MOVIE LOCATIONS IN SARDINIA
itineraries to locations worth an Oscar
From North to South, from mountains to sea, from forests to canyons and rivers, from old villages on desert planes to a large town – Sardinia is a movie locations wonderland.
LOCATIONS AND ITINERARIES
Let’s explore which locations have made it unto the big screen and use them to trace some itineraries. You can tweak them at any time to indulge in your holiday inclinations, be it to stay and relax at a certain beach you come across or explore a village you find particularly attractive.
BARBAGIA – WAKE UP THE BANDIT IN YOU
Let Barbagia – the mountainous region at the centre of Sardinia – wake up the bandit in you. Rebels defending honour, family or their hometown against threats coming from the outside abound in movies shot here. With characters between James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and The Godfather (1972), they are as compelling as they are true to life.
So which villages should you visit? Orgosolo it’s a good starting point and the set for Bandits of Orgosolo (1961) by Vittorio de Seta. People there never forgot about how mistreated they were (are) by the Italian Government, which occupies the land of Sardinia with military bases.
The discontent is visible in beautiful murales – artistic designs on the front walls of houses with deep and unsettling socio-political messages.
Then head for beautiful Galtellì. Traversed by the Cedrino river, the old town with its ancient churches, pebbled streets and ancient pre-Nuragic tombs (about 5000 BC) is worth a visit.
12 km south of Galtellì you can drive to the lovely village of Orosei, set of A Question of Honour (1966) by Luigi Zampa starring Italian filmstar Ugo Tognazzi.
From Orosei, take SP25 through Onifai, Irgoli, Loculi until the SP38 continues through Lula, passing by Onani and reaching Bitti.
Orune and the small ghost village of Lollove with its 8 official inhabitants will close the tour of Barbagia di Bitti.
These places are the location of Barbagia, The Malaise Society (1969) by Carlo Lizzani starring a very young Terence Hill, Frank Wolff and then superstar singer Don Backy – check out his Canzone on YouTube.
Reaching Nuoro will take you on the set of Disamistade (1988) by Sardinian director Gianfranco Cabiddu. If you drive up to Mount Ortobene you’ll have a panoramic view over Oliena and the Supramonte (mountain) besides the white village.
Set for many of the scenes of the already mentioned A question of Honour, Mount Corrasi was also the setting for Isacco’s sacrifice in The Bible: In The Beginning (1966) by John Huston. The view from there – embracing a large portion of the National Park of Orosei and the homonymous Gulf – is simply breathtaking.
EAST COAST – GET STRANDED ON A DESERT BEACH
Follow the steps of Italian filmstars Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato and get stranded on the wild beach of Cala Luna or Cala Fuili. You can reach both from the fishermen village of Cala Gonone.
Director Lina Wertmuller shot her Swept away by an unusual destiny in the blue sea in August (1975) right there and in Capo Comino, to the North.
Cala Luna is also the set of Sergio Corbucci’s Mr Robinson, a Monstrous Story of Love and Adventure (1976). The movie features Paolo Villaggio in its iconic character of Fantozzi – a normal man crushed by social injustice brought about by capitalism.
Before driving to Capo Comino and its wonderful sand dunes, stop at the beach of Berchida. That’s the location of Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of Lina Wertmueller’s movie.
Starring Madonna and Adriano Giannini, son of Giancarlo, Swept Away (2002) completely bombed at the box office. The location, however, is spectacular. Just as the hotel where the crew was homed. Do you want to take a peak? Click here and see for yourself
COSTA SMERALDA – YOU MAY NEED A SMOKING
Yes, you may need to style up before heading to Costa Smeralda. Of course, that’s not a problem if your name is James Bond and MI5 is covering your expenses.
But don’t worry, you don’t need to be investigating the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads with the help of a KGB agent to check in at Hotel Cala di Volpe. Of course, you could simply go for an aperitif.
Or choose to tour the other locations of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). They include the whole panoramic road SP94 from Olbia to Porto Cervo and the Beach of Capriccioli. That’s where 007 emerges from the water on his Lotus submarine car, bought fairly recently by genius billionaire Elon Musk.
Also in the movie are Liscia di Vacca, after Porto Cervo, and the Port of Palau. Do drive on the road that connects Cannigione to Tanca Manna and Capo d’Orso to enjoy the panorama.
Other action scenes were shot on location at Capo Testa next to Santa Teresa di Gallura. The rock formations there are sculptures worth a visit.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to stay in Costa Smeralda, you could play the stranded survivor of a place crush like the main characters of Savages (1995) by Carlo Vanzina.
Or go to a hotel following the characters of Patrice Leconte’s French Fried Vacation 3: Friends Forever (2006). Be careful not to get seduced by the pool boy like the Norwegian Princess in Little Big Love (1993) by Carlo Vanzina.
Or you could rent a boat and go try to retrieve the loot of dangerous criminals like those in Haie An Bord (Sharks on Board, 1971) by Arthur Maria Rabenalt.
Whatever you do, always be faithful to your loved one, as Alberto Sordi learns in the episode The Room, part of the movie Couples (1970).
Before moving on, stop at Spiaggia Rosa on the island of Budelli to fall in love again like Monica Vitti and Richard Harris. They are the lead actors in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964) which was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
NORTH – BITTERSWEET
Prepare for some romantic locations around the town of Alghero.
The coast between Argentiera and the high cliffs of Capo Caccia and Porto Conte is the location of Boom! (1968) by Joseph Losey. It stars two Hollywood icons such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who stayed at Villa Las Tronas for the entire shooting period.
The movie explores the confrontation between the woman who has everything, including emptiness, and a penniless poet who has nothing but the ability to fill a wealthy woman’s needs. If you are rolling up your eyes, prepare for some more troubled loved stories set on the hills 30 km from Alghero in Forbidden.
