No longer in use, Sardinian mines are interesting places to visit, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to go when on the island.
The Italian island of Sardinia is geologically rich and has many hidden treasures. Mining in Sardinia has a long history stretching back two thousand years, to the Phoenician and the Roman eras. Seeking gold and silver, zinc and iron, talc, and fluorite, mining in Sardinia has turned up more than gold!
Today, most of the mines have been turned into museums. There is even a Sardinia UNESCO Mining Park. The majority of the mines are located in the Sulcis Iglesiente region, which lies between Carbonia and Iglesias in the southwestern coastal region of Sardinia. However, there are other mines sprinkled throughout the island as well. If a mine hasn’t been turned into a museum, it has instead become a ghost town— an evocative testament to Sardinia’s mining history.
Ready to get digging into the best Sardinian mines and mining museums? As a local, I’m ready to be your guide and unearth all the insider knowledge and best-kept secrets about Sardinian mines. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have a jewel or two to share! Let’s dig deep and cover the top 9 mining sites to explore Sardinia mining history.
9 Must-See Sardinian Mines
The Mines of Argentiera
Argentiera is a ghost town situated close to the Alghero, outside the town of Sassari. It’s in a rugged and somewhat isolated town, lying in a narrow valley on the Sardinian coast. It’s as if time has stood still here. It has captured and crystallized, what an early mining town in the early 19th century was truly like. Argentiera is a perfect snapshot of Sardinia mining history.
The name Argentiera comes from the Italian word for silver— argento. Argentiera has been abandoned ever since the mine closed in 1963. Just a few locals remain in the area to serve the tourists who travel through and run the newly opened museum.
Furthermore, Argentiera is one of the oldest known deposits of lead and silver in Sardinia. Silver was mined at this location by the Romans and Phoenicians. In the 19th century, a Belgian company reopened the mine and built a small town around it. A group of houses, a hospital, and even an aqueduct were built. The architecture, masonry, and wooden structures at Argentiera have an ominous feel. Renovations are still taking place, so do expect to see some red tape here and there! Argentiera is part of the UNESCO Geological Mining Park of Sardinia.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Silver Mining museum – which is an open air museum – was opened only a few years ago, in the fall of 2018. The Argentiera Silver Mining Museum offers free tours to visitors. The museum is open daily from June to September, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. You may want to double check the opening times!
The Mines of Montevecchio
Montevecchio is one of the oldest mining sites in all of Italy. Lying to the southwest of the island, Montevecchio straddles the municipalities of Guspini and Arbus. Situated near the Piscinas dunes and the stunningly beautiful beaches of Costa Verde, a trip to this region isn’t complete without visiting Montevecchio. Most of Montevecchio has been renovated and restored; however, there are still crumbling structures that give it a ghost-town vibe.
The extraction of minerals – predominately silver and zinc – occurred at Montevecchio ever since the Phoenician and Roman eras. However, it was in the year 1842 that modern industrial mining began. During the period of Montevecchio’s peak productivity, over three thousand people inhabited the mining village and complex. Even in the year 1865, just over 20 years after opening, it had over 1,100 mining workers. It was the most important mine in Italy at that time! For reference, the mines of Montevecchio closed and were shuttered up in 1991.
There are five different routes you can take to explore the Montevecchio mining complex.
The information office in Montevecchio, close to the striking management building, is the best place to look for information. You will see that there are tours offered daily. The tours are divided into five different routes. You can pick and choose which ones you’d like to do, or you can opt to do all five!
The five tours are the management building and owner’s residence, a tour of the miner’s homes, and the three other tours focus on the physical operations of the mines, exhibiting the workshops, tools, and methods used to extract minerals from the land. The tours range from 6 to 14 euros, depending on the number of routes you choose to take.
The management building route is one of my favorite routes. The management building was the most prominent building in Montevecchio and once sat directly at its heart. It has lovely classical and Neo-Renaissance architecture and sits close to the humble church of Santa Barbara.
Touring the inside of the management building is quite a treat as the rooms have been lovingly restored. This management building served as the administrative offices and as the home of the mining company owner. Expect to see golden mirrors and even a piano inside! It’s definitely lavish and opulent— perhaps not what you would expect when visiting a mine!
