Sardinia (general article) & brief time-line
In the bricklaying trade there is something that masons call "clinkers" —bricks that have been so scorched or misshapen in the firing process that they cannot be placed into a smooth surface without standing out. Thus they are used for precisely that —to stand out as ornaments, placed at irregular intervals in a wall, jutting out and lending little bits of interesting grotesqueness to an otherwise plain bit of masonry.
From the 8th century b.c. to the coming of the Romans, the island was in the hands of the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, who introduced large-scale agriculture and fishing, and divided the island into administrative districts. When their turn came, the Romans did their usual thorough job of organization, leaving a network of roads which modern streets and highways still follow in part. Sardinia was a vital role in the strategies of Roman navies during seven centuries of rule. Then, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Sardinia became a province in the "African Prefect" of the Byzantine Empire.
In the 9th and 10th centuries Sardinia had a try at going it alone. The island was divided into "judgeships" (giudicati), autonomous units ruled by an hereditary patriarch or "judge". There existed side by side the idea of private property and collective land set aside for cultivation by the poorer classes. In modern terms, it might be said to have been sort of an experiment with "agrarian democracy". It is a period which lasted for about two hundred years and one which still fascinates scholars.
In the 11th century,
Arab incursions of the island were finally repelled, but
only with the help of the two powerful maritime republics,
Pisa and Genova. Pisa, thus, took over Sardinia and ruled
until the coming of the Aragonese in the 14th
century, and then —after the fusion of Aragon
and Castille— the Spanish Empire in the 16th
century. With the decline of the Spanish, the
island passed briefly into the hands of the Hapsburgs and
then in 1720 to the House of Savoy (the
future royal family of united Italy). For the next 75
years, the island was a separate kingdom with Savoy
monarchs. It was not a particularly good time for the
island and led to a brief flirtation with republicanism in
1802 in the wake of the Napoleonic fever
gripping Europe. (That period included the presence of
Admiral Horatio Nelson in Sardinia, specifically at La
Maddalelna in the north (see this
link). In 1847 the island was
incorporated into the Savoy kingdom of Piedmont and its
history then joins that of Italy as a whole.
Tourism is one of the most important industries on Sardinia these days. The northern part of the island boasts the second largest city, Sassari, site of one of the most spectacular folk festivals in the Mediterranean, the so-called 'Cavalcata Sarda'. Held on the next-to-last Sunday in May, it is a morning procession of hundreds of costumed participants, many on horseback, from around the island, followed by an evening of dance and song. The northeastern part of the island boasts the famous Costa Smeralda, site of Porto Cervo and its yacht clubs of the stars. The same area is now witnessing a blossoming of time-sharing condos for the less rich and famous.
There are some unconventional ways to be a tourist if you so decide. You might consider agritourism which has been catching on all over Italy recently. This means that instead of plopping yourself down in some hotel or other, you become the guest of working farmers. You, luckily, don't have to work. You pay for room and board with the family and then do what you like. The word is out that it is good traditional fare among friendly people at a reasonable price. The agritourist organization for Sardinia is the Cooperativa allevatrici sarde, located at Via Giotto 4, 09170 Oristano; tel: 0783/78670. Also, much of Sardinia is ideal for hiking and expeditions on horseback, details on which may be had from Sardinia Internal Travel, Porto Cervo, tel. (0789) 92225, as well as from the Centro Turismo Equestre e Agriturismo Ogliastra, S. Maria Navarrese, tel. (0782) 615110. The northern Sardinian port of Olbia is easily reached by overnight ferry from Civitavecchia. There are sailings, as well, from Naples to Cagliari at the southern tip of the island.