Spaghetti Westerns were the Italian filmmakers' answer to the popular American Western films shot during the 1930s through the late 1950s. The westerns were popular in Europe as well as the United States and so there was a high demand for the movies as well as locations where they could be filmed. As TV westerns surged in popularity and going to the movies to see your favorite western stars declined in the United States, the interest in going to the movie theater to see westerns continued to grow in Europe.
European producers sought out locations for filming close to home.
Western Film Locations
Italy had some dry, high desert towns that fit the bill for these Italian western films. Many films called "Spaghetti Westerns" were shot in the Spanish desert region of Almería and a few around Rome, but many were filmed in and around San Salvatore di Cabras, a small Sardinian village outside of Cabras near Oristano.
If you go to San Salvatore di Cabras, you'll find many house facades that look like they popped right out of a wild west set, because, well, they pretty much have. They were transformed in the 1960s during the heyday of Spaghetti Westerns into wild west towns for movies. There's even a bar in San Salvatore that a cowboy would feel at home in—the kind of place where you can throw your peanut shells on the floor.
Festival of San Salvatore
San Salvatore isn't just about Spaghetti Westerns. The Festival of San Salvatore, which takes place the first weekend of September, is one of the oldest festivals in Sardinia. San Salvatore can seem deserted any other time of the year; many people maintain small houses here just to house their families during the festival.
The festival centers around the Corsa Degli Scalzi, a 9-kilometer barefoot-running event where young people wearing white robes, carry a statue of San Salvatore, from the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cabras to the little church of San Salvatore di Sinis. The run is repeated the next day when the statue is returned by runners to the original church. The run represents the saving of the statue during the 1500s after an attack by the Saracens.
After the annual running events, everyone gathers in the evening to celebrate with grilled fish and drinking of Vernaccia, a local wine. There is traditional Sardinian music, family activities, and a fun evening topped off by fireworks.
Pagan Water Worship
This area has been significant even before the 1500s as the church of San Salvatore (Church of the Holy Savior) was built over an ancient underground sanctuary dedicated to the pagan worship of water. Under the left aisle of the church is an underground chamber that shows evidence of having been used as far back as the Neolithic period. Even today you can take a small staircase down to the area where there are little rooms, one with a well, leading to the main room with a spring source.