Sardinia, an introduction

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea next to Sicily. It lies west of the Italian peninsula and south of Corsica. With it's 24090 km² it is more than half the size of the Netherlands (33943 km²) and counts 1.655.677 inhabitants. The largest city and capital of the island, Cagliari (derived from the latin Carales and punic Karali), lies on the south coast and here you will also find the largest harbour and airport (Elmas) 1.

Map of Italy with Sardinia
Map of Italy with Sardinia

Sardinia, the Regione Autonoma della Sardegna, is one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy and has an autonomous statute. The region is divided in eight provinces of which Cagliari and Sassari are the oldest. Later the provinces of Nuoro (1927), Oristano (1974), Olbia-Tempio, Ogliastra, Medio Campidano and Carbonia-Iglesias (all in 2006) were created.

Geologically Sardinia is part of the oldest formations of Europe (600 million years old) and although it has a mountaineous aspect, the highest point reaches only 1834 meters, the Punta la Marmora in the mountains of the Gennargentu. The largest plain is the Campidano that stretches across the island, between Cagliari in the south and Oristano on the central-west coast. Sardinia has more than 1800 km of coastline with innumerous bays and beaches, and all around are many smaller islands 2.

OristanoNuoroOlbia-TempioSassariOgliastraMedio-CampidanoCagliariIglesias-CarboniaSardinia

The climate on Sardinia is Mediterranean with a main northwest wind, the mistral. Little rainfall and the lack of large rivers and lakes have determined the landscape and the economic possibilities of the region. The largest river in fact, the Tirso, is only 159 km long and along it's upper course an artificial lake has been created to contain the necessary water resources for irrigation purposes.

The natural environment, flora and fauna, is specific for Sardinia, with species particular to the island as for example the sardinian red robin (Erithacus rubecula sardus). On some parts of the coast natural parks have been created to safeguard the environment (La Maddalena, Peninsula of Sinis).

For those that visit Sardinia the remote past is still visible everywhere on the island. More than 6500 nuraghi (towers built with crude basalt blocks) are scattered all around the landscape. Dolmens, tombe di Giganti and other prehistoric megalithic structures can be found nearby and in several places prehistoric water sanctuaries stress the importance water has always had in the past. On the south and west coast the unique ruins of cities of Phoenician-Punic origin can be found and explored (Tharros, Nora, Monte Sirai). But also the medieval times, when Sardinia knew a unique political system with local rulers called giudici, are still visible in historical towncenters like Oristano and in the medieval castles. And the later Aragonese and Spanish rule that left their marks on the island in language (Alghero) and traditions.

Traditions, language (Sardu), local religious and secular events keep the characteristic culture of Sardinia alive. Some of the most reknowned events are the Sartiglia, a colourful manifestation on horseback in the streets of Oristano, and the carnival of Mamoiada where past pre-christian traditions are relived.

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In the following pages you will find more on the prehistory and history of Sardinia and some notions on the culture and nature. The last pages contain useful information for the traveller. Of a number of archaeological and historical sites there are descriptions, a photo gallery and a page where tou can view Sardinia from the satellite (with Google Maps). Itineraries are set out that will guide you along the most important sites. An extensive bibliography will help students find more literature on the Sardinian and Phoenician past. The list of links is intended to help with further research on Sardinia, every link is illustrated with a small descriptive note. Furthermore a services section is created to find accommodations like agriturismo, camping or bed & breakfast suitable for your stay on the island. A complete map of beaches on Sardinia is available as well.

Notes

1 source: ISTAT (Istituto Nazionale di Statistica) data of 2006 demo.istat.it
2 source: www.comuni-italiani.it

Last updated 01/08/2016

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