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Northern Sardinia

"The awakening of the senses"

A one of a kind territory, witness of an antique geology and inhabited since the dawn of Prehistory, resting on a granitic platform, the coasts of which are characterized by ancient river valleys now submerged beneath the sea. Our area is home to the most beautiful beaches in the world, with multifaceted rock shapes, and is covered by a  typically Mediterranean flora, the intense natural scents of which fill the air all around...here is Northern Sardinia, a land praised by many as Paradise on earth.

Geography and points of interest
 
Northern Sardinia was once politically divided into two counties, and its territory was mostly the one of today's provinces of Olbia/Tempio and Sassari: "Torres County" also named Logudoro, and "The County" also named Kingdom of Gallura. Turris city (nowadays called Porto Torres) was the very first capital of the former, later replaced by Ardara, and finally by Sassari.
The capital town of the kingdom of Gallura was Olbia.
The North-Eastern portion of the Sardinian island is named Gallura, with the Coghinas river as western boundary, its southern boundary being the Limbara mountain massif, and finally the Monte Nieddu massif on the south-eastern side, located in the territory of San Teodoro.

The territory of Gallura also includes the worldly famous Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) at the eastern side of the Island, located in the Arzachena city hall. The main cities are Olbia, Tempio Pausania, Arzachena, La Maddalena.
The main  connecting locations are the port of Olbia and the international Olbia - Costa Smeralda airport.
The rich historical sub-area of Sassari includes  the entire North western area of the Island, called the Plain of Nurra, with its  main cities of Sassari, Alghero and Porto Torres. The main port is Porto Torres while the airport is Alghero Fertilia.
Northern Sardinia has 2 main airports: Olbia Costa Smeralda and Alghero Fertilia.
The airport of Olbia is ranked among the first in Europe for the volume of its civilian traffic developed by the general aviation named "Eccelsa".
The main sea ports in the area are: Olbia (that is fourth in the national classification of civilian ports), Porto Torres, Golfo Aranci and Santa Teresa di Gallura.
In the Gallura region there are several touristic ports for recreational tourism: Porto Cervo, Porto Rotondo, Portisco, Poltu Quatu, Cannigione, Palau, the Marina of Olbia, Cala Bitta.
In 2012 the province of Olbia/Tempio won the first place on the Nautical Quality Index issued by the National Nautical Observatory, which examines the 62 Italian nautical provinces in terms of service quality offered to the pleasure boaters.

Imagine you have just landed at the Olbia Costa Smeralda airport. As soon as the plane doors open you will be overwhelmed by the scent of the vegetation; mainly between April and June a mixture of the typical wild and intense perfumes of the Mediterranean vegetation will fill the air, delighting your senses.
90% of the many white sandy beaches are surrounded by coastal ponds and lagoons, a common feature to most of the island, representing as a whole 10% of the National Humid Areas Patrimony.
In spring, that is from March to June, take your time to visit around the area; it is advisable to hire a car, even an economy one, even better if you choose a convertible top vehicle, and with the right itinerary you will find yourselves driving through a natural art gallery, with the spectacular granitic rocks carefully and patiently shaped by the wind and the sea. From the Granitic Towers in San Pantaleo to the Mushroom-shaped rock in Arzachena, from the Bear-shaped rock in Palau to the giant rocks embedding Aggius.
You can hire a car at the Olbia international airport or in Porto Cervo and drive towards Porto Rotondo, Olbia and then keep going towards the coastal road to Golfo Aranci, where you will enjoy a unique panorama, with the islands of Tavolara and Capo Figari in the background.
Once  you are on the road let the sight guide you, reach the high spots like Monte Pinu in Olbia or Liscia di Vacca in Porto Cervo, for example.
On the way to Palau through the road crossing Cannigione you can enjoy the sight of the Bear-shaped rock, mentioned by the famous astronomer Ptolemy but also deemed as the possible site where Homer's Ulysses stepped into the land of the Laestrygonians.
The roads of northern Sardinia and in particular the one connecting San Pantaleo to Porto Cervo, the port of Palau, the roads of Capo Caccia near Alghero and the ones around Santa Teresa di Gallura, all have been featured in the movie of the James Bond saga "The spy who loved me" (1976).
Once you reach Santa Teresa di Gallura keep going towards Castelsardo and drive till Stintino or Alghero. On the way back take the highway to Castelsardo and once you reach Trinità d'Agultu aim towards  the heart of Gallura: Luogosanto and Aggius in an amazing rock-and-vegetation wild scenery.
Gallura is ranked first in Sardinia for the high concentration of touristic farm businesses, where you can tickle your palate with astounding dishes of the millennial traditional Sardinian cuisine, made of tasty, healthy and genuine natural food.
Choose to devote some days to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Sardinian nature from panoramic road views, other days to discover the several pre-historical sites from the Nuragic and Pre-Nuragic era, and some others for the encounter with our traditional cuisine made of taste and perfumes.

