The natural environment: west Sardinia

Sardinia has it's own characteristical natural beauty, different from the rest of the Italian peninsula, and different from Sicily or even Corsica. Apart from the magnificent coastlines and beaches, that are no less than any other exotic beach in the world, there are the secular oakwoods, geologically old mountains, plains, highlands and plateau's and ofcourse the Macchia Mediterranea. Because of it's relative isolation specific Sardinian species of animals and plants have developed from the most common European ones. Here we will briefly touch on a few areas of west Sardinia; the peninsula of Sinis, the Monte Arci with the Campidano, and the Marmilla with the Giara di Gesturi. On the next page you will find more on the south-west of Sardinia: the Iglesiente and the coast along the Bay of Cagliari.

The peninsula of Sinis and the bay of Oristano

The bay of Oristano is closed on the northern end by the peninsula of Sinis. This peninsula is rich in ponds (stagni) with brackish water, formed by the sedimentation of the river Tirso and fed by small creeks and rivers and by the rain in the winter season. This has created a rich natural environment with waterfowl and a large variety of fish as well as (water)plants. The northern stagni that no longer receive water from rivers or the sea are more salty and an ideal place for the flamingo's that stay there during the summer.

Near Tharros you will find sand dunes that have also covered large part, if not all in the past, of the archaeological site of Tharros. Along the coast you will find the Macchia Mediterranea; shrubs and plants of different varieties that grow often not higher than two metres. Especially in the spring in the months of april, may and june, when most of the vegetation is in flower, this presents itself as a magnificent coloured spectacle and you can immagine that ancient writers spoke of Sardinia as the happy paradise.

On the western shores there are shingly beaches (Is Arutas) formed by the erosion of the rocky island Mal di Ventre off the coast. The beaches have a white aspect and the sea has a bluegreen colour because of it. The peninsula with the islands of Mal di Ventre and il Catalano are part of a natural park.

The macchia

The species of bushes and shrubs that are called the macchia mediterranea are varied and can have a different composition depending on the environment. The most common division is made in the high macchia, with an average height of four metres, and the low macchia, that reaches two to three metres average in height. Another division is made in the composition in plants; for example the macchia a ginepri, that is composed of mainly juniper. The species that compose the macchia are amongst others the juniper (ginepro), mastic (lentisco), rockrose (cisto), true myrtle (mirto), strawberry tree (corbezzolo), broom (ginestra), thorny broom (calycotome).

source: Casu, T, G. Lai, G.L. Pinna, 1984, Guida alla Flora e alla Fauna della Sardegna, Nuoro

West Sardinia: The bay of Oristano
West Sardinia: The bay of Oristano

1: The peninsula of Sinis and the island of Mal di Ventre
2: Arborea and the bay of Oristano
3: Monte Arci
4: The Giara di Gesturi
(source: Map info of Tele Atlas and Google Maps.)

The Bay of Oristano

The beaches along the bay of Oristano have been formed by the sedimentation of sand from inland Sardinia through the river Tirso. The sea has a more greyish aspect, especially when there is a western wind. In origin there were malaria infested swamps that have been drained in the thirties of the previous century, and is now the land of a thriving agricultural community, Arborea. Along the beaches you can find the pinetrees that give enough shadow to make it a pleasant enough place to have a picknick. For children the beach is very much suited because the sea is not very deep and there is often a coast guard in the neighbourhood.

On the south side the bay of Oristano is closed in by a cape, Capo Frasca. Here is another lagoon with next to it the fishermans village of Marceddi. In the photograph the lagoon and a fisherman kneedeep in the water looking for mussels and other shellfish.

Panorama of the mountains of the Iglesiente near Guspini and Arbus with in the foreground the stagno of San Giovanni at Marceddi
Panorama of the mountains of the Iglesiente near Guspini and Arbus with in the foreground the stagno of San Giovanni at Marceddi

The Monte Arci and the Campidano

Inland of the bay of Oristano lies the Monte Arci, where in prehistoric times obsidian was gathered and used to make tools and arrowheads. Also the semi-precious green jasper can be found on the slopes of the mountain and it has been used often to create scarabs or other jewelry. The mountain is covered in large part with oakwoods, which in certain parts are accessible for a long walk with splendid views of the below Campidano, the bay and the mountainranges of the Iglesiente. On the mountain you can see two remarkable peaks, conical remains of the former vulcanic activities. The largest is called Trebina Longa.

The best time of year to visit Sardinia is really spring. You can see then many flowers in a large variety and the temperature is not so high as in the months of july and august.

The landscape of the plains, the Campidano, are covered with vineyards, olivetrees, figs and arable lands separated by the cactus hedges with edible fruit (Fichi d'India). Often you can see the herds of sheep grazing in fields or moving along the roads from winter to summer pastures.

The Marmilla and the Giara di Gesturi

Panorama of the Marmilla with in the background the highland plateau of the Giara di Gesturi
Panorama of the Marmilla with in the background the highland plateau of the Giara di Gesturi

Southeast of the Monte Arci lies the Marmilla, a hilly countryside with much agricultural activity and orchards. Behind that you will find the highland plateau of the Giara di Gesturi, a natural environment with small ponds, trees and pastures, where a race of small horses, the Cavallino della Giara, are raised in the wild.

Call 1515 when you see a fire
Call 1515 when you see a fire

Just be reminded to be careful with open fire, especially in the summer. Forest fires have already devastated large parts of the secular forests of the island in the past decades. Call 1515 (Toll free) if you see any starting fire, don't hesitate to call.

More pictures of flora and landscapes you can find on this site in the Photo Gallery.

Last updated 14/05/2020

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