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Asinara


Asinara is Sardinia’s second largest island. It is at—or, rather, is—the northwestern tip of Sardinia. (The largest island is Sant'Antioco off the southwestern coast.)  Asinara houses a variety of habitats; the terrain is rugged and hosts interesting vegetation and even unique wildlife. The island is now a marine and wildlife preserve and has been part of the national parks system of Italy since the 1990s. It is open to visitors.

There are signs of ancient human habitation on the small island, including Phoenician and Roman presence; it was also the site of a medieval monastery. More recently, there was a population of about 500 in the 1880s, all shepherds and their families; they were moved off the island in 1885 when the kingdom of Italy decided to appropriate Asinara as a penal colony and quarantine station. During WW1, the island was a POW camp and even served as a prison during the 1970s.

The “unique wildlife” referred to, above, is in reference to the albino donkey (photo) a significant number of which roam the Asinara countryside and, indeed, are the main tourist attraction.







Popular etymology derives the name of the island, Asinara, from the Italian word for “donkey” —asino. The name may also derive from a Latin word meaning “in the shape of a sinus.” If the latter is true, that tells me more about the condition of Roman sinuses than I want to know.


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