Sardinia is a cradle surrounded by the sea where, eight thousand years ago, a mysterious and original civilisation began, open to innovations and cultural influences, brought by sea from one side of the ancient Mediterranean to the other. The Sardinians built nuraghi with boat moorings on the coast, joined together to monitor the sea and connected to those built inland. The island's location is strategic: it is a lively crossroads on the trade routes frequented by seafaring peoples, including the advanced and peaceful Phoenicians who made their base in Sardinia. They founded what were to be the most beautiful, cultured and rich cities of their time, Sulci, Bithia, Nora, Tharros and Karaly. Goods, ideas and knowledge moved freely between the Phoenician cities and the Nuragic villages until the imperialist peoples thirsting for new domains landed.
First came the Carthaginians, then the Romans, and the Phoenician cities fell. The Sardinians fought back heroically, like in the 'lost city' of Cornus, which was defended against the Romans to the last breath. For this it was punished, destroyed and rebuilt. The most poignant of sunsets over the sea originates from its ruins, which overlook the Gulf of Cuglieri and the cliffs of Santa Caterina di Pittinurri. The Romans expanded and built their city overlooking Asinara: Turris Libisonis emerged beautiful and imperious, now the centre of Porto Torres. This is an area of Sardinia where the early Sardinian and Nuragic civilisation was best preserved. Here, a short distance from the sea, stands one of the oldest and most unusual monuments of European culture, the ziggurat of Monte d'Accoddi. The Romans laid paved roads to better rule the territory and to connect the conquered cities. One joined Nora to Bithia on the coastline, and today it is a scenic hike through untouched landscapes, similar to when it was travelled in ancient times.
What remains of Sulci is the poignant hill of the tophet on the sea of Sant'Antioco. In the heart of Cagliari is Tuvixeddu, the largest Punic necropolis in the Mediterranean facing the Golfo degli Angeli (‘Gulf of Angels’). The cities of Tharros and Nora emerge from the sea at Cabras and Pula, and it is no small thrill to behold them as you swim or paddle off their beaches. In Bithia, under the spell of Chia, the sea has first carried away and recently returned the remains of a tophet and a Punic temple on the islet of su Cardulinu, a Nuragic settlement and a Phoenician necropolis under the tower of Chia, and the Roman temple of the god Bes in the wetlands surrounding the coast.
And the nuraghi on the sea? In some cases, Spanish coastal towers have taken their place, but you can still find many of them suspended between the green of the bush and the blue of the sea and sky. From the beaches you can visit the Mannu in Dorgali, the Diana in Quartu Sant'Elena, s'Ortali 'su monti in Tortolì, Aleri in Tertenia, Sellersu in Barisardo, and the Antigori in Sarroch. From these coastal lookouts you will seem to hear the voice of the mare nostrum of ancient history.