The second largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and also the third largest region in Italy, Sardinia (Italian: Sardegna) lies in the central Mediterranean Sea, 184 kilometers north of the African coast, 208 kilometers west of the Italian port city of Civitavecchia, and separated from Corsica to the north by the 11 kilometer wide Straits of Bonifacio. The climate is Mediterranean with long hot dry breezy summers and short mild rainy winters, except at high altitudes.Sardinia has roughly 1 600 000 inhabitants and is one of the least densely populated regions of Italy. The two main urban centers are Cagliari, the regional and Provincial capital in the south, and Sassari, a provincial capital in the north. People from Sardinia are called Sardinians and they see themselves as a distinct ethnic group while being Italian by nationality. Sardinia has eight Provinces namely: Cagliari, Nuoro, Sassari, Oristano, Carbonia-Iglesias, Medio Campidano, Ogliastra and Olbia-Tempio with Cagliari being it’s capital. Sardinia is one of Europe’s best and most-loved island holiday destinations, with its golden beaches, over seven thousand prehistoric archaeological sites, dramatic volcanic scenery, a vast ancient history, exquisite food and an easy going pace of life.
General Information on Sardinia
Sardinia is approximately 24 900 square kilometers. Its capital Cagliari makes up one quarter of its population with more than 430 000 inhabitants. The island consists primarily of mountainous plateaus and a few forests and its coasts are generally high and rocky. It is an autonomous region of Italy, which goes by the official name of Regione Autonoma della Sardegna (Autonomous Region of Sardinia).
Sardinia’s coastline measures over 1 850 kilometers long and makes up a quarter of the total length of the Italian coastline. The island has an above average life expectancy of eighty one years (85 for women and 78 for men), and has the highest rate of centenarians in the world, with there being twenty two people aged over one hundred per one hundred thousand inhabitants, with Nurono being the province with the highest instance of male centenarians.
Sardinia is home to a wide variety of rare and uncommon animals and as such almost twenty five percent of the island (600,000 + hectares) is environmentally preserved.Sardinia was previously known as Ichnusa, a name dating back from around 1500 BC. Ichnusa is a combination of the word ‘nusa’ (meaning island) with ‘Hyskos’, the tribe who invaded Sardinia. Sardinia is also the only region of Italy to not have a motorway.
History of Sardinia
Because of its historically rich background that is well deserving of its own book, we won’t divulge into the nitty gritty. Better to visit and take a look at the historic sites than to read about it right? The earliest recorded history of Sardinia dates back to the Prehistoric age giving a glimpse of human settlement in the form of nuraghes and other prehistoric monuments, which can be found on the land. By the 9th Century it was inhabited by the Phoenicians. It was then conquered by Rome in the first Punic war in 238BC. Corsica was also surrender after that war and together with Sardinia became the Roman Province. It remained under the Romans for 694 until it was then conquered by an East Germanic tribe called the Vandals in 456BC. Their reign lasted for seventy eight years up to 534BC when it was then reclaimed by the Romans. It was in that period that the Eastern Roman Empire was also referred to as the Byzantine Empire.The dates and circumstances of the end of Byzantine rule in Sardinia are not known. By the 10th century, the giudici had emerged as the autonomous rulers of Sardinia. At that time there were five known Giudicati but sometime within the 10th to 11th Century went down to four with the annexation of Giudicato of Agugliastra or Ogliastra. From 1323 to 1478, Aragon, son of King James II fought for control of the island, initiating four centuries of Spanish domination. Throughout the upcoming centuries it was battled for many a time and finally with the Unification of Italy in 1861, the Kingdom of Sardinia became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
To Do List in Sardinia
From beaches and caves, to parks and churches, wining and dining, travelling to dig sites, ruins and monuments or simply taking in all the natural beauty of the island, rest assured there is plenty to see and do in Sardinia.
There are three national parks on the island namely: Asinara National Park, Arcipelago di La Maddalena National Park and Gennargentu National Park. Asinara which is translated to donkey-inhabited is a virtually uninhabited island with low scrub and sparse trees being the natural vegetation due to lack of fresh water. It is known as Isola del Diavolo or Devil’s Island, since it was used as a quarantine location as a prison camp during the First World War. It became a National Park in 1997. Arcipelago di La Maddalena National Park is a geomarine protected area consisting of a group of islands situated in the north-east of the coast of Gallura, in the stretch of sea between Sardinia and Corsica known as Bocche di Bonifacio.It was established in 1994. Gennargentu National Park lies in the provinces of Nuoro and Ogliastra. The wildlife found there includes the Sardinian wildcat, Sardinian fox, the Giffon Vulture and Bonelli Eagle. Some of its marine life includes the Mediterranean Monk Seal, Sperm Whales and various other whales and dolphins.
