Belvì is a small town of about 600 citizens in the province of Nuoro.
Its location is central compared to the most important cities of Sardinia: is 69 km from Nuoro, 71 km from Oristano, 151 km from Sassari and 119 from Cagliari.
On a hill, not far from the Gennargentu, Belvì is surrounded by holm and oak woods. In some areas you can still find specimens of wild pear trees; the Mediterranean brush dominates a part of the surrounding territories. Fauna is equally varied, with weasels, wild boars, foxes, jays and many other.
A suggestive valley is called S'Isca di Belvì and there are interesting calcareous “heels”, including that of Pitzu de Pranu, with a cave below. In Pitzu de Pranu there's an old oven for lime that was used up to about 1960 to produce an excellent mortar for the construction and finishing of the houses.
Chestnuts, cherries, walnuts and hazelnuts are typical productions.
Between History and Legend.
The territory of Belvì preserves interesting relics of the past: tools and potteries dating back to a period from the Neolithic to Roman attest the presence of human beings in the area since ancient times and in the woods surrounding the town there are 9 Domus de Janas.
Domus de Janas are collective tombs carved into the rock dating back to the Copper Age and used by other cultures in the Bronze Age and in the early Iron Age. According to popular legend of Sardinia, the tombs were inhabited by fairies (the Janas) that sang and wove on looms of gold during the day and came out at night to dance and do strange rites. They had very harsh and sharp nails they used to dig the cliff dwellings, where they were turned into stone after death.
It's said that another legendary and invisible character lived in the woods surrounding Belvì: the Maschinganna. This being, roughly anthropomorphous, behaved according to the character of the person he met. He assisted good people, for example by helping them find food. He amused himself instead to scare the bad people with voices, sounds and curses, but also with lights, flames and sparks.
Turning to its more recent history, Belvì belonged to the Sardinian District of Arborea and was originally part of the Curatoria of Barbagia of Meana. In the 14th century it was joined to the Curatoria of Mandrolisai; in 1388 it passed under the Aragon domination and became part of the Lordship of Barbagia of Belvì until 1839, when it was redeemed.
As in other towns in the area, even Belvì is crossed by the nineteenth-century railroad described by Lawrence in his 1921 book "Sea and Sardinia". Its small station is faithful to the past in the building and furniture and leads to the longest gallery of Sardinia, which was built in the late '800.
For long time the residential area of Belvì was little extended. The stone houses in the narrow streets of the Old Town are characterized by the walls of schist and limestone and by the ruins of the wooden balconies of which, unfortunately, remain only photographic evidences.
The Parish Church of St. Augustine is located in the center of the town. We don't know the exact age of its construction, but according to its present form, we can say it shouldn't be earlier than the seventeenth century AD, as the small church dedicated to San Sebastiano that probably arose as a vote in honor of the Saint Patron against the plague in 1656, when a terrible contagion decimated the entire island saving only the mountain villages; see also the rural church of Santa Margherita.
Throughout the town you can see many wooden (and not only) sculptures realized on the occasion of 3 important art symposia: “The Man and the Wood” (1996/1997), “Sonos de Linna 2008” and “Sonos de Linna 2009”; these events are born from the idea of transforming a local resource, the chestnut wood, into art works. The sculptures of the second edition have been set up in the City Park, creating the Open Air Museum of Contemporary Art (MAAC - Museo all'Aperto di Arte Contemporanea).
Museum of Natural Science.
Belvì has an important museum of natural science. It was born in 1980 on the initiative of the cultural association Friends of the Museum, founded by a group of enthusiasts led by Professor Friedrich Reichsgraf Von Hartig. International renown scholar of entomology and ecology, Von Hartig happened by accident in the country in the early seventies and, because he found the area of extreme interest for his research, he stayed there for several years and initiated the collection that continues today, even thanks to private donations.
The museum has a laboratory of taxidermy and classification and is divided into sections in which you can observe fauna, fossils and minerals from all over Sardinia.
The Mineralogical Section preserves 530 minerals coming almost exclusively from Sardinian mines and includes a marine compartment, where you can admire 200 specimens of shells, aquamarine exotic, echinoderms, crustaceans, and an example of the sea turtle "Caretta Caretta" found in Sardinia in the waters of Geremas.
The Paleontological Section preserves 160 Sardinian fossils, from Paleozoic to Quaternary.
The Entomological Section is distinguished by its splendid collection of exotic and endemic butterflies.
The Ornithological Section boasts 383 species of Sardinian birds. Notable the raptors, with extremely rare species.
Finally there's a section dedicated to mammals, with 38 examples, and one dedicated to Sardinian amphibians.
The museum has a scientific library and is open 365 days a year thanks to some volunteers that guarantee the opening on reservation.
Celebrations and Events.
- St. Anthony Abbot's Day: on 16 and 17 of January, with the lighting of the fire on the evening of day 16 in front of the Parish Church;
- Cherries Festival and “Caschettes” Festival: in mid-June.
“Caschettes” are a typical sweet of Belvì with origins in 1600. It was eaten in the most important moments of social life of the community, such as religious celebrations. For example, during the weddings it was offered by the groom to the bride to honor her. Its most special feature is its wafer-thin puff pastry, which is hand-made. Its shape reminds the veil of a bride or a rose.
- St. Agostino's Day, the town's Patron: on 28, 29, 30 of August.
- “Games and Flavors in Barbagia”: during the second to last week of October. This is the most important event in Belvì. It's aimed at the discovery of arts, crafts and ancient knowledges of the countries of Sardinia and it offers a weekend of culture, tradition and good food. Each year there are numerous activities included in the program: tastings, exhibitions and parades (Sardinian costumes, ancient crafts, old toys), traditional games tournaments, shows, photographic competitions, guided tours, trips with the green train. On the occasion of this event is also held the event “Fashion and Music in Barbagia”, with parades of the best Sardinian ateliers, performances and a music festival for emerging artists.