The island of Sardinia, in the centre of the western Mediterranean sea, has an area of 9,301 square miles (24,090 km²). The territory is mainly mountainous, and there are four large gulfs along the coastline: the Gulf of Cagliari, Oristano, Orosei and Asinara. The climate is mild, not too cold in the winter time and fairly hot in the summer. Rainfalls tend to occur mainly between November and Februray, generally associated with storms. The most common winds are mistral (“maestrale”, cool and dry), and sirocco (“scirocco”, hot and damp). There are approx. 1,644,000 persons living on the Island, mainly in the Cagliari area.
Sardinia is a very ancient land, set on a rock basement which connects it to the island of Corsica. The most ancient rocks, which are metamorphic, date back to the Paleozoic era, (570-225 million years ago). Gennargentu’s schistose rocks, granite, made of consolidated melted rock, limestone formations and lignite, of vegetal origin, originated later on. Sardinia and Corsica broke away from the European continent during Oligocene (38-26 million years ago), moving to their present position. Afterwards, volcanic activity originated basalitic flows, as the Campidano plain was filled by alluvial deposits.
Sardinia offers a varied landscape, along the coast and the inland: the coastline is approx. 1,185 miles long (1,897 km). Long, sandy beaches alternate with inlets; some of the most enchanting cliffs are between Nebida and Masua (CA), on the “Griffons Coast”, between Bosa (NU) and Alghero (SS), and in the Orosei Gulf (NU). Sand dunes, which originated 1 million years ago, extend in some areas.
10 % of Italy’s damp areas are in Sardinia: there are lagoons (connected to the sea) and ponds (with no connection to the sea): Santa Gilla and Molentargius in Cagliari and Santa Giusta and Cabras in Oristano are some of the most important ones.
Campidano and Nurra, both of alluvial origin, are the largest plains in the Island; the most frequent geological formations are plateaux, which can be granitic, volcanic (black in colour), or calcareous, like “tacchi” or “toneri”, common in Belvì, Seulo, Sarcidano and Ogliastra (NU).
The Island does not have very high mountains: in the heart of the Island there is the Gennargentu range, where Punta la Marmora rises to 1,834 m, followed by the limestone area of Supramonte. Monte Limbara (1,359 m) in Gallura and Serpeddì (1,069 m) and Sette Fratelli (1,023 m) in south-eastern Sardinia are other important mountains.
Water courses are usually torrential, with a high water volume in the winter; the longest rivers are Tirso (150 km) and Flumendosa (127 km). Sardinia’s lakes are artificial, created with dams (Omodeo and Coghinas are the largest ones); Baratz, close to Alghero (SS), is the only natural lake.
Pictures, from the top:
– Pan di Zucchero, a large limestone rock off the Iglesias coastline (CA) (M. Vacca)
– Perda Liana, limestone tower between Ogliastra and Barbagie (NU) (P. Rinaldi)