On the left bank of the pond of the same name, also called Mari Pontis, Cabras rises a few kilometres from Oristano, with which it borders to the east, while to the west it faces the sea and with its thirty kilometres of coastline includes the Sinis peninsula and the two uninhabited islets of Catalano and Mal di Ventre. Also known as Capras, it reflects the Latin capra or the Sardinian 'crapa', 'crawa', 'crabas'.
At the end of the 11th century, the first inhabitants settled around the castle, residence of the Arborensian judges, of which very few ruins remain today, when Tharros was depopulated due to Phoenician-Punic incursions.
During the period of the Sardinian giudicati, it was quite important and is present with the denomination 'villa de Capras', in the important peace stipulated between Eleonora d'Arborea and the Aragonese sovereign in 1388.
In 1410, the Marquisate of Oristano was established, becoming part of the ex-judicial territories as a feud to the Cubello family, which was defeated by the Catalan-Aragonese in 1478. The territories were absorbed into the demanio of the Crown of Aragon and then into that of the Crown of Spain.
In 1479, Oristano became a royal city. Spanish domination continued until the beginning of the 18th century, until in 1713, with the Peace of Utrecht, Sardinia passed into the hands of the Habsburgs of Austria and in 1720, with the Peace of The Hague, it was definitively assigned to the Savoy family.
Its territory includes lagoon areas of great natural interest: first and foremost, the 'Stagno di Cabras'. In the past, people used to go fishing with sharp-shaped boats, 'is fassonis', built with sun-dried marsh grasses, using the same technique used by the Phoenicians. It covers about 20 km2, and is one of the largest in Europe protected by the Ramsar Convention.
There is also the Mistras Lagoon, the ponds of 'Mare 'e Pauli' and 'Pauli 'e Sai'. The latter has been designated a WWF protected area, due to the presence of the Sultan Chicken, an endangered species. Of all these ponds, the biggest tourist attraction is the pink flamingo, which can be seen from purpose-built walkways along the banks of the Cabras pond.
Another area protected by the WWF is 'Seu' in the Sinis Peninsula. In the southern part, the coast is rocky around San Giovanni di Sinis, towards the north it first becomes sandy (beaches of Punta Maimoni, Is Arutas, Mari Ermi) then, proceeding further north, it is characterised by high cliffs up to Capo Mannu. Below Capo Mannu is the Cala Saline with the Salina and the Putzu Idu beach. In front of the coast of the peninsula is the islet of Mal di Ventre. Called 'Malu Entu' in Sardinian, which means 'bad wind' due to the weather conditions influenced by both thermal breezes caused by its relative proximity to Sardinia, and the mistral. The waters around the island are populated by sea turtles of the Caretta Caretta species and cetaceans. According to Alberto La Marmora, monk seals were also once present.
Starting from the beautiful beach of Putzu Idu, it is possible to reach the island of 'Malu Entu' via boats that offer the opportunity of full-day excursions.
In the southern part of the Sinis peninsula, there is a strip of land that ends in a sheer cliff, where the lighthouse of Capo San Marco is located. The sea around it offers interesting spots for snorkelling and scuba diving. Starting from the village of San Giovanni di Sinis, one finds the famous ruins of the Phoenician city of Tharros. It is an open-air museum where you can mainly see what dates back to the period of Roman rule.
Among the most important and interesting structures are the baths, the foundations of the temple and part of the area with the houses and workshops. Most of the artefacts found during the excavations can be seen at:
- the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari;
- the Antiquarium arborense in Oristano;
- the Giovanni Marongiu Municipal Archaeological Museum in Cabras;
- the British Museum in London, where, however, they are not on display.
The Tharros area also preserves numerous testimonies of the Nuragic period, including two nuraghi and the village on the Muru Mannu hill. The oldest ones come from the two incineration necropolises dating from around the middle of the 7th century BC.
In the locality of Cuccuru is Arrius, tombs were found dating back to the Neolithic period (4000 B.C.). The statuettes found in the grave goods testify to the religiousness of that period, pervaded by the cult of the god Bull and the Mother Goddess. The monumental statues carved in chalky sandstone of warriors or athletes from the site of Monti Prama date back to the Nuragic period, predating the kouroi of ancient Greece, and following the Egyptian sculptures.
A short distance from Cabras in Paulilatino you can visit the important S. Cristina Nuragic Well and Village, full of magnetism, charm and mystery.
The main church is the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta, also the patron saint of the town. Built in the 17th century with the ruins of the Arborea Castle, it stands where the large warehouses of the castle used to be; in 1908, during the excavations carried out to build the new façade, some very large jars were found.
Another important church is that of San Giovanni di Sinis, which originally stood on a pagan, later Christian cemetery area, built of whitish sandstone blocks. Of great historical and cultural value is the hypogeum of the church of San Salvatore, possibly used as a catacomb, a prison and a refuge in the early days of Christianity. Beneath the church is the pagan underground Temple of Mars and Venus (c. 300 AD), in which, from the Nuragic period until the end of the ancient world, the pagan cult of spring water was worshipped, replaced by the Christian cult of St Saviour, practised initially in the temple and later in the church above it; the church of San Giovanni. In the village of the same name, every year, on the first Sunday of September, there is the traditional procession, known as the 'Corsa degli scalzi', where hundreds of young people and adults, dressed in the white habit of penitents and barefoot, carry the simulacrum from the parish church to the sanctuary of San Salvatore, running for about 7 km along the dusty streets of Sinis, thus commemorating the rescue of the statue from a Saracen attack. The next day, the rite is repeated in the opposite direction and the saint returns to Cabras.
The town is known for being the largest Sardinian producer of the typical bottarga, pressed, salted and dried mullet eggs, which can be tasted in delicious recipes in several restaurants in the town. In August, the “Sagra della Bottarga” enhances this delicious food, a true 'caviar' of the Mediterranean.
A typical dish of Cabras is “Sa merca“: mullets are wrapped in lake herbs and then left to soak in salt water.
The Sinis territory reflects the area's trend based essentially on seaside tourism, accommodation and hotel facilities are located in localities close to the coastline or a short distance from it, various are the accommodation solutions ranging from B&Bs to Residences, Hotels etc. A very widespread form of accommodation in the area, and throughout the province of Oristano, is the farm holiday, where Cabras alone accounts for a quarter of the provincial market offer.
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