You’ll also not want to miss the Sant’Antonio route to see the giant tower of the extraction well that once transported men and minerals 500 meters up and down!
Lastly, I want to add that Montevecchio is also included as part of the Geological Mining Park of Sardinia and preserved by UNESCO.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Montevecchio mine is open daily from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:30 t0 6:30 pm. You may want to call ahead to book your visit. Tickets cost €12.
The Mines of Ingurtosu
Ingurtosu is one of the eight Sardinian mines included in the UNESCO Geological Mining Park of Sardinia. Ingurtosu was one inhabited by roughly 5000 people and was one of the leading mines for extracting zinc and lead. As one of the largest and most productive mines in Sardinia, Ingurstosu is a behemoth of a mining site! Modern industrial mining began in 1853.
The peak of productivity was between the 19th and 20th centuries, and silver, zinc, and lead were victoriously and profitably extracted from numerous deposits. The Ingurtosu mines were closed in the 1970s after the mining industry collapsed, primarily because of WWII.
The Ingurtosu mines are nestled in the valley of Is Animas, an enormously wild setting amid the rugged Sardinian mountains. Like the previously mentioned mine of Montevecchio, Ingurtosu is close to the dunes of Piscinas and Costa Verde beaches, which lie on the central-western coast of Sardinia.
The name Ingurtosu likely derives from the Italian word for a particular species of vulture—gurturgiu. It possibly has roots in the word inghiottitoio, which can roughly be translated to “ancient excavations.”
Today, Ingurtosu is a deserted village and mining complex that lies in ruins. The mining complex is quite expansive, extending along the whole valley. There are heaps of rusted metal and mining materials, upturned carts, and crumbling houses. It’s nostalgic, bereft, and lonesome.
When visiting Ingurtosu, make sure to visit the Palace of Direction, often simply referred to as the Castle. It was constructed in 1870 out of granite in the style of a medieval castle. This “castle” was the management building and served as the administrative office as well as somewhat of a watchtower – a place to look out over the miner’s villages, the church, cemetery, hospital, post office, and the village shops.
If you’re an avid bicyclist or outdoor adventurer, there is a popular mountain bike tour that will lead you down the Sardinian coast to see the mines! You’ll begin in Ingurtosu, bike to Piscinas, then travel on to Montevecchio on the trail of coal miners. Then you’ll bicycle back to Ingurtosu on a trail that connects the two mines. It takes about four and a half hours to complete and covers roughly 43 kilometers.
Porto Flavia and the Masua Mines
Porto Flavia is a 600-meter long tunnel dug directly out of the rock by miners; it floats halfway up a cliff! The mine of Porto Flavia is located in the area of Iglesias on the southwestern coast of Sardinia. Moreover, it is built into the seaside cove of Masua. This port, built directly onto a cliffside, was constructed between 1923 and 1924. It was a daring feat that made loading minerals onto ships from the mines much more efficient and cost-effective.
Essentially, this port was built by miners to transport zinc, lead, silver, and even coal, sulphuric, and barium to ships and steamboats headed to Northern European countries. Engineering these tunnels reduced both the time and cost of transportation. It was—and still is— an architectural wonder.
There are actually two tunnels, one right on top of the other, with a myriad of silos inside that can house up to 10,000 tons of minerals and materials. The tunnel on top was where minerals were loaded. They were then shifted to the tunnel on the bottom by a conveyor belt that was able to move minerals onto boats via a movable arm. Given that this was built in the early 1920s, it was truly a singular, extraordinary engineering wonder.
While Porto Flavia is the name of the sea harbor itself and the tunnels leading up to it, the mines are technically called the Masua mines. They had been active since the middle of the 19th century and declined in the 1930s until the mines closed in the 1990s.
When visiting Porto Flavia, expect to witness a unique complex and mining village on the steep mountainside of Punta Cortes. You’ll see a church, hospital, school, and homes all perched at various heights on this rocky slope. The Masua Mines are also home to the Museum of Mining Machinery, which has approximately 70 mining machines on display!
There is also plenty of equipment and tools on display. After you take a tour and learn all you could ever want to know about Porto Flavia and the Masua Mines, plan on relaxing on the nearby beach, which offers you breathtaking views of the coast and sparkling, crystal-clear Mediterranean waters.
