6 Fun Facts About Sardinia

How many interesting and trivia facts about Sardinia do you know?

Everybody knows about Sardinia’s heavenly beaches and crystal-clear waters, and most are also aware of the incredible stubbornness and kindness of the locals. But there is a lot of information that’s not directly related to tourism and is, therefore, less known.

You surely know about Sardinia’s Nuragic civilization and the unique ruins these people left behind – I have written about it extensively on this blog. So now, I want to share some random facts about Sardinia. Let’s see how many things you already knew!

facts about Sardinia

The Most Interesting Facts About Sardinia

It could be a small continent of its own

Sardinia has its specific climate conditions that sometimes make the scientists classify this island as a micro-continent. There are some areas where the unique weather and temperature conditions have caused the origin of one-of-a-kind environments, with local fauna and flora that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Some examples are su Gorropu Canyon (the deepest canyon in Europe) between Orgosolo and Urzulei, the Ispinigoli Cave Complex nearby Dorgali, and several swamps such as Bidderosa in Orosei or Su Stani Saliu in Serdiana. Moreover, there are some animals such as eagles and – probably – monk seals that still live in some secluded areas of the island.

Another factor that makes Sardinia special is its geology: compared to the rest of Italy, the rocks and the volcanic activity of the island are dated way, way earlier. While the Italian Peninsula is still sometimes subject to earthquakes and other cataclysms, Sardinia’s underground is rather stable.

The island is in fact more ancient than the “mainland”: you can clearly see it if you observe Sardinia’s mountains and compare them to the taller, pointier Alps that have formed millennia later.

The fact that Sardinia is such an ancient land has made some scholars think that it could be the lost continent of Atlantis!

Check out my post The Most Interesting Sardinia Myths And Legends.

It has been ruled by several civilizations

Sardinia has an excellent geographic position, right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea: this has made the island an important base for business and military activities since very ancient times. The local Nuragic populations were already skilled with sailing and even used to be pirates, but the first outsiders to ever set a colony in Sardinia were the Phoenicians.

Some of their biggest cities, like Nora (nearby Cagliari) and Tharros (just some kilometers from Oristano) are still standing and can be visited – this is also because, after the Phoenician, the Punic and Romans used the same areas to live and strengthen their grip over the island.

While the Punic kept mainly living off trade nearby the coasts, the Romans dared to venture deeper in the mountains, all the way to Barbagia – where they met strenuous opposition from the locals – which took several decades to be conquered. A big chunk of the road system we still use was built by the Romans and only renewed as time passed and improvements were needed.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, several Barbarian populations came and invaded the land, which was plagued by pirates for centuries. During the Giudicati era, Sardinia was heavily influenced by Pisa and Genoa which constantly tried to overthrow each other with treaties and small riots.

After that, the island was ruled by the Spanish, the Aragonese, and the Catalan – all in different areas where their influence is still clear – and then became part of the Savoy Kingdom until the creation of modern Italy.

Head over to my post The History Of Sardinia.

facts about Sardinia

It’s been a land of shepherds since the beginning of time

Sardinians have lived off sheep (and goat) herding since pre-historic times, and the activity is still a big part of the Island’s economy and culture nowadays, especially on the hinterland. Some sheep species are only found in Sardinia. There also are several foods based on goat and sheep that couldn’t be more “traditional” and even festivals dedicated to this activity – mainly to show off and taste the cheese and other goods and drink some wine together.

Many traditional carnival costumes are also made with sheep wool or goat fur. If you happen to be in Mamoiada, I recommend you visit the Museum of Mediterranean Masks so that you can appreciate Sardinian folklore to its fullest and know more about it.

If you look for the definition of Nuragic people on the Internet, many sites say that they were “warrior-shepherds” which ironically sums up two of the main features of the locals, their traditional activities and their infamous belligerence.

It has its own language

Although many think of it as a simple dialect, Sardinian is officially recognized as a language and is protected as a minority one. The reason for this is that, compared to other Italian dialects, Sardinian has its proper grammar rules, lexicon and has developed autonomously for centuries before the country became part of Italy. There even are dialects of Sardinian: this makes it a whole language with its variations.

Since it’s a language that’s being forgotten – young people don’t know it as well as the older generations – there are programs to teach it at school; some guided tours are also held in Sardinian; and there is a general effort to preserve this unique language, which is still considered quite a symbol of the island identity and authenticity.

Read my post The Language Of Sardinia.

Some people speak Catalan or Tabarkine

Since Sardinia was ruled by several different countries during the centuries, it comes with no surprise that some of them left quite an impact on some parts of the Island. Alghero is an excellent example of the foreign influence on a city.

If you stroll down the streets, you will clearly notice how the buildings, their arrangement and decorations, and just the general feeling are different from any other Sardinian city. This is because Alghero was the stronghold of the Catalans on the island and is still a special Catalan municipality.

If you listen carefully, you will also notice another thing: the language is different! In Alghero, many people don’t commonly speak Catalan (though don’t worry: everyone speaks Italian, and many also speak English). This shows how deeply rooted the conquerors were during their time there.

Another – smaller – part of Sardinia where they speak another language is Carloforte. Here, they speak a variation of the Genoese dialect, called Tabarkine. The name recalls the island of Tabarka, nearby Tunisia, where the Genoese had built a colony to farm and trade corals and other goods.

Unfortunately, at some point, the island became dangerous because of the continuous pirates’ incursions and the people living there had to run away and seek shelter somewhere else. Carloforte became their new home and their descendants still speak the dialect nowadays.


It has one of the few primary forests left in Europe

You might be wondering what a primary forest is. This is a forest that hasn’t been influenced or touched by human hand, and therefore exists in its original status. It is, for obvious reasons, a very rare thing in the modern world, but there are some areas in Sardinia where, incredibly, nature has never been touched by anything.

The Supramonte area – nearby Orgosolo – is home to Sas Vaddes Forest, one of these incredible places where no man – at least in recent times – has ever stepped foot. You will need a jeep to get there and a guide to get around, and the only trace of civilization you will meet will be some nuraghe ruins, from an era when humankind wasn’t a menace for the ecosystem.

Here, the only things you can see are secular trees and the local, shy animals. Many parts of the forest can’t be explored to preserve its state.

Another feature that’s common in Sardinia but really rare in other parts of Europe is the secular olive trees. They can be found inside several forests and are, to put it simply, huge. Some are thought to have lived thousands of years and are among the symbols of the island. One of the most famous ones is the Luras Olive in Gallura: it is said to be 4000 years old!

How many facts about Sardinia did you already know?

Further Readings

For more facts about Sardinia, make sure to read the following posts:

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Discover the most interesting facts about Sardinia - via @c_tavani

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