beautiful medieval town
a nice town at the coast of the Asinara Gulf built around an old castle.
and the beaches that can be reached from there only by boat
on the Mediterranean sea
one of the most important seaside resorts of the island
a haven for windsurfers and kitesurfers
an archipelago of 7 islands in Costa Smeralda
uncontaminated beaches and wild nature
a popular spot for scuba diving
heart of South-West Sardinia: the Mediterranean pearl with great beaches, reefs, dunes, and wonderful underwater
situated in the north, largely unspoiled nature and beautiful scenery
- Wild areas of Barbagia and Ogliastra
- The Punic and Roman archaeological sites of Nora and Tharros
- The Stagno at Cabras
- Stintino - a small fishing village on the north-western tip of Sardinia which has one of the finest beaches in the whole of Sardinia - La Pelosa
- Iglesias and the Sulcis - undiscovered treasures of art and sea. While near Iglesias, visit the mines, and hear the history of Sardinian miners. Do not forget to go and see the lovely Santa Barbara cove
- Sant'Antioco Island: with a wonderful coast and a nice fishing port in the southwest coast
- Maddalena archipelago: situated in the north, largely unspoiled nature and beautiful scenery
Sardinia, with its quintessential Mediterranean beauty, is mainly loved for swimming, boating, windsurfing, hiking, climbing, and camping, with coastal areas tending to become over touristed especially in the warmest month, August. The inner life of the island away from the tourist spots takes longer to appreciate and requires you to peel away the layers of apparent Italianization. After all, the ancient Nuragic civilization of Sardinia of ca. 1500 BC, whose stone monuments still dot the land, predates even the Etruscan civilization in mainland Italy by several hundred years.
Geology and geography
Sardinia is the only region in Italy of Hercynian origin; actually, the southwest is even older (Cambrian). The mineral riches of Sardinia are the consequence of heavy hydrothermalism during the Permo-Triassic. As in the rest of Hercynian Europe, erosion has taken its toll since the orogeny and has reduced elevations considerably. 30 million years ago, the Sardinia-Corsica block started to detach from mainland Spain and tilted toward its present position. The island is both aseismic and non volcanic.
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (24090 sq. km [9300 sq. mi]); only Sicily is larger. The island is dominated by the Gennargentu Range (culminating at Punta La Marmora, 1834 m [6017 ft], highest elevation in Sardinia), along with the Monte Limbara, Monte di Ala', and Monte Rasu ranges (all below 1500 m [4900 ft]); isolated are the Sulcis-Iglesiente hills (1236 m [4055 ft]) of Southwestern Sardinia, once home to a large mining district. Plains are quite rare and reduced in extent, with the exception of the Campidano Plain from Oristano to Cagliari, which divides the main hill system from the Sulcis-Iglesiente, and the Nurra plain in the northwest (between Sassari, Alghero, and Porto Torres), which was once a mining district and quite forested, but is today mostly given to pasture. Sulcis proper (in the extreme Southwest) was a marshy area where malaria was still present in the 1940s (but eradicated since). Cagliari's neighbourhood is also flat and boggy; exploitation of salt is a major industry there.
Coasts are generally rocky and tall, especially along the eastern half; large beaches are found however on the north and northeast (Logudoro and Gallura), the south (from Teulada to Pula) and the Southwest (Sulcis-Iglesiente). Apart from the Strait of Bonifacio (famed for its often rough sea) which divides Corsica from Sardinia, the surrounding sea is quite deep at short distances from the shore.
The population is small (a little more than 1 650 000 inhabitants in 2010), with heavy concentration in the Cagliari (one third of the total population) and Sassari (one fifth) areas; Olbia is the only other town exceeding 50 000 inhabitants. Other centres include Alghero, Nuoro, Oristano, Carbonia and Iglesias. Sardinia, along with the Valle d'Aosta region at the French border, has the lowest density of population in Italy.
Sardinia enjoys for the most part a Mediterranean climate. It is however heavily influenced by the vicinity of the Gulf of Genoa (barometric low) and the relative proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. Sardinia being relatively large and hilly, weather is not uniform; in particular the east is drier, but paradoxically it suffers the worst rainstorms: in Autumn 2009, it rained more than 200 mm (8 inches) in a single day in Siniscola. The western coast is rainy even for modest elevations (for instance Iglesias, elevation 200 m, average annual precipitation 815 mm against 750 mm for London).
Summer is dry with very warm weather; however, contrary to the islands of Greece for instance, shade and wind are plenty. Autumn is typically very mild (with averages of 20 °C [68 °F] and up for highs till mid-November), but is subject to heavy rainstorms as noted above. Winter is generally mild on plains (cold spells being however not unheard of) but cool to cold at higher elevations; snow is generally limited to the Gennargentu range. Spring is mild and rainy, but not as autumn. The island is very windy, especially from September to April (northwest winds called locally Maestrale); southeast winds (Scirocco) are frequent during summer and bring invariably hot weather.
Sardinia is home to the old but somewhat mysterious Nuragic civilization (ca 1500 BC); cylindrical towers (called Nuraghes, sing. Nuraghe) dot the Sardinian landscape, and fortified villages can still be found, as in Barumini (Medio Campidano province). The Phoenicians arrived around 1000 BC, founding Cagliari (Karalis, ca 800 BC) and other emporia; Tharros (near Oristano) and Nora (near Pula, Cagliari province) are a must-see for the archeology-minded tourist. Sardinia was contended during the First Punic War between Carthage and Rome, but went eventually to the latter. Rome had often trouble with the rebellious locals, but managed quite a large income out of grain and metal mining.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, heavy raiding of the coastal areas by pirates forced the population to the hinterland; Sassari for instance was founded by refugees from Porto Torres. The four Kingdoms (Giudicati/Judicados of Calaris [Cagliari], Arborea [Oristano], Torres [Sassari] e Gallura [Olbia-Tempio Pausania]) sprang forth during the Middle Ages, but were colonized (except for the Oristano area) by Pisa and Genoa; in particular the Pisans (the famous Conte Ugolino della Gherardesca of Dante's Inferno and his family) held between 1200 and 1350 the southernmost part of the island, deriving a large income out of the silver mines near Iglesias, which they themselves founded. Spain then seized the whole of Sardinia by the end of the 14th century, and for nearly 400 years the island would have remained under Spanish rule.
When Sardinia was ceded to the House of Savoy, the constitution of the Sardinia-Piedmont realm was the starting point for the unification of all the Italian peninsula. Once this goal was achieved, Sardinia was once again left to its own devices, except for the exploitation of its large mineral resources. Fascism saw important work (in particular the reduction of marshy areas), and in 1948, given the unique socio-political context of the island, Sardinia received the status of autonomous region that still retains to the present day. With the end of the exploitation of the mines, but with the fast growth of the tourist industry (especially in the Costa Smeralda ["Emerald Coast"] area), Sardinia is slowly converting itself into a popular tourist destination, while traditional stock-herding (in particular sheep) is still a frequent sight.