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Sardinia’s Stunning Sinis Peninsula

Traveling through the unique island of Sardinia calls for incredible sailing, cycling, snorkeling as well as enjoying delicious Sardinian food and learning about ancient cultures in the Sinis Peninsula, away from mass tourism.

This Marine Protected Area and its Mediterranean landscape has existed since the 17th Century BC and has an deep archaeological to discover. Enjoy traditional Sardinan sea food with a glass of local white wine while watching the Mediterranean sunset from the top of an old Spanish tower. Dubbed a “Tourist Destination of Excellence” in 2009, the Sinis Peninsula is where culture, the environment and tourism live together in perfect harmony.

The landscapes

Sinis is one of the most characteristic corners of Sardinia, a natural paradise where intact ecosystems are concentrated in a small area, making this territory ever more impressive. The landscapes change along the coast and inland, alternating from ponds, to salt marshes and lagoons rich in wildlife . You will also find sand dunes, striking cliffs and unique beaches such as Is Aruttas with its white quartz grains. The Sinis wetlands, Ramsar sites, are a real treasure of biodiversity, a paradise for birdwatchers that can observe pink flamingos, herons, cormorants, hawks, kingfishers and more species of birds.

The beaches are the pearl of the Sinis peninsula. From the cliff of San Marco Cape in the south to the sand dunes of Is Arenas to the north, passing by the turquoise water of San Giovanni di Sinis,  the quartz beaches of Maimoni, Mari Ermi and Is Aruttas, the cliffs of Su Tingiosu, the crystal-clear water of S’anea Scoada and Putzu Idu beaches and Capo Mannu, a surfing hot-spot, famous among Mediterranean surfers.

The underwater environment, in particular, is rich of fish, shellfish and crustaceans. In the clear sea there are two untouched islands: the granite Isola di Mal di Ventre and the basaltic Scoglio del Catalano.

Thanks to its rich biodiversity, the Sinis Peninsula and Mal di Ventre Island form a Marine Protected Area (MPA) which dates back to 1997

Historical overview

The history of human settlement in the territory of the Sinis peninsula begins in the middle Neolithic (5th Millennium BC) . The signs of the ancient occupation of the territory are evident mainly thanks to archaeological evidence of a Nuraghi (a type of large tower-shaped stone structure found in Sardinia, dating from the Bronze and Iron Ages) such as S’Urachis in San Vero Milis. Also there are monumental ruins of the town of Tharros and the extraordinary discovery of Mont’e’ Prama sculptures.

The Giants of Mont’e Prama’ statues

The Mont’è Prama stone statues are the most ancient statues ever discovered in the Mediterranean (9th – 8th century BC). These statues, measuring more than 2 meters, are carved in local sandstone and are held in the Civic Archaeological Museum of Cabras and in the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari. The statues represent young brave men: boxers, archers, warriors with unique facial features such as pronounced noses, eyebrows and large eyes formed by two hypnotic concentric circles.

They were discovered in the countryside in 1974 by a farmer that was plowing his land along the road that leads from San Salvatore to the town of Riola Sardo, he didn’t know that it would be the most important archaeological discovery in the Mediterranean of the 20th century.

Tharros

Tharros is one of the most fascinating Phoenician – Carthaginian – Roman city in the Mediterranean, founded by the Phoenicians between the 8th century and 7th century BC and populated until the Middle Ages.

Tharros’ ruins, located in San Giovanni di Sinis, create an authentic “outdoor museum” overlooking the sea in the Capo San Marco isthmus between the open sea and the calm waters of the gulf of Oristano.

San Giovanni di Sinis Church is one of the most ancient churches in Sardinia: it was built during the byzantine period, around the 6th century, using sandstone taken from Tharros ruins.

Spanish towers

Between the 16th and 17th century, the royal family of Spain built several tower along the Sinis coast, like San Giovanni di Sinis Tower and Sa mora’s Tower. The towers were part of a coastal defense system, built to protect the local population from pirate raids from Northern Africa.

From the Spanish towers is possible to admire the astonishing Sinis landscape and listen to the sound of the sea and typical Mistral wind blowing.

San Salvatore

San Salvatore is a small village of medieval origin named after the church located at the center of the village. In the basement of the church, there is an ancient pagan shrine (hypogeum) carved into the rock of Nuragic origins, used to worship water and was partially rebuilt in the 6th century. In the 4th century, the hypogeum was transformed into an early Christian sanctuary. On the walls of all the rooms there are some Punic, Greek, Latin and Arabic inscriptions and graffiti that can be attributed to scenes of daily life from Roman era and pagan cults.  The church of San Salvatore, was built on the Hypogeum in the second half of the 17th century, and it is surrounded by small and simple houses which were built to host pilgrims during the novena prayers in honor of San Salvatore. Every year, the first weekend of September, the celebrations are closed with a “barefoot race” called the Corsa degli Scalzi, a race from Cabras to San Salvatore.

In the 60s the village was transformed into a famous movie set for “Spaghetti Westerns” films, thanks to its resemblance to the Mexican landscapes.

Handicraft

The earliest samples of wicker handicraft date back to the ancient times.  The different shapes of the baskets depend on their intended use, designs are made with the interweaving of coloured straw mainly in red, black, blue or green. It is also typical to weave straw to cover objects such as bottles, glasses and other containers.

The artisan handiwork that distinguishes Cabras Lagoon is “Su fassoni”, a kind of pointed boat built with marsh grasses dried in the sun, and used in the past for fishing in the ponds.

Food and wine

Traditional food, typical of a simple life, sometimes poor, refer to the traditions and culture of an area related mainly to fishing and agriculture. The wine making heritage is considered one of the key points of the local economy, best known for the production of Vernaccia, Nieddera and other quality wines. It is possible to visit the wine cellars to taste local wines combined to typical products.

There are so many ancient recipes and flavors which made Sinis a point of reference for lovers of good food. The “merka”, food of ancient origin, and the “bottarga” (dried mullet roe), are the most significant example of conservation of far tastes belong to a centuries-old tradition of fishermen. While the important olive oil production contributed to qualify Cabras and Riola Sardo as the Cities of Oil.

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