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Sardinia - Tourist Info

This short Sardinia's guide allows tourists to have an idea about the Island's history, geography and economy. 

The history of Sardinia dates back many thousand centuries; in fact the first sure traces of human presence date back to the Lower Palaeolithic (100,000 BC), although it was only much later, in the Early Neolithic period (6,000 BC), that permanent settlements were founded.  

The first indigenous civilisation with original, clearly defined traits is the nuraghic culture, which developed from the Early Bronze Age (1,500 BC), and entered a phase of gradual decline at the end of the Iron Age (500 BC).

This culture takes its name from its most typical monument: the nuraghe, an impressive tower building, in the shape of a truncated cone, built with rough-hewn boulders. Over the centuries, this fortified structure became gradually more elaborate, with the addition of curtain walls and turrets, thus requiring a more articulate floor plan which coincided with the age of the greatest splendour of this civilisation.

The rich ores of Sardinia attracted to the island the trading peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean , such as the Mycenaeans and the Cypriots. However, it was the Phoenicians who, in the VIII Cent. BC founded the first permanent settlements, selecting coastal areas with natural harbours, the best locations for trading and commercial centres.

A period of Carthaginian domination ensued (500-238 BC) when the exploitation of mining resources was flanked by that of wheat and of the rich timber supply, coming from the thick forests which covered most of the island. The Romans (238 BC - 476 AD) carried the exploitation of the island's resources further, by spreading their domination also in the inland areas, where the local peoples were more fiercely independent. To that end they established a strong, efficient administration, well served by a network of roads, of which some sections remain and which has in the main been followed by the modern highway system.

The decadence of the Roman Empire had strong repercussions on the island, leading to the abandonment of agricultural land and of many coastal settlements, coupled to a reduction in the population. Sardinia, abandoned to its own resources, and defenceless, was occupied and raided by the Vandals from Africa for about 80 years (476 - 530 AD); later, after their defeat by the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, the island passed under the rule of Byzantium. In the IX Cent. AD, when the Arabs were completing their conquest of the Mediterranean, North-Africa, Spain, and part of France and Sicily, the coastal areas of Sardinia were subject to their raids and incursions.

The lack of interest or guidance from distant Byzantium led the Sardinian people to take charge of their own destiny: as a result, Sardinia was divided into the four "Giudicato" (Judgeships) of Arborea, Cagliari , Gallura and Torres, each of which had an autonomous government, presided over by a "Giudice" (Judge), and with an administrative and military organisation. Through various events, the "Giudicato" (Judgeships) survived until the XIII century, when they lost their independence to the domination established by the Maritime Republics of mainland Italy : Pisa and Genoa . Only the Giudicato of Arborea retained its autonomy until 1478, when the crown of Aragona finally conquered the whole island, which already in 1297 had been allotted to it as a feudal holding by Pope Bonifacio VIII, together with Corsica .

The new "Regnum Sardiniae" was later to rank among the overseas domains of the Spanish Crown (which had been established at the end of the XV Century from the union of the kingdoms of Aragona and Castille, until the early XVIII Century. After a brief spell of Austrian domination (1708-1718), with the "Treaty of London" the Regnum Sardiniae was awarded to the Savoy , princes of Piedmont . Thus, the Kingdom of Sardinia was founded; Sardinia retained a degree of autonomy by Statute until 1847, when it was definitely joined to Piedmont under a single centralised government, thus bringing to an end its historical connotation.

After the wars of Independence , when the Unity of Italy was achieved, the Kingdom of Sardinia became the kingdom of Italy (1861). Nowadays, Sardinia is an Autonomous Region of the Italian Republic : as such, it is regulated by the Special Statute (1948) which also lists the reasons which led the Italian government to grant it a degree of autonomy. As far as local administration is concerned, Sardinia is divided into 4 provinces: Cagliari , which is also the capital place of the region, Sassari , Nuoro and Oristano. These provinces include in all 377 communes and have a total population of 1,660,000. Sardinia is a complex and many-faceted island, which in its culture, landscape and art pBOOKs the traces of its long history, an original, deeply marked heritage which today is gradually being rediscovered and appreciated in all its richness.

Sardinia is, by extension, the second largest island in the Mediterranean : it measures 24,089 sq.Km, and is located between 38°51'52" and 41°15'42" Lat. North and 8°8' and 9°50'Long. East. 
This island, which is situated in the middle of the Western Mediterranean , lies just 12 kms from Corsica , at a distance of 120 km from Tuscany and 185 Km from the North African coast. It is surrounded by shallow seas, and its coastline measures 1,849 Km in total.

The Sardinian coasts are generally high and rocky, and in many sections run more or less straight; the coast is however varied by more articulated sections, with promontories and wide and deep bays surrounded by islets. Where the coast is low and leads to plains, the sea seems at times to reach inland by means of marshes, wetlands, sandy dunes. The coast is more rugged and broken in large sections in the north-west and north-east.

The geology of Sardinia is extremely ancient; its rocks date back to the Early Palaeozoic (300 million years); as a consequence, the island does not have high peaks, since its mountains have been levelled by long processes of erosion. The landscape is dominated by a rocky tableland of granite, schist, trachyte, basalt (locally known as "giare" or "gollei"), sandstone or limestone (called "tonneri" or "tacchi"), which range between 300 and 1,000 Mt. in height.

Among the mountain ranges, we should mention the Gennargentu - in the centre of the island - with its highest peak of 1,834 Mt.; Mount Limbara in the north (1,362 Mt.) and Mount Rasu , the highest mountain in the "Marghine" range, which lies diagonally for 40 km also in the north.

These reliefs alternate with deep valleys and winding riverbeds.
With the notable exception of the Campidano, a large plain to the south, which starts from the gulf of Cagliari and stretches for 100 km to the gulf of Oristano , in Sardinia there are few plains, usually of small extension.

Of the great forests of ilex, oak, chestnut and carob - which have been intensely exploited since ancient times - we find today ample remains which cover approximately one sixth of the total ground area for an extension of about 475,000 hectares. Particularly imposing is the forest of Gutturu Mannu , in the south, which is the largest in the Mediterranean .

There are three major rivers, both as to length and water flow: the Flumendosa, which flows into the sea in the southern part of the east coast, the Tirso which flows into the Gulf of Oristano and the Coghinas which flows into the sea in the north, in the Gulf of Asinara . We should also remember the Temo which flows into the sea at Bosa and is the only navigable river in Sardinia . Their waters have been harnessed and form artificial lakes and reservoirs.

The waters which flow underground and appear as karst springs both in the open and in caves are also of great interest.
Equally important are the mineral springs flowing from fractures in the terrain due to ancient processes of vulcanism dating back to the Tertiary and Quaternery; these waters have therapeutic properties are also marketed in the form of mineral water.

The climate is generally mild and is influenced by the masses of air coming from the Atlantic , from Africa and from the Arctic .
The weather is generally good - over the year there is an average of 300 days of sunshine, with rain during the remaining period; the largest concentration of rainy days occurs during the winter and autumn, with some sudden showers in springtime.

The average temperature in July is 23.9°C while in January it is 11.1°C; humidity is in the region of 70% (annual average).
The island is swept by many winds - firstly by the mistral, a wind from the north west, which is fresh and piercing in the winter, and during the summer months mitigates the heat, making the air drier and more breathable.
Less frequent is the sirocco - which usually hits the western coast - and the north east winds which blow along the eastern coast.