In the southwest of Sardinia lies the historical region of the Sulcis-Iglesiente, a minedistrict with the main centers at Iglesias and Carbonia. The region is also very fertile and in front of the coast lie the islands of Sant'Antioco and San Pietro with their economies based on fishing and salt winning. All these natural riches have attracted human settlement in remote times, testified by the Domus de Janas of the Copper Age, the large number of nuraghi of the Bronze Age and the first trading post of the Phoenicians, Sulki, the modern day Sant'Antioco. For the Punics and the Romans the area was especially attractive for the mining of metals like lead and silver and in our own times Carbonia was an important center for the coalmining (hence the name Carbonia). It all lies in the past but it is this rich history and the beautiful natural environment that makes this region especially attractive for tourism where the scenery provides unexpected romantic views. The itinerary described here will touch on a number of archaeological and natural sites but there is of ourse much more to be seen.
The itinerary starts and ends in Sant'Antioco. The town is connected to the mainland with a narrow stretch of land. The first leg goes from Sant'Antioco to the Phoenician-Punic town of Monte Sirai near Carbonia. The archaeological site of Monte Sirai is located on the top of a steep hill, the mount Sirai. From this mounatin there is a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside, the islands of Sant'Antioco and San Pietro and the mountains of the Iglesiente to the north and the Sulcis to the east. Down below lies the town of Carbonia, in the thirties of the previous century a thriving town at the center of the coalmining industry. A visit to the site of Monte Sirai will take about an hour, going from the acropolis to the Punic burials and the tophet. Particularly in the warm season it is recommended to visit the site as early as possible as soon as it opens to the public.
The second leg goes from Monte Sirai to the prehistoric necropolis of Montessu near Villaperuccio. This necropolis, in use from the early Copper age, is situated above the fertile plains of the Sulcis. The necropolis counts numerous graves of different types, from the small Domus de Janas with decorations to the large grave chambers used in later times as dwellings for the shepherds. The site is maintained by the same cooperation as that of Monte Sirai, it is possible to obtain a combined ticket at a reduced price. To visit the entire necropolis it takes an hour and it is recommended to take the guided tour.
The third leg of the itinerary is to Santadi, the natural Caves of Is Zuddas. A visit to the caves is only possible with a guided tour. There is a bar and a little park to have a quick lunch before the tour starts. The natural caves of Is Zuddas are impressive with a large variety of stalactites and stalagmites. The guided tour takes an hour, an impression of the caves can be viewed in the picture gallery.
The last leg of the itinerary returns to Sant'Antioco. There is a enough to do and to be seen in this town. The archaeological museum has a large collection of finds from Sant'Antioco and Monte Sirai and next to it lies the Phoenician-Punic tophet. At a walking distance lie the punic grave chambers, some of these were until recently used by the poor to live in and have now been transformed into a museum. On top of the hill stands the small fortress of su Pisu of the Piemontese period. At a short distance there is the famous church of Sant'Antioco with the catacombs, punic gravechambers reused in the early christian period. There is also a small anthropological museum on every day life of the Sardinians and the small museum of the Bissus, run by the artist Chiara Vigo. Sant'Antioco has a nice boulevard with a view on the fishermans port and a few bars to rest and have a drink.
Circumstances in reality can be different due to specific situations or changes on the roads. See also the disclaimer
The archaeological museum of Sant'Antioco has a vast collection of artefacts that have been found during the many excavations at the ancient phoenician-punic-roman site of Sulki, presentday Sant'Antioco, and the island. The phoenician and punic collection is of a rare beauty, including fine earthenware and jewellery. Part of the museum is also the Phoenician-punic open air sanctuary, the tophet.
The caves of Is Zuddas near Santadi are naturally formed and of the solutional type. The first 500 metres can be visited, with three large halls and many spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites.
The necropolis of Montessu lies on a hill north of Villaperuccio. The tombs are of the type Domus de Janas, prehistoric chambers cut in the rock. All main types of grave chambers can be found there, in use since 3000 BC up to the bronze age, which makes this necropolis unique in its kind. In more recent times the largest graves have also been used as shelters by shepherds and their families.
Monte Sirai is a punic-roman settlement on the top of the mount Sirai near Carbonia. The site is strategically situated in the middle of the mining districts of the Sulcis and the Iglesiente. The archaeological site consists of the remains of the town and acropolis, a punic and a phoenician necropolis and a tophet. The view from the mountain top is breathtaking.
In antiquity Sant'Antioco was known under the name of Sulky, originally a phoenician tradepost founded in the eighth century BC near a Bronze Age complex nuraghe. In the town the remains are visible of the punic necropolis, later turned into early christian catacombs under the church of Sant'Antioco. There is an important archaeological museum next to the phoenician-punic open air sanctuary called tophet. In the Middle Ages the name of the town was changed to Sant'Antioco, the early christian martyr. Each year festivities and a procession are held in honour of the saint.