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Mediterranean & Adriatic

About Sardinia

Sardinia, Italy

With verdant mountains rising from the sapphire-blue Mediterranean Sea, the natural beauty of the Island of Sardinia has been attracting travelers for thousands of years. The second largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia blends a vibrant, modern-day culture with a rich, palpable history.

Sardinia has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Historians have theorized that the earliest islanders came from both mainland Italy and the French island of Corsica, just across the Strait of Bonifacio. Many others followed; rare was the empire that did not touch Sardinia’s exquisite shores, making the island an unparalleled cultural crossroads. At the Gulf of Angels near the Sardinian capital of Cagliari, rich archaeological treasures of these civilizations remain.

There is evidence to suggest that in the Mesolithic era, people came to Sardinia from Etruria, in present-day Tuscany. During the Bronze Age, the Beaker Culture from continental Europe arrived. In the 17th century B.C., the Nuragic people took over; the basalt towers they built (called Nuraghe), still dot the land. Phoenicians arrived in 1000 B.C. and enjoyed a long period of stability with their predecessors. But peace did not last. After war broke out, the Phoenicians called on the Carthaginians to help, who promptly betrayed their allies and wrested control of the entire island.

In 238 B.C., the Carthaginians ceded control of the island to the Roman Empire. Sardinia remained a Roman province until the Vandals arrived in 456 A.D. The Byzantine Empire stormed the shores in 533. The exact end of Byzantine rule has been lost to time, but was followed by a quick succession of conquerors, including Moors and Berbers. Later, the island was divided in a drawn-out battle between the sea powers of Genoa and Pisa, and was eventually taken over by the Kingdom of Aragon.

The Kingdom of Sardinia was formed in the early 14th century and was ruled by Spain for 300 years. After the Spanish War of Succession, Sardinia fell briefly into Austrian hands, and then found itself under the House of Savoy. On March 17, 1861, while still under the House of Savoy, the Parliament of Sardinia proclaimed the Kingdom of Italy, joining other Italian states and forming the basis for the Italy we know today.

Sardinia Lifestyle and Culture

A pristine and pastoral isle seemingly built for tranquility, Sardinia has much to offer. Numerous natural wonders, beachside strolls and fantastic cuisine all abound here. At the base of the Sette Fratelli Mountains, the charming and rustic agricultural communities of Maracalagonis live off the fertile and abundant land. Boar, deer and eagles call the wilderness home and traditional folk music and dances keep the past alive.

While exploring the countryside, you can savor a taste of the land at Cantine Argiolas, a vineyard owned by the same family for generations. Founded by the great patriarch Antonio Argiolas in the 1900s, this splendid winery introduces a new and personal dimension to the concept of terroir, as the history of a family has become embedded into the flavors of their wine.

Sardinia Sights and Landmarks

On Sardinian shores near Pula, the ancient site of Nora is believed to be the island’s first town. It was founded by prehistoric Iberians and later colonized in the 8th century B.C. by the Phoenicians. Several artifacts from the Roman Empire are also preserved here, including thermal baths, floor mosaics and a small theater.

In the rolling countryside of Barumini, the archaeological site of Su Nuraxi – a fortress of four towers surrounding a central fifth tower – once protected a village of Nuragic people who lived here from the 13th to the 6th century B.C..The central tower is thought to have been built between the 17th and 13th centuries B.C. While its function has been debated, the archaeologists who discovered it believed it had a military purpose, while others have suggested it was religious in nature. Almost 7,000 of these Nuraghe-style towers remain on the island.

Sardinia Entertainment and Activities

Known for Art Nouveau architecture as much as for its historic artifacts, the city of Cagliari is a fascinating mix of modern and ancient. During your excursion to Cagliari, take the time to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Castello in the Castello quarter. Built by the Pisans during their hold on the city, it was constructed within the Castel di Castro and obtained cathedral status in 1258.

Of the many unforgettable antiquities inside the Cathedral, perhaps the most famous is the Ambo de Guglielmo, a pair of pulpits sculpted in the 12th century by Master Guglielmo, originally intended for the Pisa Cathedral. Four marble lions once supported the ambo; they now sit at the feet of the presbytery balustrade.

Cagliari’s Roman Amphitheater was built in the 2nd century and remained in use until the 5th century. This dramatic site of gladiator battles could hold up to 10,000 spectators. It was unearthed in the 19th century and today hosts musical performances.

Cagliari’s Porta Cristina, built in 1825 in honor of Queen Maria Cristina, is the gateway to the Castello district. At the southwestern entrance of the Castello, the St. Pancras and Elephant Towers loom. These notable landmarks were built by architect Giovanni Capula in 1307. To the north of the Castello, visit the Citadel of Museums, a complex of cultural institutions founded in the 1960s. No fewer than eleven museums have opened their doors here, from the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari to the Anatomical Waxwork Museum and the University Botanical Gardens.

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