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Historical Geographical Names in Sardinia

The modern administrative divisions in Italy go from the nation (Italy) down to the first-level administrative unit, region (for example, Campania, Sardinia, Lazio...etc.—there are 20 regions) down to the second-level unit, provinces within each region (for example, the region of Campania has five provinces: Avellino, Benevento, Caserta, Naples, and Salerno; the region of Sardinia has eight: Cagliari, Carbonia-Iglesias, Nuoro, Ogliastra, Olbia-Tempio, Oristano, Sassari, and Medio Campidano). Each region has a capital city: i.e. Naples is the capital of Campania; Cagliari is the capital of Sardina. (Each province also has a capital, usually the largest city in that province: Naples is the capital off the province of Naples; Cagilari is the capital of the province of Cagliari, and so on.)

Italians, however, still make extensive use of historical geographical names that are not part of the modern administrative hierarchy. That is, if you say that you are "going to Cilento," you are referring to an historically recognized area in the southern part of the province of Salerno in the region of Campania. There is no town of Cilento, no mayor, no official lines drawn anywhere, but everyone calls it "Cilento" and always has and always will. Other such names in the Campania region are "Sannio," and "Irpinia." There are dozens of these commonly used geographical units throughout Italy. They often cross modern provincial and regional boundaries; that is, a particular historical area is not necessarily all contained within a single modern province or region.

Sardinia has many such names (as shown on the map on the upper right). If you say that you going to "Barbagia," for example, you are referring to the rugged mountains near Nuoro. (In the case of "going to Barbagia," note that you really have four choices, though most people will understand Barbagia di Nuoro if you simply say "Barbagia").

Note that some of these names are related to the medieval names of the Sardinian Giudicati (map, right).

related: historical geographical names in Campania

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