During the summer time, why not change your perspective and admire Sardinia from the sea? Some of the best spots are the islands of Tavolara and Molara, Capo Figari and Figarolo, Capo Coda Cavallo and Punta Molara, the island of Mortorio and Camere, The Maddalena archipelago up to Santa Teresa di Gallura, while on the North western side you can admire the Asinara island, Capo Caccia and Alghero that will surely impress you greatly.
Bathing in crystal clear sea waters and visiting the most beautiful beaches of our planet will surely leave you with a feeling of wonder.

Tourism. From the fifties till today

Tourism in Northern Sardinia started with the touristic boom in the fifties, near Alghero and its "Coral Coastline", although the big hit happened a decade later while Mr Miller, an Executive of the World Bank, came to visit the area to assess the results of the worldwide program to defeat malaria. During that trip Mr Miller happened to visit an enchanted area of Gallura named Cala di Volpe located in the city hall of Arzachena, and was instantly struck by its beauty. He then started inquiring about the cost of the land there and once back in London he introduced the wonders of that place to various businessmen, among which was Karim Aga Khan. He finally managed to convince them to invest in the area. In less than a year the group of investors purchased a large portion of the coastline. In his second visit Karim Aga Khan arrived in Olbia by ferry boat as a simple traveller, since he wished to witness with his own eyes the fame of such beauty. He was also struck by the breathtaking beauty, and finally decided to invest an impressive amount of capitals together with a group of wealthy investors.
In those times there were only two ways to reach Gallura: by sea through the port of Olbia, or by air through Alghero Fertilia airport.
Events followed one another at lightning speed in the early sixties. The Costa Smeralda Consortium was set in 1962, and in the same year the dam on the Liscia river was completed.
In 1963  Alisarda airline was born and  the port of Porto Cervo completed as well as  its very first hotel facilities.
In 1967  the Yacht Club was founded and the Pevero Golf Club planned, while in 1968 the first regional urban planning law was issued.
The new born Alisarda airline started its flights reserved to strictly selected elite customers, making use of the military airport strip of Vena Fiorita in the outskirts of Olbia. In 1974 the new Olbia Costa Smeralda airport was inaugurated.
The importance and strategic positioning of the "Costa Smeralda" airport within the world touristic elite context has had a flywheel effect on the Sardinian  touristic industry since then. Furthermore, the word "Costa Smeralda" also identifies a peculiar taste for the furniture, which often emulates shapes and colours from the Sardinian traditional furniture.
Costa Smeralda also means a great care for the green areas and for the environment in general, since the Ismaelite Prince and a number of wealthy tourists have been fascinated by the pristine harshness of that area.
As a result, many Chiefs of State, wealthy businessmen and movie stars, choose to spend their summer holidays in the worldly famous Costa Smeralda.

