It's unsure where the name comes from, but Sardinia (Sardegna) historically has had a very different past than mainland Italy. The Carthaginians were the first to call the island Sardinia, while the Greeks referred to it as Ichnoussa (footstep), either because of its shape or because it was used as a stepping stone for Greek traders.
Furthest away from the mainland, the combination of geography and history has resulted in Sardinians assimilating and reinterpreting different influences and integrating them into their own unique culture, everything seems to be more authentic, more genuine in Sardinia!
Sardinians take great pride in their culture as reflected by their numerous festivals. Throughout the year, there are many festivals and fairs celebrating old traditions and customs, some religious and some pagan, often coinciding with the harvest and production of local products and delicacies, such as wine or honey. Every town and village has its culinary tradition in the form of distinctively-shaped breads, sweets, pastas, lobster, roasted pork, and other kinds of fish and meat.
Characteristic of their ancient traditions, you'll see costumes which represent living evidence of their culture, way of life, and traditions, and are proudly preserved and handed down the generations. And, you don't have to look far to find traditional handicrafts. There are over 50 craft cooperatives around the island. Their handicrafts are well-known: beautiful carpets (made on traditional horizontal looms), tapestries, table cloths, towels, ceramics, pottery, wrought iron, filigree gold and silver jewelry, knifes, and baskets.
Second in size to Sicilia, Sardinia is characterized by an interior of dramatic, rolling hills covered in macchia (stain)-grassland mingled with myrtle, wild thyme, prickly pears, and dwarf oaks-and a varied coastal landscape of high cliffs, mountains diving straight into the translucent sea, isolated inlets, grottos, granite islands, and spectacular beaches of white and pink sand. Caves are everywhere, Sardinia has more caves than anywhere per square mile.
Costa Smeralda is one of Sardinia's most exclusive coastal areas. Stretching from the Golfo di Cugnana to the Golfo di Arzachena, it was developed at the end of the 1950s by a consortium of magnates, including the Aga Khan, into one of the world's most opulent vacation resorts. Its pristine appearance is now strictly controlled.
Farther south, the shoreline around the Golfo di Orosei is completely unspoiled. Some beaches, like Chia in the South, stretch for miles, with high dunes of thin white sand and wind-carved rock formations, where the only sounds you hear are those of the waves of many shades of green and blue.
When you visit Sardinia, it's a journey through time that is full of surprises, it's like visiting an outdoor museum! Explore the ancient, scattered nuraghi ruins, unique to Sardinia. These gutted cone-shaped towers and cities, resembling fortresses of the Middle Ages, were built with stone blocks and assembled without mortar. The name derives from the word nurra which means "heap" or "mound", but also "cavity".
Su Nuraxi in Barumini (in the province of Cagliari) is one of the most famous nuraghi on the island. Driving around the island, you'll see nuraghi ruins, on high ground or in the middle of an open plain in the countryside, testifying to an inseparable link between the past and the present.
Or visit tombs, called Domus de Janas (fairy houses or witch houses according to folklore), which are carved into rocks on the mountains, often with a number of corridors and chambers inside and reliefs carved into the stone.
Parco Nazionale dei Gennargentu (a National Park) is home to many species of native plants and wildlife. But you won't need to venture to the mountains to see wildlife, even close to the capital, Cagliari, you can easily watch colonies of pink flamingos that have established permanent residence in the swampy areas.
Among the more exotic inhabitants of the island are eagles and peregrine falcons, small rare deer, and muflone (wild sheep) in the mountains. Inhabiting Giara of Gestur is a miniature species of almond-eyed quaddeddus (wild horses) standing only 44 inches in height. There are about 500 of them left, and this is the only place where they live in the wild. On the island of Asinara, you'll find the world's only albino donkeys.
Whether you come to Sardinia to enjoy the magnificent sea or visit museums; study the mystery of the nuraghi; visit marble Romanesque churches, observation towers on high cliffs on the coast, Roman theatres and aqueducts; attend one of their numerous village festivals; discover the secrets that are hidden in their ancient traditional costumes; or to try a delicious typical dish, you'll feel you're in the right place!