Sant'Antioco

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Sant'Antioco

It gives its name to the main island of Sulcis, in the extreme south-west of Sardinia; once a Phoenician-Carthaginian colony, then a Roman city, today it is a seaside village with a special charm

A town of coloured houses and restaurants that inebriate the air with inviting scents: the seaside soul of Sant'Antioco. This well-known town of the Sulcis archipelago, populated by eleven thousand residents and tens of thousands of visitors in the summer, is the main centre of the largest island of Sardinia, which is connected by an artificial isthmus, built perhaps by the Carthaginians and completed by the Romans. Its resources are fishing, salt and agriculture, as shown by the ethnographic museum su Magasinu de su binu. Local industries include weaving, processing byssus, which has its own museum, and building wooden boats. The MuMa museum summarises maritime history and traditions, including the Lateen sail. The town was originally known as Sulky, founded by the Phoenicians (770 BC), and later conquered by the Carthaginians. Traces of the early town remain in the form of a tophet and necropolis (5th-3rd century BC) that occupies the entire hill of the basilica and on which the Roman necropolis arose, followed by a cemetery of catacombs, unique in Sardinia. Sulci rose to its maximum splendour in Roman times: together with Karalis it was the most prosperous municipium of the island. In the centre you can admire the sa Presonedda mausoleum (1st century BC), which shows the influence of both Carthaginian and Roman cultures. The island has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC, and has left prenuragic remains, such as the domus de Janas of is Pruinis and the menhirs of sa Mongia and su Para, as well as the ruins of about thirty nuraghes, including the impressive s'Ega de Marteddu, Corongiu Murvonis and Antiogu Diana. Nearby there are sacred springs and giants' tombs, including su Niu' and on Crobu. The Grutt'i acqua complex is extraordinary, consisting of a polylobed nuraghe, a sacred well, a village with hydraulic works, walls, megalithic circles and caves for water collection. The village reaches as far as Portu Sciusciau, a possible nuragic harbour. You can admire the findings from the area, especially bronzes, in the F. Barreca archaeological museum.

The name of island and town derives from the patron saint of Sardinia, an African martyr exiled to the island, to whom the basilica di Sant'Antioco, mentioned the first time in 1089, although Sulci was the bishop's seat from 484 (up until the 13th century). Originally the building had a Byzantine cruciform layout; today it has three naves with as many apses. The eternal bond with the saint is renewed 15 days after Easter, with the oldest Sardinian religious festival that has remained the same since 1615. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, the uninhabited island was invaded by thousands of worshippers celebrating the martyr. These days, the Saturday before sa Festa manna hosts the parade of is coccois (ceremonial bread), while another festival for the saint is held on 1st August with a parade in traditional clothes.

The coasts, high and jagged to the south with dark trachyte cliffs and more sandy to the north, have ideal depths for diving. Portixeddu is the nearest beach to the town, surrounded by light rocks and rare Phoenician junipers, secular dwarf palms and Mediterranean plants. It is made of pebbles, like the larger beach at Turri. Maladroxa on the other hand is an expanse of grey, thin sand, with thermal waters springing from the sea bed, known and exploited by the Romans. After passing the Serra de is tres Portus promontory and the pond of Santa Caterina, where black-winged stilts and flamingos nest, you will arrive at the wide and winding beach of Coqquaddus. On the cliffs of Is Praneddas (or Arco 'dei Baci') you can stand on a terrace 200 metres above the sea. As early as Phoenician times, fishermen fished for tuna off the flat rocks white with salt at Cala Sapone. Today you can see the ruins of the nineteenth-century tonnara. Nearby are other suggestive bays: the coves of Grotta and Signora. Capo Sperone is the extreme point to the south, with iridescent blue sea and expanses of pink peonies. In the background lie the islets of Vacca and Toro, protected areas where the Eleonora's falcon flies, and where the naval battle between Roman and Sardinian-Carthaginian fleets took place (258 BC). Further along you can find the lonely beach of s'Ega de is Tirias, from which you can visit the wild coast by mountain bike or boat to Portu de su Trigu.

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