Keep in mind that you will want to book tickets in advance for your tour, as this is a highly popular mine to visit! The tour is very engaging, and you’ll get to explore the mines donning a mining helmet. At the tail end of the tour, you’ll get to hang out on the terrace, which gives sweeping views of the sea and is also the best place to see the famous giant white rock islet, Pan di Zucchero.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Porto Flavia is open daily for guided tours from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 4:00 to 8:00 pm June to September, and Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 3:30 to 6:30 am October to May. Tickets cost €10 and must be booked online before visiting, or bought directly on the tourism office in Iglesias or on the site. Unfortunately the website is quite confusing as to how to buy tickets, so you may be off with the following options:
- Porto Flavia mine and natural beauty tour – an excellent tour of one of the most impressive mines in Sardinia.
- Porto Flavia tour – this great tour also goes to the nearby beaches.
The Mines of Nebida – Laveria Lamarmora
Situated in the far southwestern area of Sardinia, approximately 15 kilometers from Iglesias, you’ll find the Nebida Mine, one of the most impressive Sardinian mines. For reference, just three kilometers away is Porto Flavia and the Masua Mines.
The Nebida Mine was once a flourishing hub, housing 3,000 people by the year 1910! Today, Nebida is home to just 100 people, but all of them live outside of the Laveria Lamarmora ruins. Laveria Lamarmora is technically the full and proper name of the Nebida Mines. The Laveria Lamarmora was built right into the cliffside of the mountain. Therefore, the structures are all layered in tiers that cascade down the mountainside. It’s bizarre and utterly miraculous.
The Laveria Lamarmora mine hit its peak in production in the 1930s, then declined during the great mining crisis of the 1970s. That was when people started streaming out from the town of Nebida, relocating to other areas to find work and build new lives.
When you visit the Nebida Laveria Lamarmora, you’ll walk along a panoramic path that will lead you down a steep—and quite long— flight of steps, rewarding you with unparalleled views of the coast. The stairs are rough and made from stone, so mind your step! At the bottom, you will come to the remains of the Laveria Lamarmora coal washer and the processing plant, which has multiple ovens and chimneys. It is quite a photogenic spot.
You can park your car in the free car park at the top of the mountain and walk as far down as you wish. You are welcome to take your dog with you, but keep in mind that the steps are quite steep, so dogs must be nimble!
No tours are offered, so you are free to explore to your heart’s content! Bring water with you and be prepared for the Sardinian sunshine and heat.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Laveria Lamarmora is free to visit.
The Mines of Serbariu
The mines of Serbariu are located in the district of Carbonia, in the southwest of Sardinia. While all of the Sardinian mines I’ve talked about thus far have been geared towards silver, lead, and other minerals, the mines of Serbariu were solely focused on coal. The coal basin covered 33 hectares of land and had 100 kilometers of tunnels. There were a total of nine coal extraction wells.
Given that the coal mines of Serbariu were so expansive and productive, Sardinia had to recruit workers from mainland Italy during the mid-1930s. In total, 16,000 miners lived in Carbonia to work in the mines! It was by far the largest mine in Sardinia.
While the mines were shut down in 1971, the whole mining complex was shuttered until 2006, when it was reopened to the public as a museum. The Coal Museum seeks to represent and reveal the world of coal mining. There are highly specialized and unique exhibits like the “lamp room,” which features an enormous collection of mining lamps. The Coal Museum shows films and video interviews of miners, as well. When visiting the Coal Museum, expect to be thoroughly educated and entertained! You can also strap on a helmet and go underground into the mine itself.
If you were wondering, the Coal Mining Museum features displays and information in English. The guides also offer tours in English, just in case you don’t speak Italian!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 or 7:00 pm depending on the season. Make sure to book your visit by calling +39 0781 62727. Tickets cost €8.
The Mines of Naracauli & Laveria Brassey
Around the year 1900, an English nobleman by the name of Lord Thomas Allnutt Brassy built a mining company that was operational near the Sardinian city of Arbus, called the Mines of Naracauli. Lord Brassey also built a large mineral treatment plant, commonly referred to as Laveria Brassey. While there are just a few remnants of the structures left, restoration has been occurring over the last decade. They sure have their work cut out for them as once the mines closed in the 1970s, it was largely demolished.
