Sardinia. Italian Marinas.
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Sardinia is the second largest island (23,813 sq. km.) in the Mediterranean (Sicily is larger), and as a result of its isolation, less dependent on insularity than on the distance separating it from mainland Italy, it has conserved its own economy and traditions far more than have other regions. Lying in the Tyrrhenian Sea to the east, the Sardinian to the west and separated from Corsica to the north by the Strait of Bonifacio, and including the smaller islands round it (SantAntioco, San Pietro, Asinara, La Maddalena, Caprera, etc.), it is the most extensive region after Sicily and Piedmont.
The morphology of the island is the result of
complex tectonic processes and volcanic activity in the Cenozoic era on a mass
of Paleozoic rock upthrust from the sea, later severely affected by late
Paleozoic orogenesis. The Sardinian mountains are a chaotic series of deeply
eroded ranges, groups, plateaux and uplands, scattered in apparent disarray.
A geological characteristic is the Campidano tectonic plain filled with Eocenic and Pleistocenic deposits, which lies northwest-southeast across the south of the island, linking the gulfs of Oristano and Cagliari and dividing mineral-rich mountainous Sulcis and Iglesiente districts to the southwest, from the much more extensive mountain regions in the north and east which cover most of the island, reaching 1,834 m. at Punta La Marmora, in the Gennargentu group. Most of the coast is lined with cliffs and is picturesque.
Sardinian water courses are characteristically fast flowing, with a relatively high water volume in winter, reduced to a trickle in summer. The principal rivers are the Flumendosa and Cedrino to the east, the Mannu-Coghinas, emptying into the Gulf of Asinara, and the Tirso, which flows into the Gulf of Oristano. The most important lakes are the coastal basins on the shores of the gulfs of Oristano and Cagliari and the artificial lakes Omodeo and Coghinas.
The climate is Mediterranean with long hot dry breezy summers and short mild rainy winters, except at high altitudes. Average annual temperatures range from 18 °C along the coastal belt to 14 °C inland. Precipitations are largely confined to the winter months and distribution is somewhat irregular, with as much as 1,300 mm./year in the highest areas. The prevailing wind is north-westerly, which blows over the island in all seasons, particularly sweeping the west side.
Sardinia is the reign of the Mediterranean scrub, widespread also over the inland areas as a result of the fairly low altitude, and generally consisting of a low covering of cistus, varieties of broom and heather. In more favourable spots, this gives way to small thick stands of mastic, strawberry trees and wild olive. The once extensive woodland was partly destroyed last century and all that remains are oak, holly oak and chestnut woods covering 17% of regional territory. Particularly important are the cork woods, found mainly in Gallura and on the Ala, Bitti and Budduso uplands.
A characteristic element of Sardinian wildlife is the presence of the monk seal and the mouflon or wild goat which, together with the Sardinian sparrow, are found only in this region. Vipers, badgers, wolves and bears are absent altogether, and certain other animals, such as deer and foxes, have developed individual characteristics so divergent from those of the species that they are to be regarded as purely Sardinian.
In central-east Sardinia, Gennargentu with its great forests and wild rugged morphology is an interesting environment that is almost unique in the Mediterranean, with vegetation that varies in accordance with the distance from the sea and the nature of the ground. A wild impenetrable mountainous zone, practically uninhabited, is Monte Arcosu, a great unbroken wilderness stretching over 50,000 hectares of Iglesiente and culminating in Monte is Caravius, between Santadi and Capoterra. This zone is famous for one of the last surviving herds of Sardinian fallow deer, found nowhere else in the world, and its wildlife includes wild boar, hares, foxes and the Sardinian wildcat, as well as rare birds, such as Bonelli's eagle, the golden eagle and the Sardinian partridge.
On the central-west coast of Sardinia, the Sinis peninsula juts into the Sardinian Sea, delimiting the Gulf of Oristano to the north; this immensely interesting environment is characterized by lonely wide open spaces and a grim landscape. Natural complements to the peninsula are the Stagni dell'Oristanese, famous for their birdlife. Flowers include the rare viola arborescente and the Capo Mannu rockrose.
The Stagno di Molentargius near Cagliari, a characteristic salt marsh and one of the most important wetlands internationally, succeeds in attracting an incredible concentration of birds, in spite of the encroaching city. While common water birds such as duck, waders and common species of marshland birds flock there together with common gulls and the little gull, the lord of the marshes is the pink flamingo.
Nor far from Alghero in northwest Sardinia lies Capo Caccia, a majestic limestone outcrop dropping sheer for a hundred feet or so to the sea. This fascinating place is particularly well known for its caves, especially Neptune's grotto, to which access is gained from the water or by a long flight of steps. Though the vegetation on the cape is somewhat thin, it includes a number of native species, some of them found nowhere else in the world.