Cala Goloritze, La Pelosa Beach, Cala Mariolu, Porto Guinco, Is Arrutas, Lu Impostu Spiaggia di Cala Coticcio, La Cinta, Costa Smeralda and Spiaggia Is Arenas Bianca are just a few of the beaches often mentioned and widely visited. Make one of them or all of them a must see on your Sardinia to do list.
Grotta di Ispinigoli and Grotta del Bue Marino are two caves filled with nature’s wonders. Grotta di Ispinigoli is one of the largest grottoes in the island and houses a large stalactite and stalagmite compound which are the tallest in Europe and one of the tallest in the world, measuring some 38 m in total. Unlike most caves of this type, which you enter from the side, here you descend 60m inside a giant well.Grotta del Bue Marino are coastal caves located in Dorgali on the eastern coast of Sardinia. It became a place of interest when drawings were found on one of the walls witch rock carvings dating back to the Ozieri culture. They can be reached by sea and the nearest port is to Cala Gonone, or by a walk of fifty minutes.
As mentioned before there are over 7000 sites found in Sardinia so listed below are a select few.
- Aiodda – A Sardinian megalithic gallery grave built during the Bronze Age by the Nuragic civilization.
- Argentiera – A former mining town and ghost town
- Burghidu – one of the many Nuraghes found in Sardinia
- Le Tombe di Biristeddi – Another Giant’s Tomb found in Nuoro
- Nora – an ancient Roman and pre-Roman town placed on a peninsula near Pula, near to Cagliari in Sardinia. The ruins of Nora function as an open-air museum, and the remains of the theatre are occasionally used for concerts in the summer.
- Elephant’s Rock – Rock formation in the shape of an elephant near Castelsardo
- Santu Antine – One of the largest Nuraghes found in Torralba
- Pranu Mattedu – A Sardinian Stonehenge
- Su Tempiesu – A Nuragic monument also called the sacred spring
- Monte d’ Accoddi – An archaeological site and site of a Chalcolithic structure of the Ozieri culture in Sassari near Porto Terres
What better way to take in the picturesque views and captivating landscapes by walking through the splendour itself? No matter if you’re a hiker by nature or just want check out the scenery then here are a few trails that are sure to make you fall in love:
- Monte Pinu – This trail through the mountains goes up to the Casteddu lookout which is seven hundred and forty two meters high. From there one can see the Gulf of Olbis, the archipelago of La Maddalena, the island of Tavolara as well as Costa Smeralda. On great weather conditions one can even see Corsica.
- Monte Doglia – This trail goes up to four hundred meters high. The path crosses all mountains between several ruins of the Second World War Paths. From this view you are able to see Sassari, the vineyards of Sella & Mosca, Cappo Caccia, the Bay of Porto Corte as well as Capo Marargiu.
- Punta Giglio – Punta giglio is a place within the Porto Conte forest. It has one of the largest military settlements from World War II.
- Bosa – A walk along the coastline to search for the Griffon Vulture
Fun facts about Sardinia
- Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina takes its name from the Virgin of Bonaria in Cagliari.
- Tirso is the longest river 151 km (93.83 mi) long, which flows into the Sea of Sardinia.
- The highest peak is Punta La Marmora (1,834 m), part of the Gennargentu Ranges.
- Sardinia produces 60% of Italy’s Saffron.
- The Costa Smeralda was used as the location for James Bond driving his Lotus Esprit out of the sea in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ in 1977.
- Sardinia is rumoured to be the lost city of gold Atlantis or has some connection to tie to the city.
Famous people from Sardinia
Some famous persons from Sardinia include the following: Antonio Gramsci, Enrico Berlinguer, Grazia Deledda, Franca Dall’Olio, Sebastian Piras, Anna Maria Pierangel, Giovanni Matteo De Candia, Francesco Ciusa, Domenico Brigaglia and Eugenio Meloni.
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