THE VILLAGE When tourists get to Ales their attention is firstly caught by its urban aspect: the small narrow houses that have been built around majestic buildings mirror its noble past. The magnificent cathedral stands out among these buildings as the symbol of the diocese of which Ales has been, and still is, the headquarter. In the upper part of the village there is a wide terrace square home to a complex that include the Bishop Palace, the Seminary, the “Oratorio della Madonna del Rosario” (Virgin Mary of Rosary Oratory) and the very Cathedral. The name Ales seems to derive from “Al”- that means “located in a height” “that was often used to call places located in dominant sites, in those places that had a controlling function over the valleys and the flats below.
THE TERRITORY The territory of Ales is situated 194 a.s.l. on the summit of a small valley at the eastern foot of Monte Arci and it extends to the core of Monte Arci. It reaches peaks of 739 metres (Conca de Seda) and 732 metres (Genna Spina). The latter is in common with the Pau territory where there is the plateau of “Acqua Frida”, famous for its clear and fresh waters and its leeches-woods. In the area there are also other springs such as Sa Cadresa and the waterfall called Sa Spendula. Towards the valley the landscape become sweeter thanks to round-shaped marl hills that alternated with narrow and small valleys. Amongst them the Rio Barumele valley is one of the most important.
ARCHAEOLOGY The human settlement in this territory is mostly connected to the exploitation of the obsidian present in Monte Arci and the easy connection with Giare (high and steep-sided basaltic plateau). It is also linked to the strategic location that gave it a controlling function over the valleys below. There is a lot of evidence of production workshops where the valuable volcanic substance was crafted. Among them we must remember Conca Mraxi with its wall-shaped aspect that seems to watch over the valley below. Amongst the nuraghi the most important are Gergui, Perda Galloni and Pranu Espis. There are also significant Roman traces such as the tombs of Padroriu and those of Su Ponti de Ibaus. Medieval traces are found in the ruins of the castle of Barumele that dates back from Fourteenth century and that belonged to the Carroz family. The castle is located in a strategic position and was possibly connected with the castles of Las Plassas and Senis. It had a controlling function over the fertile countryside of “Marmilla”.
HISTORY The archaeological traces in which the territory is rich, witness the human presence both in the prehistoric and Roman ages. However, it was during the medieval period that Ales played an important role as a town. In that period the Giudicato d’Arborea was born and the Curatoria of Usellus disappeared while Ales, in 1503, became the diocese headquarter annexing the dioceses of Usellus and Terralba.
When the Marquisate of Oristano ceased to exist the Carroz family became feud lords since 1478. Subsequently, in 1603 Ales became part of the Marquisate of Quirra and finally it was given to the Osorio family who owned Ales until 1839 when the feud system collapsed. The historical importance of Ales is deeply connected to the diocese presence and to many intellectual bishops. At the end of Seventeenth century the first “monti granatici” (credit institutions similar to banks) were born in order to free the countrymen from usurers.
ARCHITECTURE AND ART The importance of Ales lies in its architectural features and in its role as a diocese. The urban plan and the solemn aspects of some of its buildings mirror Ales’s noble past. In the upper part of the village there is a wide terrace square home to a complex that include the Bishop Palace, the Seminary, the “Oratorio della Madonna del Rosario” (Virgin Mary of Rosary Oratory) and the very Cathedral. The cathedral, that is consecrated to Saint Peter, was designed by Domenico Spotorno, an architect from Genoa. It was built in baroque style between 1638 and 1688 ion the bed of a a previous church, which was destroyed because of the fall of its bell tower.
