Sulcis Iglesiente within the Province of South Sardinia (in the process of being abolished following the new reform of Sardinia's local authorities, formally in force since 16.04.2021), represents an important portion of south-western Sardinia! This historic sub-region encompasses two territories: the more inland Sulcis and the Iglesiente closer to the coast. The term Sulcis derives from the ancient Phoenician-Punic city of Sulky or Sulci today called Sant'Antioco, a municipality located on the island of the same name. It consists of 27 municipalities with a total population of around 140,000 inhabitants, including the islands of Sant'Antioco and San Pietro.
Part of the ancient Giudicato of Cagliari, the Sulcis Iglesiente region was linked to the curatoria (administrative subdivision of the Sardinian giudicati) of Cixerri, Sulcis and Nora. It boasts the thousand-year history of a territory that was born and grew up around mines. A history that traces its origins back even to prehistoric times, with the discovery of obsidian, and later to the Phoenicians, who made Sardinia a place of reference for the search for and exploitation of such precious minerals as lead, silver and copper. The Phoenician-Punic settlements of Monte Sirai, in the vicinity of Carbonia, are clear evidence of the commercial activity of the rich mining basin of the Iglesiente!
The last mining company active in the present day for the exploitation of the subsoil was Carbosulcis, established in 1976 by the Ente Minerario Sardo and the Ente Gestione Attività Minerarie (EGAM), which managed the last coal mine in Sulcis and in Italy on Monte Sinni at Nuraxi Figus (hamlet of Gonnesa), where it continued to produce coal until 31 December 2018. This last act put an end to a millenary tradition that fed many families, gave birth to new neighbourhoods and new towns, and provided them with vital services such as hospitals, kindergartens, schools and railway stations.
Here are the municipalities of Sulcis Iglesiente, ordered according to their demographic size: Carbonia and Iglesias, which have the title of City, Sant'Antioco, Carloforte, Domusnovas, San Giovanni Suergiu, Portoscuso, Gonnesa, Siliqua, Teulada, Villamassargia, Santadi, Narcao, Fluminimaggiore, Calasetta, Sant'Anna Arresi, Giba, Vallermosa, Domus de Maria, Nuxis, Musei, Perdaxius, Masainas, Villaperuccio, Tratalias, Buggerru and Piscinas.
Things to see and do in Sulcis Iglesiente.
Happily neglected by the more intrusive tourist industry, this land of mines, and once of miners, offers unique emotions for the still wild beauty of its coastline. A sea not for everyone, exposed as it is to the mistral, with 'oceanic' waves and beaches that are not always easy to reach and equipped, a paradise for surfing and water sports enthusiasts. However, the territory's offerings do not stop at the golden dunes of Piscinas and the semi-deserted beaches of Plagemesu, Cala Domestica and Portixeddu, nor at the natural monument of Pan di Zucchero (Sugar Loaf): the south-western area of Sardinia is rich in archaeological evidence of ancient civilisations and mining industry, treasures hidden underground, traditions and many other beauties... all to be discovered and experienced!
Here are some experiential suggestions:
THE GREAT SERBARIU MINE.
At the entrance to the town of Carbonia lies the largest mine in Sardinia, now disused: the Great Mine of Serbariu. The site was recovered and converted into the Coal Museum in 2006 and is well worth a visit, because it is a truly unique experience to be had! Competent guides will accompany you underground to visit the galleries, but also the main mining structures.
ROSAS MINES ECOMUSEUM.
The Rosas Mining Ecomuseum can be found in Narcao, at the foot of the mountain of the same name, and is located in the former mining village. In the early 1900s, the Rosas Mining Village was in fact completely self-sufficient, able to offer all useful services to the families of the miners who spent their lives in the shadow of the mine itself. After almost two decades of work, the entire mining site was recovered and converted into a Museum of Industrial Archaeology, and at the same time, the miners' 'cottages' were renovated into holiday homes, reviving, in a sense, the old Miners' Village, equipping it with services that make the entire Eco-museum as it once was, self-sufficient! The mine galleries, mining structures and the mineral museum can be visited all year round.
IS ZUDDAS CAVES
These extraordinary caves can be found in the municipality of Santadi and wonderfully represent the uninterrupted action of water underground, capable of creating fascinating and unique scenarios. Inside the caves there are several halls, among which the most suggestive is that of the Organ inside which a huge Nativity scene is set up every year at Christmas!
