Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Sardinia is autonomous under the Italian constitution. Its coastline is high and rocky with ample and deep bays as well as inlets which are surrounded by smaller isles. Sardinia has been isolated as one of the ancient lands in modern day Europe. Its history dates back to the Paleolithic era.
However, it was only in the Neolithic Age that humans began inhabiting the island.
The first human beings to have set foot on the island are believed to have come from the Etruria in mainland Italy. Historical evidence also suggests that those who inhabited around S. Giusta and Cabras lakes may have come from the Iberian Peninsula.
Interest on the island grew in the ancient period, beginning around 1000BC, when Phoenicians began to use the island’s ports as a safe anchorage during storms or in the night. With increasing urgency of merchant ships, common ports such as Nora, Caralis, Sulcis, Bithin, Olbia, Bosa, and Tharros; began developing into towns whose population mainly consisted of Phoenician families. Owing to the growing population of the Phoenicians, the native Sardinians attempted to expel them but these efforts were thwarted when the Phoenicians called onto the support of Carthaginians who conquered the mountainous regions and administered it until the Romans conquered Sardinia in 238 BC.
The declining influence of the Roman Empire led to the invasion of Sardinia by the Vandals which were later out seated by the Justinian troops hence making Sardinia a constituent territory under the Byzantine Empire. This led to the division of the island into merèie (districts) under the governance of a judge living in Caralis/Cagliari. These districts were also garrisoned. Eventually, these districts gained independence status but this status was cut short by the incessant attacks from Berbers around 710 A.D.
For many centuries, the region remained under the papal rule until the establishment of the kingdom of Sardinia under the crown of Spain until the Treaty of London which handed Sardinia to the House of Savoy in the 16th century. Napoleonic wars prompted Sardinia to unite with Piedmont until the Italian wars of independence and the inclusion of Sardinia under the Kingdom of Italy. After World War 2, Sardinia was granted autonomy under a special statute. Sardinia retains this status to this day.
Currently, Sardinia is administered via eight provinces; Cagliari, Carbonia-Iglesias, Medio Campidano, Nuor, Ogliastra, Olbia-Tempio, Oristano, and Sassari.Towns like Cagliari, Sassari, Olbia, Quartu Sant’Elena, Nuoro, Alghero, Oristano and Carbonia offer a rich collection of cultural and archeological relics spanning from pre-history to the 21st century.
Being an ancient region with rocks that date back to the Paleozoic Era, all the high mountains have been decimated. What remains of the once towering mountains are just schist, granite, basalt, dolomite limestone, sandstone, and tranchite rocky highlands of between 300-1000 meters in height. At the center of the Island lies a huge mountain massif called the Gennargentu with peaks towering at 1,362m (Monte Limbara), 1,259m (Mount Rasu) and 1,834m (Punta La Marmora).
The rich climate, topography, and shores support a variety of rare autochthonous plants and animals such as the Giara’s Horse, Sardinian Deer, Mouflon, and Sardinian fox among others. Sound environmental legislation has facilitated the creation of national such as Asinara National Park, and Archipelago of La Maddalena’s National Park as well as regional ones like Parco del Limbara, and Parco del Sinis – Montiferru. These parks, white sandy beaches, snow capped peaks and museums are a must see for any tourist to the island of Sardinia.
The capital of the island, Cagliari is an attractive and diverse city with interesting Roman and medieval sections, beautiful beaches (the Poetto beach stretches for 13km and is famous for its white fine-grained sand), and a mild climate that is ideal for sailing, hiking, and outdoor sports. The old part of the city (called ‘Castello’, the castle) lies on top of a hill and provides a wonderful view of the Gulf of Cagliari. Most of the city walls are intact and feature the two 13th century white lime-stone towers, St. Pancras tower and the Elephant tower. The cuisine in Cagliari has a distinctive and unique character with trace influences from Spanish gastronomy. Many dishes are sea food based as Cagliari has one of the largest fish markets in all of Italy. The city is a great base to explore the southern part of the island.
Located on the island’s north-western coast, in the area known as the Coral Riviera, Alghero is one of the most popular tourist resorts in Sardinia, yet it has maintained its distinctive Catalan character. It is a beautiful town on a promontory overlooking the bay and port. The town center on the sea front consists of a network of narrow lanes, many car free, where you will find a relaxed atmosphere of hotels, bars, cafes, and restaurants. Alghero is a good base to explore the magnificent coastline that links it to Bosa to the south, Stintiono to the north, and to the famous cave complex of Grotta di Nettuno to the west on the penisular of Capo Caccia.