 

History
 
This area has been particularly welcoming for human beings since the pre-nuragic era thanks to the extraordinary settlement opportunities it offered. Archaeological discoveries witness a human presence in the area dating back to the Neolithic age. Indeed many are the monuments proving this fact, i.e. the prehistoric tombs, named "Domus de Janas", of the necropolis "Anghelu Ruju" between Alghero and Porto Torres, or the "Nuraghes" in the area of Arzachena, but also the finding of ceramic fragments in Porto Rotondo, or the wall paintings on the so called Pope’s cave on the Tavolara island.
Near Olbia you can easily reach the following sites: tombs of "Su Monte e S'Abe" located near the Castle of Pedres, dating back to the Nuragic era but built on a previous tombstone construction dating back to the Bronze Age; the Sacred Well of "Sa Testa" on the road between Pittulongu beach and Golfo Aranci; the Nuraghe of "Rio Mulinu" in Cabu Abbas; the Nuraghe "Putzolu" also called "Lu Naracu" in the locality named Putzolu, as well as the nuragic village named "Belveghile", the Nuraghe "Mannazzu" in Maltana, and the Nuraghe "Siana o Zucchitta".

 

Olbia
 
The local history shows that in the ages the area of Gallura has been invaded and conquered by many people of different culture, such as Fenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and Vandals. These raids used mainly Olbia as their entrance point because of its peculiar geographic position and its natural port, which is the longest in the Mediterranean.
Olbia was built on a submerged river valley, which is the common feature of the whole north eastern area up to Santa Teresa di Gallura. Many scholars argue that Olbia is the only town in Sardinia to have been inhabited by the Greeks, between 630 and  520 b.C., while others declare that the Greeks carried out in Olbia one among the oldest urban projects in Europe, based on an already existing city.
Meanwhile we are certain of the origin of the name "Olbia", which means "happy" in Greek, because of the wonderful opportunities available in the area and favourable to a human settlement.
Remains of the Punic period can be seen in Via Torino, Via Acquedotto and Via Nanni. The Punic city once extended between Via Torino, Via Asproni and Piazza Matteotti.
The first big naval battle in the western sea has been fought between Etruscan and Punic warships, scholars say. It took place between the Gulf of Olbia and Corsica and is called the battle of the Sardinian Sea or also the battle of Alalia.

During the Roman era, Olbia and the whole Gallura enjoyed a very flourishing economic period. The city of Olbia reached a population of 5000 inhabitants, had a courthouse, thermal baths, a paved road network and an aqueduct.
A long period of decay begun for Olbia and Gallura by the end of the Roman era. Olbia was burned and destroyed by the Vandals, and renamed into Phausania. The port of Olbia kept its activity, although with a lower pace, during the Byzantine period.
In the following epoch, called the Judicial era, Olbia and all of Gallura were restored and bloomed again. Olbia was renamed into Civita.
The most beautiful monument of Gallura, the San Simplicio Church,  was built in Romanesque style in that period, between the 11th and the 12th century. It is the most famous religious monument of Gallura.
After judge Nino Visconti’s death, who was mentioned in Dante's Divine Commedy, Civita was conquered by the population from Pisa, who renamed it as Terranova.
A number of other important monuments were built during the Judicial period, such as the Castle of Pedres on the way to Loiri, as well as the San Paolo Apostolo church. Some scholars claim that the population from Pisa led the city to destruction when they stole some precious remains such as the main city Portal and the lintel from the San Simplicio Church, placing them in the Square of Miracles in Pisa.

Sardinia was conquered by the Aragon population in the year 1323, and Terranova lost its logistic importance due to the change in the sea traffic axis, which was then pointing towards Spain. The city fell into a deep decay with new problems related to the handicap of insularity, pirates and Arabian raids and the appearing of malaria.
During the Savoy period Terranova shrank to the level of a maritime village, and it was not until the mid 1800's that it regained a significant demographic growth. In that period the port had also been restored and enhanced.
Olbia was renamed into Terranova Pausania by the Royal decree of 1862, and it remained so until 1939.
During the Aragon and Savoy periods, the decay of Olbia allowed other towns of Gallura and of North western Sardinia to develop their influence, such as Tempio Pausania, Castellaragonese (Castelsardo) in Gallura, and Porto Torres, Ardara and Sassari in the former Torres Jurisdiction, and finally Alghero for the historical sub-region of Nurra.
Terranova Pausania was renamed into Olbia during the fascist period. Alghero and Olbia experienced severe bombings during World War 2.
After World War 2 the economic growth impacted the whole area, and the natural beauty of the region boosted a fast flourishing touristic development.