Vivienne Gunning
11 Mar

Eager to bid farewell to Castillo Malicas Antico in Galtelli, I embarked on a journey that would become a challenging solo adventure, leaving the coastal town on the eastern side of Sicily at the break of dawn.

Little did I foresee that this expedition would unravel as a personal milestone. Google Maps suggested a seemingly outrageous journey – a 110 km drive via SP8 that claimed to take just over a day! Impossible, I thought. But guided by Google Maps and the reassuring voice of my son Thomas ("You can do it. You’ve got this, stay focused"), I started to navigate the narrow, two-way roads that meandered through the rugged and picturesque landscape. It felt like steering towards heaven!

Along the way, in the picturesque village of Fonni, I had one of the best cups of coffee since leaving home. Whether it was the desperate need for caffeine or the joy of deciphering the coffee jargon, I meticulously documented the order in my notebook and captured a photo of the wording: "un doppio caffè americano con acqua calda a parte e anche una caraffa di latte." Bravo, "pretty" girl!

The roads leading to Seulo unfolded as a marvel, meandering through a rugged and picturesque landscape. While the road conditions weren't horrendous, with just a few potholes that wouldn't rattle a South African girl, the real challenge lay in the narrowness of the two-way roads. Devoid of shoulders and often shielded by a metal fence to prevent vehicles from hurtling off cliffs, the journey demanded a cautious speed of 30-40 km, if lucky. 

Arriving in Seulo close to dark, the town felt quiet, wet, and somewhat desolate. Negotiating the narrow cobblestone streets and parking in the village were notable achievements. My Airbnb "apartment" welcomed me with authentic aging and genuine hospitality. Paolo, the host, made this night the best rest since leaving home. 

Gennargentu is a rugged and diverse landscape with peaks, plateaus, valleys, and deep gorges, such as Gorropu, one of the deepest canyons in Europe. As I ascended within the Gennargentu range, the scenery underwent a magical transformation from lush green valleys, dry trees, and luminous grey skies to a breathtaking snowscape. The apprehension of the narrow roads dissipated in the face of such unexpected beauty. 

Seulo's reputation for hosting a high number of centenarians turned my expedition into a personal quest. The village's longevity is attributed to a wholesome diet, an active lifestyle, and strong community bonds. Villagrande Strisaili, another village in the Gennargentu region, shares similar traits and has become a subject of research on extraordinary lifespans. Personally, I experienced that the challenge of reaching these remote villages and the rugged terrain created a natural barrier, contributing to the isolation and distinctiveness of local communities. The inner peace experienced there is inexplicable, perhaps influenced by the clean salty air or the genuine warmth of the people. 

Exploring some statistics and facts about the Gennargentu mountain range added depth to my journey. Standing as the highest and most extensive mountain massif on the island, it covers approximately 1,200 square miles. The highest peak, Punta La Marmora, provides breathtaking panoramic views at 6,017 feet above sea level. The Gennargentu region boasts rich biodiversity, with dense forests, alpine meadows, and a variety of plant and animal species. The Gennargentu National Park, established in 1998, plays a crucial role in preserving this unique environment. In conclusion, my curiosity about longevity in Sardinia led me to experience the most beautiful yet challenging drive of my life. 

Sometimes, embracing the impromptu and navigating the unknown brings unexpected treasures. 

Seulo, with its authenticity and longevity secrets, and the Gennargentu mountain range left an indelible mark on my journey through life.


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