Arzachena is the second most populous municipality in Gallura, rich in history and traditions, but also in natural beauty of undeniable charm. Arzachena is undoubtedly one of the places in Gallura that you cannot miss, and it is also the municipality where the Costa Smeralda, a destination for elite tourism and more, has developed.
The history and origins of Arzachena
The origins of the toponym Arzachena can be traced back to the Proto-Sardinian language, and the oldest documentation mentioning this name dates back to the 14th century, in the list of parishes belonging to the Diocese of Civita.
The area has been inhabited for millennia, with the earliest evidence dating back to the Nuragic and pre-Nuragic periods. In Roman times, Arzachena was known as Turibulum, named after the large mushroom-shaped rock that towers above the city. During the period of the Sardinian Judicatures, the center maintained a certain importance, known as Arseguen, serving as the capital of the curatoria of Unale, which belonged to the Judicate of Gallura.
In 1288, control passed to the Republic of Pisa, but shortly after the start of Aragonese domination in 1324, Arzachena depopulated due to frequent attacks by the Saracens. The city remained partly uninhabited until 1716, when the King of Sardinia, Carlo Emanuele III, rebuilt the city and encouraged settlement in the area. In 1922, it gained autonomy from Tempio Pausania, and from that moment on, it experienced significant growth.
The center of Arzachena
Arzachena offers breathtaking landscapes, beaches with Caribbean colors, and hills covered with vineyards. The municipality is located 25 kilometers from Olbia and features a unique territory, which has become one of the symbols of vacations in Sardinia since the 1960s. Arzachena’s success is also attributed to its thriving yachting scene, the extraction of granite used in the construction of the town’s buildings, and renowned wineries that attract visitors from all over Europe. Until the 17th century, there were only a few small country houses here, clustered around the Church of Santa Maria. It’s a completely different scene from what we have now, which is a riot of colors.
In the center, you’ll find numerous small squares and houses made of white stone and pink granite, adorned with flowered balconies and green spaces, where boutique shops, high-fashion ateliers, and stores offering various delights for tourists alternate.
Surrounding Arzachena are the “stazzi,” ancient rural settlements that have been transformed into agritourism and bed and breakfast establishments, attracting a slower-paced type of tourism interested in discovering the local traditions and history. There are many newer hamlets, such as Abbiadori, Baja Sardinia, which was once a small fishing village but is now a well-known tourist destination, and Poltu Quatu, located in a typical fjord-like inlet.
Arzachena also includes Porto Cervo, the most exclusive and sought-after tourist destination in all of Sardinia, an undisputed symbol of sophistication and elegant evenings, home to the most glamorous restaurants.
The beaches of Arzachena
In contrast to the charm of Porto Cervo, you’ll find more wild landscapes and beaches, such as those of Capo Ferro and Cala Granu. Special mention goes to the Grande Pevero beach, a crescent of soft white sand with meticulously maintained gardens of the Pevero Golf Club behind it, and the Li Nibani islands in front. Piccolo Pevero is smaller than its bigger brother but is a sought-after destination for VIPs and celebrities.
There are numerous coves with turquoise waters in the Bay of Romazzino, such as Poltu di li Cogghj, better known as the Beach of the Prince, which features fine white sand divided by pink rocks. Beyond the emerald promontory lies La Celvia, where some memorable scenes from the film “The Spy Who Loved Me” were shot, amidst fragments of pink quartz and seashells.
The title of the most beautiful beach on the Costa Smeralda undoubtedly goes to Cala Capriccioli, with the islands belonging to the Maddalena Archipelago in front. In the distance, you can see the coastline of Liscia Ruja with its coves illuminated by the passage of sailboats, and right here, on the main beach, an important festival is celebrated on August 15th.
The coast boasts 90 kilometers of shoreline, and each beach is unique and different from the others, ranging from the silky expanses of Tanca Manna to the Ginepri Cove, constantly leaving visitors breathless.
The archaeological sites of Arzachena
Although Arzachena is primarily known to tourists for its beautiful beaches, it is a destination with a significant past and much to offer from a historical and archaeological perspective. In the ancient center of the city is Monti Incappiddatu, or “Monte col Cappello,” a rock with a typical mushroom shape known since the Neolithic period. A short walk through the countryside also allows you to discover one of the most extensive archaeological sites in Sardinia, the necropolis of Li Muri, dating back to the 4th millennium BC.
From the Bronze Age, there is the nuraghe Albucciu, a corridor-shaped building located in a grove. Surrounding it are the remains of an ancient village with the Moru tomb, and a short distance away is the temple of Malchittu, where pagan rituals took place. In the Capichera Valley, there is the unmissable Prisgiona, consisting of a “tribolato”-type nuraghe and a small village with about a hundred huts. Finally, there are the two Giants’ Tombs, entirely made of granite, with burial chambers measuring 27 and 26 meters.