Its façade, built between two bell towers with two small cupolas, has a back curvilinear pediment. The inside is majestic and richly decorated with stuccos and marbles as it happened in very important buildings. Furthermore the cathedral stores inside many valuable holy treasures that consist of monstrance, calyxes and reliquaries. All these treasures date back from a period between Fifteenth and Seventeenth century when Ales was one of the richest dioceses of Sardinia. A museum located in the ex Seminary will be created to store all these treasures. In front of the cathedral there is the church of Madonna de Rosario that dates back from the Sixteenth century. There is also another church consecrated to Saint Maria. Ales is important also because is the native village of the statesman Antonio Gramsci. In the address “via Umberto 16” there is the house where he was born: it is a very humble building where there is a marble plaque that the citizens put on to commemorate his tenth death anniversary when Palmiro Togliatti came to commemorate Gramsci. The citizens wanted to remember this figure and therefore they dedicated a square to him. It was designed by the sculptor Giò Pomodoro who inserted other sculptures representing numerous symbols linked to the Sardinian tradition, as an homage to Gramsci’s homeland. Among them there is a big sun with a dedication “A. Gramsci 1977” and tiers where it is possible to light a fire as a keepsake of the fire called “su foxibi”: it is the ancient fireplace that was in the typical rural house. In the square there is also a small basalt ram-shaped spring and a triangular stone with vertical inscriptions and a Zenith. Both seem to be inspired by “is fruconis”, monumental phalli that belong to the Neolithic religion.
CITY CENTRE As we have already said at arriving at Ales when tourists get to Ales their attention is firstly caught by its urban aspect: the small narrow houses that have been built around majestic buildings mirror its noble past. The magnificent cathedral consecrated to Saint Peter and the a complex that include the Bishop Palace, the Seminary, the “Oratorio della Madonna del Rosario” stand out among these buildings.
TYPICAL PRODUCTS The typical products of Ales are bread, traditional sweet things made up of almond paste such as “gueffus, panis de saba, piricchittus, padruas and biancheddus” and honey. The most exclusive product of the area of Monte Arci is the “torrone” a kind of nougat made up of honey, eggs and almonds. It is also worth mentioning the artistic crafts that consist of ceramic products.
GASTRONOMY The gastronomic tradition of Ales is quite similar to that of the other villages of Monte Arci Park: genuine and tasty foods that take their origin from a simple gastronomy that mirror the traditional economic activities such as agriculture and sheep-rearing.
This gastronomy consists of bread, some typologies of pasta as well as vegetables and legumes dishes.
As regards meat dishes, we must remember the traditional roast piglet and roast lamb but also game and entrails courses. Finally there are the sweet things made up of almond paste (gueffus, panis de saba, piricchittus, padruas and biancheddus”) and the tasty “torrone” a kind of nougat in which the flavour of the Monte Arci honey can be tasted.
MUSEUM OF THE TRADITIONAL TOY In the small hamlet of Zeppara has been recently inaugurated the Museum of the traditional toy of Sardinia. It is a toy casket that allows its visitors to carry out a journey in the past when rural and country childhood was marked by simplicity. In this museum there is a group of representative toys that have been taken from all over the nearby area. These toys are thematically organized: arms such as reed-made rifles, craft catapults, means of transports such as old tin boxes that became improbable train coaches or simple reeds that are transformed into either small carts or horses; objects that produces sounds or noises, objects that stimulate throwing abilities, different kinds of rag dolls, kernels, and other toys. In this museum enhances the value of ancient toys through the utilisation of reed and other trees that are present in the territory.
CELEBRATIONS AND FAIRS The traditional celebrations start on 16th and 17th of January on the occasion of S. Antonio’s day when, according to a Sardinian tradition, a bonfire is lit. On 19th and 20th January there is the celebration of Saint Sebastian. The literary prize that takes place on the anniversary of Antonio Gramsci in January is very important too. In February there are the celebrations for Carnival that consist of parades of costumes and allegorical floats. S. Antioco is celebrated 15 days after Easter whereas on the 4th of May is S. Isidoro’s day. On 29th of June is S. Pietro and Paolo’s day and on 29th of August is S. Maria della Neve’s celebration. Finally from the 7th till the 9th of September there are the celebrations of S. Maria.