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planetFear / Reviews / Pietra di Luna

Pietra di Luna

OTE Review by Keith Sharples on 25 April 2003

Writing the definitive guidebook for a whole country, in this case a medium-sized island, that covers sport climbing, trad. climbing and bouldering, in an informative and yet inspirational stylee is a tall order. And yet, with this guide to Sardinia, that’s just what Maurizo Oviglia has attempted… and for the fourth time.
So how has he done? Well not half bad as it happens, but first let me put the climbing on Sardinia into perspective.

Last year I spent nearly four weeks there in total and managed to climb at over a dozen crags in three completely separate areas across the island; the ‘popular’ areas in the east (Cala Gonone), the middle (Isilli) and the southwest (Domusnovas). By the end of that I was starting to think that I’d made a dent in what Sardinia had to offer. Checking out this latest edition it looks like I was wrong; way wrong! Of Pietra di Luna’s 387 pages, I’ve managed a scattering of the routes at 13 crags which account for a measly 38 pages. Just on the page count alone that’s only about 10% of what Sardinia has to offer. Factor in that I could easily spend the same time again at those places I’ve already visited and I figure that I’ve got more like 95% left to go at! I am therefore in awe at what both Sardinia and Maurizio Oviglia’s Pietra di Luna has to offer. I’m a fan of both the climbing and the guide. For me photos add enormously to a guide and very few of these disappoint. There is one photo (at least) for each crag. And when I say that virtually every second page is either an action photo or crag shot, then that’s not at all a bad hit ratio. The rub though is that the space available for the rest of the guide, the crag descriptions etc. is severely restricted.

The ‘touchy-feely’ writing that accompanies many crag intros becomes more than a tad overbearing. It adds little and wastes space, but the guide has been translated from Italian so I suspect that something has been lost (or added) along the way.

For the vast majority of crags, Maurizio gives a crag topo and a one-line entry per route. You get a name, a star assessment, a grade, a height, the protection type, the first ascensionist and year and a brief note on the route’s principal characteristic(s). Star rating is over-cooked in places and it becomes difficult to tell the good three star’ers from the average routes without doing them all. Then again, some routes are absolutely the dog’s bollocks and should be on everyone’s tick list and get four stars!

The crag topos are variable, some being pretty poor! Take Tina delle Tigri (Tiger Cave to you and me) at Domusnovus – a stunning crag but a really crap topo. The lines on it are completely indistinguishable from each other on the wing walls of the cave and a much better job should have been done to reflect the importance of the crag. Similarly, the topos for Pietra Filosofale at Isili and Biddiriscottai at Cala Gonone are both pants; way too small for the crags. And the topo for Cala Fuili, one of the most popular crags at Cala Gonone, has 130 routes at nearly 20 crags shown on a simple one-page map. What’s all that about? Let’s hope the fifth edition gets it sorted! Inevitably, including bigger and better topos for many of the crags will lead to more pressure on the rest of the guide. If Pietra di Luna is to remain a single guide to the entire island with every crag and bouldering spot described, then as much as I like the photo coverage, this is where the fat would need to be trimmed. There is no point being fired-up by a guide if it doesn’t get you to the base of your chosen route! On a more positive note, the multi-pitch stuff comes with full route descriptions and a topo, and the topos for these crags are also (generally) better than the others – something of a double whammy.

Notwithstanding my reservations about the topos, the guide will get you there and after a bit of head-scratching you’ll be alright. You’re not going to be over-impressed with the info in the guide about where to stay and what to do on rest days, so make a note of the one of the more useful websites at www.sardiniapoint.com that has links to www.rent-sardinia.com and other useful sites.

Overall, Pietra di Luna gets a thumbs-up, but it needs improvements to get into the first class honours list. Still what’s 30 Euros for a lifetime of climbing?

Maurizio Oviglia's answer

Hello,

Let me make a few comments on your review on my guidebook Pietra di Luna; furthermore I will also try to answer to your criticism about my guide.

As a matter of fact every now and then I keep on wondering myself at how English people, and believe me, only English people, disapprove my work. On the other hand I cannot forget that the English have been the only people in Europe to write guidebooks on Sardinia in competition with mine, or in any case, taking inspiration from Pietra di Luna for all the information they needed. I do not accuse anybody, but you will agree that this is a fact.

I am ready to take your criticism in good faith, and, if you give me the chance, I’ll try to explain my point of view hoping to get this letter published .

First of all I have been obliged to include all the crags and boulders in one single guide, obviously for commercial reasons and supported, in this choice, right from the beginning, by the editor Fabula, (that was in 1988) .

Right now the guidebook contains already 387 pages. If I were to write a guide as you suggest, I would certainly and easily reach the 600 pages, which is, as you can understand, unthinkable for a guide which is supposed to be also sold (I live on this, I haven’t got another job). You clearly do not know the guide CAI/TCI “Sardegna” (not translated), which might satisfy your expectancies from a guidebook on Sardinia. Written by me in 1997, it was rewarded, at the Trento’s Festival, as the best Italian guidebook.
Sincerely I do not think I would have had the same luck in one of your English festivals!

All the historical descriptions that you, English people, see a ‘unnecessaries’ are, on the other hand, of great importance for Italians, Swiss, Austrians and Germans. I have received from them words of appreciation and admiration especially because they have perceived the character unique and different of this guide from all the others on the subject.
It is true, as you point out, that I have sacrified the topos, but this has been a choice, certainly not due to the fact that I am not able to make them, but to the lack of space at my disposal.
But then, how is it possible to criticize the topo of one cave where there are 20 routes which cross each others in the vault of the same cave and where the name of the same routes are written at the basis of the wall? Do not forget that we deal with rock-climbing and not with trad-climbing! The aim of the topos, in our climbing tradition, is to help you to get an idea of the place, nothing more.

But as far as I am concerned, in the future I will certainly consider positively your remarks, trying to improve the topos. I all the same underline that the structure of the guidebook has been positively welcomed in Europe and has had a flattering success till now, which is very important, for me.

I am grateful to you, in any case, for the space devoted to my guidebook in your web-sites and in your reviews.

Best regards.

Maurizio Oviglia