With a population density of
68 pop./sq. km., slightly higher than a third of the national average, Sardinia
is the fourth least populated region in Italy. The population distribution is
anomolous compared to that of other Italian regions lying on the sea. In fact,
contrary to the general trend, urban settlement has not taken place primarily
along the coast, but towards the centre of the island. Historical reasons for
this include repeated Saracen raids during the Middle Ages (making the coast
unsafe), widespread pastoral activities inland, and the swampy nature of the
coastal plains (reclaimed only in the present century). The situation today has
changed only to some extent with the expansion of seaside tourism.
The Sardinian dialect, with its subdivision into the Campana, Logudoro, Gallura and Sassari versions, directly descends from a Latin foundation still clearly evident, and over a period of time has been enriched by expressions adopted from the language of the various rulers of the island. In Alghero, the Catalonian influence on the local dialect is extremely marked.
Taken as a whole, Sardinia's economic conditions are such that the island is in a slightly better position than the average southern regions. The greatest economic development has taken place inland, in the provinces of Cagliari and Sassari, characterized by a certain amount of enterprise.
The primary sector is still of outstanding importance, especially goat and sheep rearing (good production of cheeses). Agriculture has been modernized on the Campidano plain (vegetables, especially artichokes), and Sardinian wines are famous. There is little fishing (and no real maritime tradition), but the once prosperous mining industry is still active though restricted to coal (Carbonia, Bacu Abis), antimony (Villasalto), lead and zinc (Iglesiente, Nurra).
The principal industries are chemicals (Cagliari), petrochemicals (Porto Torres, Sarrach), metalworking (S. Antioco, S. Gavino Monreale, Monteponi, Villasalto), cement (Cagliari), papermaking (Arbatax) and food (sugar refineries at Villasor and Oristano). Craft industries include rugs (Barbagia), lacework (Bosa), basketmaking and coral.
Communications are obviously based on links with the continent. The busiest ports are Cagliari, Olbia, Porto Torres, Arbatax, and Palau, and the airports are Cagliari Elmas, Alghero Fertilia and Olbia. The north-south road link through the interior is the highway which connects Sassari and Cagliari.
Basically, tourism in Sardinia is linked to its
extraordinarily beautiful coastline, with a variety of splendours hard to find
elsewhere, and not only in the Mediterranean. Pure white sands alternate with
tiny hidden coves, sheer cliffs frequently soar above magnificent caves and
picturesque rocks rise from a clear sparkling sea facing rugged promontories,
eroded by the wind.
The most important and interesting sights and places, taking S. Teresa di Gallura at the northern tip of the region as a starting point, are as follows: towards the east (the area is described in `Tourist Itineraries') lies Palau, facing La Maddalena and Caprera islands, Baia Sardinia and the famous resorts on the Costa Smeralda; past Olbia, lie S. Teodoro, Cala Liberotto, Marina di Orosei, at the beginning of the wide gulf of that name and Cala Gonone, not far from the famous Bue Marino cave. Past a row of cliffs with pretty beaches, accessible only from the sea, stand S. Maria Navarrese, Arbatax with the red porphyry typical of its Marina, Marina di Gairo and Capo Carbonara. Be yond Cagliari, the visitor reaches S. Margherita, and the recently developed beach resort of the South coast, then beyond the large islands of S. Antioco and S. Pietro, to Portoscuso, and, after a long stretch of littoral, at some points off the beaten track (as so often in this region, the coast road does not always follow the sea) to S. Caterina di Pittinuri and Alghero, a town with interesting artistic and environmental features, especially the Catalonian-Gothic cathedral (16th century), and typical handcrafted coral articles, then a visit to Neptune's grotto.
The inland villages too possess features of interest to the visitor, for example, the Romanesque and Pisan-Romanesque-architecture of the church of S. Pietro di Simbranos (12th century) at Sedini, the churches of S. Michele di Salvenero (12th century), near Ploaghe, solitary S. Pietro di Sorres (12th century), S. Maria del Regno (12th century) at Ardara, SS. Trinita at Saccargia, not far from Codrongianos, Iglesias cathedral (13th century), and S. Pantaleo at Dolianosa.
Of considerable interest are the archaeological areas, most of them characterized by the presence of the typical truncated round towers called nuraghe (and a symbol of the region), perhaps once castles or forts, built by the Nuragh peoples who came to the fore in 1500-800 BC. There are still over seven thousand of these towers scattered all over Sardinia, but the most significant examples are those around Arzachena, at Torralba (the S. Antine nuraghe, 18 m. high, is one of the best preserved) in Sassari Province, at Dorgali in Nuoro Province and close to Barumini (the Su Nuraxi group) in the Province of Cagliari. Scattered all over the territory and belonging to an even earlier period (3000 BC.) are the domus de janas, strange caves dug out of the ground or soft rock, and found in numbers especially at Anghelu Ruiu, near Alghero. The remains of the coastal cities of Tharros, near Oristano and Nora, a few kilomeAtres from Pula (Cagliari), date back to Punic and Roman times.