mtb route. It is precisely to the richness in iron ore in the subsoil and to these buildings serving the mining activity of the 18th and 19th centuries that the entire region owes its name.
The small villages are also troves of treasures, with the typical stone-paved streets climbing the steep slopes, and lava stone houses alternating with important institutional and religious buildings, an expression of the society that gave birth to them during centuries of community life.