Laveria Brassey was meant for processing a blend of minerals – namely, zinc, gallium, indium, and cadmium. This blend was then mechanically treated with a washing technique meant to clean and separate the minerals from the debris.
Upon entering the Mines of Naracauli and Laveria Brassey, you will be taken aback by the imposing edifices, the weathered stones, and the colossal skeletal remains. These impressive ruins of the mining plant are yours to explore – they certainly are among the must-see Sardinian mines. There are no tours and no guides on site. You are free to wander around the ruins as you like and bask in the grandiose deserted remains.
I recommend planning on roughly 90 minutes to explore this abandoned mine and ghost town. Weaving in and out of buildings and meandering along the pathways while taking your time is the best way to experience the Mines of Naracuali.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The mines of Naracauli and Laveria Brassey are currently free to visit.
The Monteponi Mine
The Monteponi Mine and mining complex is one of the most interesting Sardinian mines. It can be found approximately two kilometers west of Iglesias. Mineral extraction of lead, silver, and zinc began around 1324 and continued until 1992. In 1992, the mining operation was moved across the Valley to Campo Pisano. While the Monteponi mine and complex are now abandoned, guided tours will lead you through an underground tunnel through the mine’s shafts of Pozzo Vittorio Emanuele and Pozzo Sella.
The Monteponi Mine and its complex are very urban, compared to the other Sardinian mines. It’s not dilapidated or decrepit, but remarkably well-preserved. It’s less evocative of times past and feels more representative of the present era. As the other mines in Sardinia fell into collapse in the 1970s and the Monteponi Mine lasted all the way until 1992 until the operation was relocated, it is certainly more modern in architecture and design!
Lastly, I wanted to add that if you are a rock and mineral enthusiast, the Monteponi Mine also harvested some highly unique and stunning stones, like Phosgenite and Anglesite. Examples of such Monteponi minerals can be found at museums throughout the world, such as the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in the United States.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: When I visited the Monteponi Mine, tickets were 10 euros a person, and you have to book in advance. If you don’t, you might find everything is closed, or there isn’t availability for you to hop on any other tours. Thus, you’ll find it difficult to explore much of the mining complex, and you won’t be allowed in the tunnels. The best place to ask for information is the tourism office in Iglesias.
The Mine of Su Suergiu – Villasalto
Su Suergiu Villasalto was the main mining site for antimony in Sardinia. Antimony is a lustrous gray metalloid that has numerous uses, from batteries and printing presses to bullets. Antimony can also be powdered and used in cosmetics, glass, paints, or enamels. It can even be used as a flame-retardant!
The mine of Su Suergiu Villasalto was operational for just over a century—between 1880 and 1987. During WWI and WWII, the mines of Su Suergiu produced 90% of Italy’s antimony stores, which was used for ammunition, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.
Villasalto is a town in the southeastern region of Sardina that is surrounded in dense woods. When you drive up to the mines, you’ll be led down a long avenue lined with enormous pine trees. At the end of the avenue, you’ll come to a 19th-century managerial building that is now home to the Archaeological Mining Museum. This museum features fantastic exhibits of minerals, tools, machines, and materials from all phases of the mineral extraction and production process. Moreover, there is a foundry to tour and workshops to see!
Many of the buildings in the complex have been well preserved or carefully restored and are quite elegant. There is an Art Nouveau styled villa with striking Corinthian arches and delicate friezes. Su Suergiu is a white-washed complex that has not fallen into disrepair. Nestled among massive amounts of greenery and forests, the small, rectangular structures starkly stand out amid the verdant greenery blanketing the mountainside. It definitely is one of the most interesting Sardinian mines.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum opens at 10 am daily; however, reservations are recommended! To make a reservation at Su Suergiu, simply email email@example.com
Further readings about Sardinia
Make sure to check out my other posts about Sardinia:
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia
- A Guide To Nuraghe In Sardinia
- The Most Interesting Archeological Sites In Sardinia
- The Most Incredible Day Trips From Cagliari
- The 12 Best Museums In Sardinia
- What You Should Know Before Traveling To Sardinia