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Laconi

Laconi is a pretty village in the Province of Oristano with 1850 inhabitants, on the border between Barbagia and South Sardinia, in the historical region of Sarcidano. Laconi is a precious jewel set in the centre of the island, characterised by nature, archaeology, traditions and devotion, and extreme hospitality. For these reasons, it has received the important Orange Flag award from the Touring Club, as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.

La fama del borgo è strettamente legata alla storica presenza degli Aymerich, famiglia di nobili e antichissime origini iberiche, stabilitasi in Sardegna all’inizio del  XIV secolo e proprietaria di una grande quantità di feudi, tra i quali, appunto, il marchesato di Laconi.

This family is responsible for the construction of the Aymerich Castle and Park (a true oasis of peace and refreshment, entirely surrounded by nature) and the 19th-century Palace, now home to the Museum of Prehistoric Statuary.

The village's fame is also linked, albeit recently, to the presence of Saint Ignatius, a native of Laconi who died in 1781, whose house and museum are located in the centre of the village.

Aymerich Park. Photo by Roberta Carboni

What to see in Laconi: the historical centre and the Museum of Prehistoric Statuary

Laconi preserves a cultural heritage whose testimonies are located between the historical centre - clustered around the Aymerich Park and the church of Sant'Ambrogio and Sant'Ignazio - and the archaeological area of Perda Iddocca, from which numerous menhirs were found, currently housed in the Museum of Prehistoric Statuary.

Birthplace and museum at Saint Ignatius of Laconi. Photo by sardegnacultura.it

An excellent architectural renovation has been carried out, starting with the narrow lanes and stone houses that descend from the Aymerich Park towards the valley, which is particularly noticeable in the birth house and museum dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Laconi. On the outside, one can observe a series of images that narrate the life of the Capuchin friar. The interior, divided into four sections, houses a silver reliquary bearing a bone from Ignatius' hand, the rosary beads from which the saint never parted, his staff and one of his sandals, the original documents of the cause of canonisation, and a canvas from 1781 depicting a portrait of the saint's face.

The museum also houses sacred silverware from the 16th and 17th centuries, vestments from the 16th century, sacred furnishings, reliquaries and votive offerings, two oil paintings from the 17th century and a series of statues. Other sections of the museum also contain various jewellery and terracotta artefacts from Roman and pre-Christian times, a numismatic collection, objects brought by St Ignatius from the missions in Africa and Australia.

Aymerich Palace. Photo by Nicola Castangia - visitlaconi.it

From the museum dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Laconi, it is easy to reach Palazzo Aymerich, the last residence of the marquises of Laconi, designed in the 19th century by architect Gaetano Cima. Built in perfect neoclassical style, it extends over three levels punctuated by numerous windows and elegant balconies. The large rooms of the palace are adorned with fine wallpaper.

Interior of a room in the Menhir Museum - Museum of Prehistoric Statuary in Sardinia. Photo of the museum itself.

The museum's itinerary, made up of artefacts of outstanding scientific interest, currently consists of 11 rooms distributed between the ground floor and the second floor: ten rooms are dedicated to menhirs and large prehistoric anthropomorphic statuary from central-southern Sardinia (Sarcidano, Grighine and Mandrolisai areas), while the eleventh, 'the gallery', overlooking the large inner courtyard, houses material culture artefacts found in megalithic Laconese funerary contexts.

Also worth noting are the churches of St John the Baptist, with wooden sculptures supporting the roof, and St Anthony Abbot, in whose honour the traditional fires are lit in January, accompanied by the festival of typical sweets.


Green areas and parks

Among the green areas of the village of Laconi, undoubtedly the Aymerich Park is the most enchanting. The noble Aymerich family, marquises of the Sarcidano village of the same name since the 17th century and among the most powerful feudal lords in Sardinia since the 14th century, was the one who fervently wanted it to be built. That of the Aymerichs turns out to be the largest urban park in Sardinia, which currently measures 24 hectares and preserves exotic plants and essences such as the Cedar of Lebanon and the Cedar of Hymalaia that happily coexist with local endemic species such as holm oaks, oaks, etc. In addition to the planting of trees and exotic species, the park was enriched with streams and ponds, thus making it a park to be enjoyed all year round, especially in summer, thanks to the presence of water and the coolness provided by the shade of the plants that make it an oasis of refreshment and absolute tranquillity.

