Most of the island is a mountainous plateau that gradually slopes to the sea. The highest point, Punta La Marmora, rises to 6,017 ft. (1,834m). The mountainous terrain is drained by many small rivers and streams, and is punctuated by wide green valleys, all covered by scrub and grassy land. Flatter areas (plains) cover much of the coastline.
It has a population of about 1.7 million with the capital, Cagliari with 160,000.
There are traces of human settlements on the island since 6,000 BCE although these are fragmentory and sparse. The first permanent settlers probably came from the Italian mainland, particularly Etruria.
The boundaries of tribal territories were guarded by smaller forts called nuraghi erected on strategic hills commanding a view of the enemy. Today some 7000 nuraghi dot the Sardinian landscape.
In 509 BCE with the Phoenician expansion inland becoming ever more menacing and penetrating, the native Sardinians attacked the coastal ports. To help them, they enlisted the aid of the Carthaginians who essentially took over the island.
For almost 3 centuries the Carthaginian or Punic civilization flourished alongside the local culture. However, in 238 BCE the Carthaginians, defeated by the Romans in the First Punic War, surrendered Sardinia which became a province of Rome. The Romans enlarged and embellished the coastal cities and with their armies effectively bringing down the Nuragic civilization. The Roman domination in Sardinia lasted almost 700 years which saw the adoption of the Roman language and civilization.
From 640 onwards, the Arabs invaded Spain, Sicily and France and attempted the same with Sardinia. This was a ruinous time for the island and many coastal towns were abandoned with the island splitting into different regional commands and kingdoms. What followed was many years of in-fighting, conquest, defeat and disputes between various factions and families until, finally, in 1479 the island fell under the rule of Spain where it remained for about 400 years.
During this time it adopted a number of Spanish traditions, customs and other influences. Then, in 1708 as a consequence of the Spanish War of Succession, the rule of the kingdom of Sardinia passed to Austria.
In 1717 Cardinal Alberoni, minister of Felipe V of Spain, reoccupied Sardinia. In 1718, with the Treaty of London, the kingdom of Sardinia was handed over to the Dukes of Savoy, Princes of Piedmont who in 1799, as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars in Italy, took refuge in Cagliari for some fifteen years.
In 1847 the Sardinians spontaneously renounced their state autonomy and joined with Piedmont. Finally with the Unification of Italy, Sardinia became part of Italy itself.
- See main article, Getting to Sardinia
The island is accessible by ferry boat from many ports on the mainland as well as French ferries. It is also linked by air to many airports.
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