|Sardinia is the second-largest
island in the Mediterranean. Much of Sardinia away from the coasts
is an almost lunar landscape of crags and chasms and is largely
uninhabited. Muc of the coastline is jagged and rocky, interspersed
with marvellous beaches of very fine sand. Recently there has been
much investment in tourist infrastructure, particularly in the northern
area known as the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast),
which has become a favourite retreat of Italian celebrities, and
on the west coast near Alghero. This is the only
region in Italy without any motorways. The Sardinian language is
closer to Latin than modern Italian is.
The capital stands in a marshy valley in the south of the island.
It was founded by the Phoenicians and subsequently
expanded by the Romans, who knew it as Carales.
Today it is a busy commercial port and site of most of the island’s
The only other towns of any size are Sassari, in
the northwest near the resort area of Alghero,
Nuoro, an agricultural town on the edge of the
central massif, a good base from which to explore the interior,
and Olbia, a fishing port and car-ferry terminus
on the edge of the Costa Smeralda.
There are numerous Bronze Age remains throughout the islands, the
best known being the nuraghi a circular (sometimes
conical) stone dwellings. The largest collection of these may be
found at Su Nuraxi, about 80km (50 miles) north