Visible and still very well preserved are the many natural caves, partly hidden by the lush vegetation and used as a shelter during the bombings of 1943. It was the Aymerichs who opened the park so that it could be used as a refuge for displaced people from Cagliari.

Water is the vitalising element of the park, immersed in the almost total silence of nature it creates rivulets, ponds and waterfalls, helping to characterise the park with a fairy-tale, timeless atmosphere.

Immersed in the naturalistic scenery of the park, the ruins of the Castle, owned by the Aymerich family since the 15th century but dating back to the 11th century, still stand.

Ruins of the Aymerich Castle. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

To the north of the town is the state-owned forest of Funtanamela, a wildlife oasis of more than a thousand hectares of woodland and maquis, home to dozens of wild-bred Sarcidano horses.


What to eat in Laconi and its gastronomic excellence

In Laconi it is possible to taste a dessert that is very popular throughout the Sarcidano and Marmilla regions: 'su pappài biàncu', a relative of the Sicilian biancomangiare. White and soft, it is in essence a cream of milk with sugar, or rice, sapa, lemon peel, orange blossom water and biscuits: a real treat for the palate.

Another typical Sardinian cake, widespread throughout Sardinia, is 'pan'e saba', traditionally prepared for All Saints' Day and the commemoration of the dead, between the end of October and the whole of November, but now extended to all festivities. It is a bread baked in the oven and kneaded with sapa - cooked must -, sultanas, walnuts, almonds, orange peel, cinnamon and enriched with a glaze made from the same sapa and multicoloured sugar sprinkles.

Laconi has also recently become the Sardinian home of the truffle, which has emerged as a new and remarkable local delicacy in this area. Three varieties of truffle can be found: the 'scorzone', a black truffle found between May and August in oak, beech, poplar, hazelnut and pine forests; the 'bianchetto', between January and April, externally similar to the prized white truffle; and finally, the rare black winter truffle, which is harvested from January to March. The fame of the Sardinian truffle was immediate, the proof being the visitors who flock to Làconi in June for the Sardinian Truffle Festival, which has been held since 2009. This success is also attested by the menus of the local restaurateurs, who now offer malloreddus with truffle cream or porchettone in umido con tartufo.

Finally, Laconi is also home to the first Sardinian company that processes truffles, producing around thirty products in the workshop in the village of Santa Sofia, starting with pecorino cheese with truffles and ending with broad beans, aubergines and other vegetables flavoured with black gold.


The main events and traditions of Laconi

Laconi is particularly distinguished by two important events: the feast of Saint Ignatius and the 'Ocraxus' event.

The feast of Saint Ignatius is celebrated on 30 August and is very popular, attracting thousands of visitors from all over Sardinia to Laconi. The festivities are opened by the procession with the Saint's relics from the church of Sant'Ignazio in Cagliari, which is attended by thousands of believers, preceded by costumed horsemen and numerous folkloric groups and confraternities from various parts of the island. The night is reserved for cultural and recreational events: music and live shows, theatre and evenings of Sardinian, national and international folklore. Exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography, a market exhibition of local food and craft products and other initiatives aimed at promoting tourism, with guided tours of the most important archaeological sites, are held in numerous parts of the village.

'Ocraxus', on the other hand, is celebrated in September and consists of two days where one relives the atmosphere of the past among costumes, dances, ancient crafts, historical re-enactments and local products. Walking through the streets of the old town, guided by the local fires, one can discover villas, historic houses and old dwellings, visit historical and naturalistic exhibitions, the museum of menhir statues, the museum of Saint Ignatius together with his birthplace, the park and the secret garden of the Aymerichs.


Shopping in Laconi

Shopping in Laconi is especially linked to that of typical local products: from handicrafts to food and wine, there are several craft businesses active in and around the town. One can find companies that produce chocolate truffles, made with milk chocolate and Myrtle liqueur and with dark chocolate and Mountain Thyme liqueur; or companies that produce liqueurs with traditional methods and techniques, using only local herbs and berries, such as Myrtle liqueur, Herba-Barona Thyme liqueur, Juniper liqueur, Wild Fennel liqueur and Helichrysum liqueur. A special mention goes to ancient goldsmithing, which also in Laconi is expressed in the care and appreciation of Sardinian jewellery, from filigree work to the processing of precious stones.

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