If you are planning a trip to Southern Sardinia, you should make it a point to pay a visit to Porto Flavia., for this is one of the most unique, breathtaking places to visit on the island, and truly one of a kind in the world.

This masterpiece of engineering is located near Nebida, in the province of Iglesias, in the South of Sardinia and at about 1.5 hours drive from Cagliari; and it can be accessed by road from Masua, one of the nicest beaches in the area.

In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about it, including some useful tips that will help you plan your visit and make the most of it.

Porto Flavia
Porto Flavia as seen from the sea

The History Of Porto Flavia

As I have explained in my post 9 Sardinian Mines You Should Visit, throughout history mining has had an important role in Sardinia. The ore mines of Masua were active since the early 1600s, but it was at the beginning of the 20th century that the extraction peak was reached. However, while mining was growing fast, transporting the extracted minerals was proving to be difficult – time consuming and costly.

Porto Flavia was built right on a cliff directly facing the sea in 1924, in order to allow miners to load ore directly on cargo ships, cutting the times spent transporting and loading the material by a significant amount.

Before that, ore was loaded on small boats that arrived in the beaches near Masua from Carloforte, a small town in San Pietro Island. The sea in this part of Sardinia is often quite rough, so the journey back and forth often proved dangerous, and the process of fully loading a steamship with ore would at times take weeks – and as a result it was extremely costly.

It was Italian engineer Cesare Vecelli who, after carefully investigating the coast around Masua, decided to build a port directly into the cliff, connecting it to the mine via two tunnels, one above the other and each measuring around 610 meters (2000 feet), so that the extracted minerals could be loaded directly onto boats.

Construction of Porto Flavia started in 1923 and took less than two years. The tunnels were connected by nine vertical shafts which were also used to store ore. An electric train was installed in the upper tunnel to transport ore from the mine. This was then lowered to the storage and then unloaded onto a belt in the lower tunnel. The belt protruded from the tunnel at 15 meters (50 feet) above the water. Loading a cargo ship with this system would only be a matter of a few days – much less than it had been till then. And costs were cut by 70%.

The concrete tower, the arched doorway and windows were added to the construction to give the harbor a touch of beauty.

Vecelli named the port after his daughter, Flavia, who was born in 1924.

Porto Flavia was finally closed in the 1990s, following the decline of the mining industry in Sardinia which started in the 1960s. It’s now managed by IGEA SpA, a public company that aims and restoring and preserving old mining plants, and it’s part of the Parco Geominerario of Sardinia, which is striving to achieve UNESCO recognition.

Porto Flavia
The entrance of Porto Flavia

Practical Information For Visiting Porto Flavia

Guided Tours

Porto Flavia is open every day from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm from April to October; and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm from November to March. The site can only be visited on guided tours that depart hourly from the site. Tours are available in Italian and English.

Porto Flavia tours cost €10 and last approximately two hours. They must be booked in advance either from the Tourism Office located in Piazza del Municipio in Iglesias, or online here or here.

Once you book your Porto Flavia tour, you will be assigned a time for your visit and will have to stick to that as no more than 25 visitors at once are permitted. Make sure to show up at the gate around 20 minutes before your tour is meant to depart. Opening times vary depending on the season so you may want to check the website of Iglesias Tourism Office for that.

If you are traveling from Cagliari and don’t have your own car, you may want to consider joining a guided tour that also includes stops in the nearby Nebida to visit the beautiful Laveria Lamarmora. You can book your day trip here.

If you are looking for a more active experience, you may want to consider this guided hike that visits Laveria Lamarmora and stops in five beautiful beaches where you can swim and relax. You can book it here.

Dress Code

For safety reasons, you will be required to observe a specific dress code and should you not abide by it, you won’t be allowed to enter the site. Make sure to be fully dressed and to wear closed shoes for your visit. Sandals, hiking sandals and flip flops aren’t deemed acceptable.

Strollers aren’t permitted.

Masua Pan di Zucchero
Masua is a great access point to visit Porto Flavia

The Best Views of Porto Flavia

While a tour of Porto Flavia certainly is an incredible experience, the best photos of the site are not actually taken during the tour.

As I have said before, Porto Flavia is right by Masua beach. While you can’t see Porto Flavia from the beach, you can easily see it from the sea. If you are the active kind, you can either rent a kayak, a SUP or a paddle boat from the beach kiosk in Masua beach and go all the way there – make sure to bring your Go-Pro as you will want to take photos!

If you prefer something a bit easier, opt for one of the boat trips that depart directly from the beach every couple of hours.

Masua Pan di Zucchero
Remains of the old mines in Masua Pan di Zucchero beach

Other Useful Information

Masua is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, so you may want to combine your Porto Flavia tour with a day at the beach, relaxing, swimming in the clear waters and admiring the gorgeous “faraglione” (stack) of Pan di Zucchero (literally “sugarloaf”).

Linger long enough and you will also be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunsets in Sardinia.

The beach is equipped with a kiosk where you can rent anything you may need for a day, and where you will find an excellent restaurant that serves delicious food prepared with local ingredients. You can either eat in or take away – but if you are planning to eat dinner, make sure to book in advance.

Further readings

Are you planning a trip to Sardinia? Make sure to read my other posts:

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