Great beauty travels on the Green train
“At the end of a long climb, we reach a station after a stretch of solitude. Each time, it seems that nothing lies ahead, nothing is inhabited. And every time, we pull into a station.” This is the poetic description, aboard the locomotive that is today the Trenino Verde (Green Train) of Sea and Sardinia, the project dedicated by David Herbert Lawrence on his 1921 voyage to Sardinia. Following in his footsteps a century later, travellers from all over the world are attracted to this unique railway line, derived from the ‘old components’, designed and constructed between the late 19th and early-20th centuries. An Italian excellence, a unique experience comprised of four trails totalling 437 kilometres, with three sections having been operating non-stop for 130 years, including engineering and architectural works, such as bridges and tunnels. The lines, never abandoned, have been preserved and protected, connecting the coasts and hinterland, integrating such with excursions to the lakes by boat, trekking, cycling and horse riding. You can hop on the on any of the seasonal calendar days or hire it out for a group excursion – thanks to the initiative Su Trenu Antigu, aimed at enthusiasts, schools and tour operators, for an exclusive railway line!
At a leisurely pace, the locomotive glides smoothly along the rails, in the midst of lush forests, ‘choo-chooing’ along between corridors of rocks, olive groves and mastic trees, climbing with much effort to the peaks of reliefs. The sun illuminates the wooden details, the window frames glimmering, framed with damask curtains. In the early 20th century, social gatherings on wheels moved like those of elegant and distinguished society. Within, the luxury is from another era – red velvet lounges run along a corridor lit by yellow-tone ceiling lights. The on-board excursions will titillate all of the senses through the landscapes, scents and silences. There is Mandas, a medieval village in Trexenta with a glorious past, today an important cultural hub, with trains heading in two directions. The first and historical line originally reached Sorgono. Today, it crosses the Sarcidano sub-region, passing the Giara di Serri, a town famed for its Santuario Nuragico di Santa Vittoria, the shores of Lago San Sebastiano and the hills of Isili, the ‘copper town’. After having passed through lush the countryside of Nurallao, it rises up to Laconi, a village famous for Sant’Ignazio, for its castle and Marquis garden Aymerich and for its menhirs, safeguarded in the Menhir Museum – the Museo della Statuaria Preistorica Sarda. Today, it is the end of the line, completing the pathway that crosses the historic region of Barbagia di Belvì and Mandrolisai, rising up almost 900 metres.
The second Mandas line reaches Sadali, crossing much of Sarcidano and the Barbagia di Seulo historical region. On the way, you will see the villages of Orroli, Nurri, Villanova Tulo and the hamlets of Palarana and Betilli, flanking the Lago di Flumendosa, crossed by boats in Mississippi style. A resplendent landscape of water and Nuragic structures, it is dominated by karst phenomena, such as the Grotta Is Janas, waterfalls like su Stampu de su Turrunu, and prehistoric monuments like the Nuraghe Arrubiu. Prior to the final station of Sadali-Seulo, pass by Esterzili, a mural town at 700 metres above sea level, famous for the Nuragic Temple Domu de Orgia and a bronze tablet with Roman inscriptions. From June to early September, the train toots along each weekend, also travelling the Ogliastra route. The Eastern course departs from the port of Arbatax, in the beautiful tourist resort of Tortolì. Stops along the way include the high-up stations of Ilbono–Elini, Arzana, Lanusei and Villagrande Strisaili, passing through enchanting panoramas like the forests of Santa Barbara and Selene. The terminus is in the depths of Ogliastra, in Gairo Sant’Elena, the town that has lived twice, with the present one having been built in the mid-20th century further upstream, following a flood that destroyed the old Gairo that is presently a ghost town.
Granite landscapes modelled by the wind and a stretch of wild olive trees, cork oaks and vineyards of vermentino vines as far as the eye can see. This is the quaint and profound Gallura traversed by train. The journey commences in Tempio, on the slopes of Monte Limbara, a gracious town rich in springs and home to the island’s most famous allegorical Carnival. The spectacle of nature change colour continuously along the journey. The locomotive stops in villages overlooking the Lago di Liscia, festooned with tourist boats. The locomotive stops in villages overlooking the Lago di Liscia, festooned with tourist boats. The train tracks run just a short distance from the coast, the line crossing the valley of Calangianus, capital of cork, then Nuchis and Luras, a town of prehistoric dolmen and thousand-year-old olive trees, including the ‘patriarch’ of Europe. From the Sant’Antonio di Gallura station, you will glimpse the geometric Arzachena countryside, its landscape threaded with vineyards. The old village station hosts a small museum. Looking out of the azure window of the terminus, Palau, famous for its beaches, military forts, the Roccia dell’Orso and the ‘gateway’ to the La Maddalena Archipelago National Park. The north-western line currently departs from Santa Maria di Corte, in the territory of Sindia, a flourishing town during medieval times built around a Benedictine monastery. After crossing the Planargia sub-region, the train reaches Bosa Marina, a coastal area in one of the most enchanting Sardinian villages, Bosa, its multicoloured houses rising up a hill dominated by the Castello di Serravalle, reflected on the Temo river. Along the way, you’ll discover Flussio, Tinnura, Tresnuraghes and Modolo, famous for the malvasia grape variety, asphodel baskets and precious fabrics.