SU MANNAU CAVES
These caves are a splendid natural testimony, among the oldest in the world! You will find them in Fluminimaggiore and they too are very interesting to visit, for their enormous halls adorned with concretions of stalactites and stalagmites that form very tall columns that rise up to 15 m. Cave to visit absolutely!
The Belvedere di Nebida is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting corners of Sulcis Iglesiente (and perhaps of the whole of Sardinia), with a breathtaking panorama of the Nebida coastline and the Pan di Zucchero (an enormous stack rising above the sea a few metres from the coast). A Belvedere, the only one of its kind in Sardinia, thanks to its promenade overlooking the sea and the La Marmora Laveria of the Nebida Mine, connected by a long, steep flight of steps.
The former mine of Porto Flavia inside the promontory overlooking Masua, in the territory of Iglesias, was the port from which the minerals extracted from the mountain were loaded directly onto ships, thus drastically reducing transport time and costs. An approximately 600-metre-long tunnel, dug into the rock by miners, emerges in the middle of an overhang that offers a breathtaking view of the impressive Pan di Zucchero stack. You can visit both the Porto Flavia site and the Mining Machinery Museum, both set in fantastic coastal scenery...that you will struggle to forget!
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AREA OF SANT'ANTIOCO
Sant'Antioco, called Sulky in the past, is among the most remote human settlements and probably the oldest city in Sardinia! A must-visit: the ancient Basilica of Sant'Antioco with its catacombs, the Tophet (sacred open-air site), the Punic Necropolis, the Savoy Fort and the Archaeological Museum.
TEMPLE OF ANTAS
About 10 km south of the town of Fluminimaggiore, you can admire the remains of the Temple of Antas where Carthaginians and Romans settled in the past, attracted by the rich and abundant deposits of lead and iron in the area. The Temple, Punic-Roman, is dedicated to the worship of the eponymous god of the Sardinians Sardus Pater Babai (Sid Addir for the Carthaginians). It is one of the oldest historical-archaeological testimonies of Sardinia, not to be missed!
MEDIEVAL VILLAGE OF TRATALIAS
Tratalias is one of the oldest villages in Sulcis! Before entering the new village (rebuilt in 1971, due to the water infiltration caused by the barrage on the Rio Palmas and the artificial lake of Monte Pranu), you will necessarily arrive at the ancient village and once in the square, you will be fascinated by the extraordinary beauty of the ancient Cathedral of Santa Maria di Monserrat, dating back to 1213, which was the main church and bishop's seat of the Sulcis Iglesiente diocese until 1503 (later transferred to Iglesias).
In Sant'Antioco, there is a woman who claims to be the world's last witness and custodian of the working of byssus, the silk of the sea! Her name is Chiara Vigo and the 'Museo Vivente' (Living Museum) is a workshop whose task is to pass on the information of a millenary workmanship, which can still be enjoyed and visited in the lagoon town of Sant'Antioco. The precious fabric, obtained through a long and patient processing of the so-called Pinna Nobilis (a large bivalve marine mollusc up to one and a half metres tall), was worn in the past by princes and princesses. Today, this ancient technique of byssus weaving lives on in the Museum-Laboratory of Sant'Antioco, thanks to the passionate work of Master Chiara Vigo. Visiting the Museum is a unique and unforgettable experience!
CARLOFORTE AND THE ISLAND OF SAN PIETRO
The island of San Pietro is the second largest island, after Sant'Antioco, in the Sulcis archipelago. Inhabited since prehistoric times and called the 'island of the sparrow hawks' by the Punics, San Pietro is a 40-minute ferry ride from Calasetta or Portovesme. It can easily be called an island within an island, suspended between Sardinia and Liguria because of its founders, Ligurian colonists who settled in the 16th century on the island of Tabarca (Tunisia) and then moved to the uninhabited island of San Pietro in 1738. Carloforte, the only inhabited centre on the island, is an enchanted place where even you will be puzzled by the fact that the language on the island is Ligurian, but the views and the sea are unique to Sardinia! If you are in Sardinia at the end of May, don't miss the 'Girotonno' festival!
Sardinia, Green Guides of Italy, Touring Edition (2017)