Bed and Breakfast Sardinia: The Island

Sardinia: History

Sardinia, almost a continent” was the title of a book published in the 1960s. It is perhaps the most efficient description of this marvellous island that is unique both for its nature and for its culture.

Sardinia's origins reach back thousands of years. The island was first settled between 450,000 to 150,000 years ago. The first inhabitants arrived over a land bridge that stretched from Tuscany to Corsica, which was still connected to our island.

A succession of prehistoric cultures left extraordinary monuments such as Dolmens, Menhirs, Domus de Janas ('fairy homes'), Tombe dei Giganti ('giants tombs'), and sacred wells. This evolution culminated, around 1700 b.c., in the rise of the Nuragic civilisation.

This people of shepherd-warriors take their name from nuraghi, the enormous conic stone towers that they built throughout the territory. Traces of about 7000 nuraghi and nuragic villages of varying complexity have been found. Although experts still wrangle over the purpose of the nuraghi: military, civil or religious, it is nevertheless certain they are the largest, most significant and best preserved megalithic monuments in Europe.

In 1997 UNESCO placed the nuraghi and the nuragic civilisation on its World Heritage list. The main and best preserved nuraghi include Su Nuraxi (Barumini), SantuAntine (Torralba), Nuraghe Losa (Abbasanta), Palmavera (Alghero), Genna Maria (Villanovaforru), Santa Cristina (Paulilatino).

Around 1000 b.c. the Phoenicians reached the coasts of Sardinia and founded several major trading ports. Under the Carthaginians, from the 5th century b.c., the city of Karalis, present-day Cagliari, quickly developed along with the port settlements of Nora (Pula), Sulky (Sant’Antioco), Bithia(Chia) and Tharros (Oristano).



At the end of the Second Punic War, after a long battle the Romans conquered Sardinia. Despite Sardinian resistance, the Romans ruled over the island for 700 long years. After the fall of Rome, the island was turned over to the Vandals followed by the Byzantines. Although the Byzantine rule led to very few changes in the social structure, it did have a strong religious influence, converting the Sardinians to Christianity. The most obvious sign of Byzantine influence still seen today is the Ardia, a horse race dedicated to the worship of SantuAntine (Saint Constantine), which takes place each year on 6 July in Sedilo.

In the 9th century, at the end of the dark period when the Vandals and then the rulers of Constantinople had finally left, Sardinia declared independence and divided the territory into four 'Giudicati': Torres, Cagliari, Gallura and Arborea.

During the period of Arab incursions the Marine Republics of Genoa and Pisa offered assistance. This had a twofold result: Pisa's trade ascendancy over the Sardinian merchants and a clear Tuscan influence in the island's Romanesque architecture. The most beautiful and exemplary churches are the Basilica della Santissima Trinità di Saccargia in Codrongianos, the Cattedrale di San Pietro di Sorres in Borutta and the Cattedrale di Santa Giusta in Oristano. A visit to Cagliari must include the charming Castello quarter, with its fortifications built by the Pisans, and its towers Torre di San Pancrazio e la Torre dell’Elefante.

Starting from the 14th century, with the Aragon domination in Sardinia the Romanesque style gave way to Spanish Gothic architecture. A prime example is the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Bonaria in Cagliari.

In 1713, after 400 years of Spanish occupation, Sardinia came under the Hapsburgs. However the 1720 Treaty of London handed Sardinia to Savoy and Vittorio Amedeo II officially became the king of Sardinia. This was the start of difficult times of struggles and attempted insurrections, until 1861 when Sardinia became a key part of the Kingdom of Italy.

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