Inside Sardinia: Urthos and Buttudos at Cortes Apertas Fonni

There is no better way to experience the ancient rituals and traditions from Sardinia, than at the highest town on the island, at Fonni. It is at 1000m above sea level where the mysterious customs of Urthos and Buttudos were born. They are gruesome characters that parade throughout the streets and take over balconies by jumping to the sound of golden bells held by a cloaked man. These rituals are played out during holidays and festivals and are acted out on the street for all to witness. Come face-to-face with their ancient rights, traditions and culture only here, only at Fonni.

Who are Urthos and Buttudos?

Urthos and Buttudos are characters that represent the fight between good and bad, and between man and animal. The origins of these masks, costumes and traditions are uncertain, however, it is safe to say that these spirited traditions represent an ancient pagan rite. Every year, on Fat Tuesday the Urthos and Buttudos take to the streets and knock on doors. They expect an offering of food and wine from the town citizens, and if this offering is not met, the Urthos begin to climb on balconies and into homes to convince the owners of the offering.

They have their face and hands painted with S’intiveddu, black soot from the cork tree.


The beast, the animal. He wears a skin and fur from the mountain ram and is held around the waist with a chain by a Buttudos. He is generally an agile and strong person because he must jump and climb on balconies and walls in an attempt to escape from the Buttudos, all the while wreaking havoc among the spectators. However, the Buttudos have the Urthos by a chain, and the Urthos/animal cannot escape from the Buttudos/man. The battle between man and animal commences in the street and continues until they receive the offering of food and wine.


The man and controller. He wears a primitive and distant expression on his face and is cloaked in a long black woollen cape that covers his velvet pants, golden cows bells – sas sonaggias are hung around the upper bodice, sitting on the back. The bells are used to excite the animals Urthos into climbing and jumping on balconies and walls, waiting for an offering. A classic fight between good and bad, man and animal. Who will be the winner of the two? The only way to find out is to visit Fonni during any one of their many festivals.

What is Cortes Apertas?

Cortes Apertas is an open house, held yearly in several towns and cities in the deep, vast tremendous centre of Sardinia – known as Barbagia. It is a colourful festival run by the locals of each town; they open their doors to the wonders of their beautiful life far away from wi-fi and reality tv.

**Have you been to any of the fabulous events Sardinia has to offer? Which are your favourites?

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