Breath-taking natural beauty, corners rich in history, artistic buildings, and other highly culturally valuable monuments are all over Gallura. But above all there is a millennial history to learn and discover, important if one wants to fully appreciate this area.
The history of Gallura from the beginning
The first appearance of mankind in Gallura was most likely in the Neolithic period. Gallura has always been described like this: a lush land characterised by rich civilisation and flourishing agriculture. The natural resources existing in this part of the territory meant that there were often crowds from all over the Italian peninsula and the Mediterranean area, so unsurprisingly the shipping routes towards the area were used often.
The most fascinating part of Gallura history began around 1600 B.C.: the Nuragic civilisation arrived in the territory and gave life to some of the most mysterious moments this area had seen, by creating the Nuraghe, constructions made of big blocks of stone. The Nuragic civilisation is the reason the area boasts so much archaeological heritage sites in Arzachena, from “Reggia Nuragica” to the tombs of “Giganti di Li Longhi”, from the necropolis of “Circoli di Li Muri” to the archaeological site of “Lu Brandali”.
Relations with the Phoenicians and developing the territory
Towards the 10th century B.C. Sardinia began important commercial relations with other nations of the Mediterranean, primarily the Phoenicians, talented merchants attracted by this flourishing territory rich in mineral resources, especially the south. As the Phoenicians got in contact with the Nuragic people of Sardinia they created many colonies – these later became commercial bases for them. These began as small settlements like seaports, that in time became real cities – Olbia is a clear example.
The Phoenician population was an important resource for Sardinians. Thanks to them, many new religious practices were born, and the Phoenicians were also able to pass on their alphabet and thus forming a territory characterised by a solid community organisation. Thanks to them, the Sardinian population also learned new techniques for farming and fishing. This period of Gallura’s history has left a large amount of cultural heritage to Sardinia, all documented in the Archaeological Museum of Olbia.
Outside of the Phoenician settlements, the Nuragic civilisation contributed an entire collection of historical heritage to Sardinia – the most noticeable of which is the “Pozzo sacro di Sa Testa”, in Olbia, a religious building that was used to pray and honour the gods of water. Among the majestic legacy left by them, we have the nuraghe, such as the “Nuraghe Majori” of Tempio. The nuraghe, distributed in different points of the island, represent the clearest evidence of the Nuragic civilisation in Gallura.
The roman period in Gallura
In 238 B.C. Sardinia was conquered by the Romans. From then on Olbia began to gain more importance, especially thanks to the port’s proximity with the Italian peninsula (definitely more so than other Sardinian cities). The roman period left an important legacy in Gallura, being testified by the ancient granite quarries of Capo Testa – these prove that the centre of the economy of the late Roman era was granite extraction. Between the architecture of this time that we can still admire today there are remains of the roman town, particularly the aqueduct of “Sa Rughittula” a Olbia built around the 2nd and 3rd century A.D.
The subdivision of the kingdoms in Gallura
With the arrival of the Medieval period, the Sardinian region was subdivided into four kingdoms. These were the kingdoms of Cagliari, Arborea, Torres and finally Gallura. Each of these territories was governed by an independent authority. The capital of the kingdom of Gallura was Civita, rebuilt on the spoils of Roman Olbia. The region, now rich and important, went back to being attractive to merchants and seafarers (that mostly came from Liguria and Tuscany), so much so that the shipping routes continued to be used with great strength during this period.
The kingdom of Gallura was put under the control of the city of Pisa in 1296, and they took complete control over it. The town today owes the medieval and giudicale period many structures: the castle of Pedres a Olbia (medieval stone fortress used by Pisans against the Aragonese), the castle of Balaiana, the palace of Baldu a Luogosanto, the beautiful basilica of “Nostra Signora di Luogosanto” (built in 1218 by friars arrived in Gallura at the beginning of the 13th century), as well as many other architectural beauties of incredible cultural value. The Kingdom of Sardinia was then founded in 1297, which lasted for a long time – it lasted up until 1861 (unification of Italy).
From 1900s to now
At the beginning of the 20th century Sardinia was at the centre of a strengthening of its connections. In 1962 the Emerald Coast as we know it was formed and the landscape was changed to better fit it. Today’s Gallura is characterised by a solid economy, particularly when it comes to the tourism sector as well as the cork and granite industry – all areas that Sardinia holds leadership in internationally. Some of the most relevant and noteworthy buildings of the 1900s and the contemporary age are Palazzo Colonna, in Corso Umberto a Olbia (built at the beginning of the 20th century) and the Archaeological Museum in the same city.