Right on the summit of the hill, near the town of Palau, we can see a granite mass shaped by the elements to resemble a huge bear. This is La Roccia dell’Orso (Bear Rock in English), located 120 meters above sea level and dominating the entire granite promontory. Bear Rock is one of the most panoramic points of the northern Sardinian coast.
How to reach the Bear Rock
Bear Rock is about 5 km far from Palau. It can be reached along a 500 metre long and slightly uphill path. It is a fascinating walk that starts from the Capo d’Orso fortress built by the House of Savoy at the end of the 19th century. The path is suitable to all fitness levels of any age and it guarantees a breath-taking view over the sea and surrounding countryside. This natural monument, so like many others in north-eastern Sardinia called Gallura region, is the result of the action of geologic phenomenons in the past and the atmospheric elements in more recent times. Wind and rain have removed from the rock the most fragile parts and then shaped the rocky spur rich in rounded natural cavities to a shape that seen from a certain angle, has an extraordinary resemblance to a bear. As if it was standing up there and watching the sea. This huge four-footed animal has a well-defined silhouette and a yellowy-rose colour typical of the local granite.
The natural landmark since ancient times
The rock has been known to mariners since ancient times, and was recognized as the shape of a bear. The name Bear Rock has remained unchanged throughout history. Bear Rock was mentioned in the written documents for the first time by the Greek geographer Tolomeo in the 2nd century A.D. He described its position and mentioned how the rock instilled fear in sailors, because it seemed to attract boats like a powerful magnet. In fact, many ship wrecks from different historic periods have been found on the seabed in front of the promontory. This is also the proof of intense commercial traffic in the area.
Following the footsteps of Ulysses
Both rock and promontory are mentioned in various portolan charts and not only. According to the student of the Greek civilization, Victor Berard, the Bear promontory is the only place in the whole Mediterranean that could be identified as the land of Lestrigons, the gigantic cannibals that are the protagonists of the tenth book of Odyssey. Presumably Odysseus landed at the Bear Promontory in search of food, but the cannibals inflicted such severe losses on his men, they were forced to retreat. This legend does not hold the Sardinian population in a good light, but it is just a legend. It has been widely proven, by documents from the era in which Ulysses adventures are set , it means during the second millenium B. C., the Nuragic civilization was already highly developed.