Forbidden (1954) by Mario Monicelli is actually the first successful movie to be shot in Sardinia. Additionally, it is the screen adaptation of Sardinian Nobel laureate Grazia Deledda’s The Mother (1920).
Don Paolo, a young parson troubled by his love for Agnese, tries to make peace in a little village where two families are at war. Featuring the beautiful Lea Massari it uses outdoor sets in Ittiri, Tissi and Codrongianus. You can reach each of these villages in about 30 minutes drive.
19 km south of Codrongianus you find Siligo, set of Padre Padrone (1978) by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, winners of the Palme d’Or in Cannes for their direction.
SARDINIAN ALCATRAZ – PRISON LIFE
46 km north of Alghero you can get a ferry ride to Asinara Island. No need to worry about spending time in prison there anymore as it’s now a National Park.
La Stoffa dei Sogni (The Fabric of Dreams, 2016) by Sardinian Gianfranco Cabiddu makes the most of this particular setting.
Members of the Camorra (Italian Mafia organisation) on the run and actors seeking for authority meet after a shipwreck on an island-prison. The theatre turns into a free zone where everyone may not be able to recover their social role but for sure their humanity. Somebody can even get love back.
Shakespeare and Eduardo De Filippo blend together in a picaresque comedy full of coup de théâtre. Winner of a Golden Globe (Italy) for Best Film. You can decide whether it should have deserved a Golden Globe for Best Location too.
Travelling down the west coast from Alghero you’ll arrive in the beautiful and coloured Medieval village of Bosa. The latter, together with Barbagia and Tempio, is the location of Sonetaula (2008) by Sardinian Salvatore Mereu.
The movie depicts a boy torn from his father by false accusations and raised by his grandfather to become an outlaw. Both the male lead actor Francesco Falchetto and Salvatore Mereu win the Golden Globe (Italy). You won’t win anything by watching it but being in Bosa is consolation enough.
The town of San Salvatore has been dubbed the Sardinian Cinecittà, after Italy’s biggest production centre located in Rome.
The nickname is unquestionably excessive. However, a number of movies by Italian and Sardinian directors have been shot within 26 km from this location. That makes touring them particularly convenient for you.
40 km south of Bosa and 25 km north of San Salvatore is where you’ll find the Natural Monument S’Archittu. the arch in the rock over the sea is the set of an alien landing in the Sci-Fi movie Star Pilot (1966) by Piero Francisci. Lately, however, no aliens have been observed.
20 minutes from there you reach Su Pallosu, set of Sabina Guzzanti’s documentary/comedy The Reasons of the Lobster (2007) winner of the Brian Award at the Venice Film Festival.
The location of Su Pallosu and Capo Mannu is also on display in the surf documentary Bella Vita (2013) by Jason Baffa. If you are travelling with a surfboard, this is the place where to take it out and ride some waves. By the way, if you are interested, check out The Top 10 Surf Spots in Sardinia.
Another title is L’Arbitro (2013) by Paolo Zucca starring Stefano Accorsi and Geppi Cucciari. The fun comedy – the story of two Italian teams, playing in the third league, and a corrupted referee – is set in Milis, Seneghe, Bonacardo and Cagliari. Except for the latter, they are all 25 minutes drive from San Salvatore.
Rocco Papaleo shot his comedy A Small Southern Enterprise (2013) at Capo San Marco next to the archaeological site of Tharros, 5 minutes from San Salvatore.
What about San Salvatore itself? Well, if you stop there you’ll notice a very strong resemblance to Mexican or far-west town in general. Producers took advantage of the looks of this location (it’s used two days a year for the Saint’s festivities) to chalk up houses and prepare the set for Sergio Leone’s best invention – Spaghetti Western. At least four were shot here, the most well renowned being Garter Colt (1968) by Gian Rocco.
THE GREEN COAST – MINING ADVENTURE
The next stop of this tour of filming locations is the Green Coast. In particular the beach of Piscinas and the ghost towns of Ingurtosu and Montevecchio – included in The Top 10 Museums in Sardinia.
1-hour drive south from San Salvatore, these former coal mines are the places shown is Black Stallion (1979) by Carroll Ballard. The movie was nominated for 2 Oscars (Best Actor in a Supporting Role Mickey Rooney, and Best Film Editing) and won 1 Oscar for Sound Editing. What you’ll be hearing is the sound of silence – unless you believe in ghosts.
The Son of Bakunin (1997), a drama by Sardinian Gianfranco Cabiddu written by Sergio Atzeni, guides us from Montevecchio to Iglesias, another former coal extraction town.
1-hour drive south from Iglesias takes you to the far south of Sardinia – Porto Pino. You can access some of the highest white sand dunes in Sardinia only in July and August when all activities at the nearby military training camp are suspended.
Ballo a Tre Passi (Three-Step Dance 2003) takes us to those dunes and they’re so beautiful that one of the film’s characters starts to cry at the sight of the sea from there. Director Salvatore Mereu wins three prizes at the Venice Film Festival for this movie about life in Sardinia. You win a memorable day at the beach.
40 km west you reach Santa Margherita di Pula – take the panoramic route on the sea, it’s spectacular. That’s where Leonardo Pieraccioni sets his Finally Happiness (2011) among pine trees and white sand beaches.
About 1-hour drive from there you reach Cagliari, capital of Sardinia and set of L’Accabadora (2015) by Enrico Pau. The movie is about the popular figure of the Mercy Killer, a role that had been passed from mother to daughter for centuries in Sardinia. Unless you drop seriously ill though, you’ll be completely safe from her in Cagliari.