Mountainous island and special autonomous region of Italy, about 240 km/150 mi southwest of the Orbetello promontory in Tuscany; area 24,090 sq km/9,301 sq mi; population (2001 est) 1,599,500. It is the second-largest Mediterranean island and comprises the provinces of Cagliari, Nuoro, Oristano, and Sassari; its capital is Cagliari. Cork, fruit, grain, tobacco, minerals (lead, zinc, manganese), and petrochemicals are exported. Features include the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) tourist area in the northeast, and thousands of nuraghi, fortified Bronze Age dwellings unique to the island. After centuries of foreign rule, Sardinia became linked with Piedmont in 1720, and this dual kingdom became the basis of a united Italy in 1861.
History Sardinia was occupied by the Carthaginians between 500 and 480 BC. Rome took possession of the island in 238 BC and formed it into a province, to which Corsica was added in 227 BC but separated again in AD 67. Sardinia was one of the chief sources of the Roman Empire's corn supply; it also produced silver and salt.
After suffering the repeated ravages of Goths and Vandals, Sardinia passed into the possession of the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantines). In later times it was harassed by the Saracens. In the 11th century it became a kingdom, although in 1190 it had to recognize the supremacy of Pisa, which was then contested by Genoa. The Spanish kingdom of Aragòn held the island from 1323 to 1326. Ruled by a Spanish viceroy from 1478 to 1713, it then passed to Austria through the Peace of Utrecht, and finally to the duke of Savoy in 1718, who took the title King of Sardinia. His descendant, Victor Emmanuel II, became king of Italy in 1861.
Physical Sardinia's highest point is Gennargentu, rising to 1,834 m/6,020 ft near the centre of the island. The main hilly mass of the northeastern two-thirds of the island is separated from the hills of the southwest by the broad alluvial plain of Campidano, the site of Cagliari. The chief rivers are the Mannu, Flumendosa, and Tirso, all flowing south out of the central portion of hills. The region also includes the islands of Asinara, Caprera, San Pietro, and La Maddalena.
Economy The Campidano Plain in the southwest is mainly devoted to extensive cereal farming, including wheat and barley; grapes, olives, cork, and tobacco are also produced. Enclosure of former common land and irrigation projects have helped to improve the agricultural economy. Dams built on the rivers for irrigation also provide electricity for homes and factories. Most of the rest of the island is hilly and used for raising sheep and goats. The extraction of lignite, kaolin, and baryte has grown in quantity. In 1991 a bauxite mine opened at Olmedo in Sassari province. Fishing, particularly for tuna, sardines, and lobster, is also important.
Industrial activities are limited, and manufacturing includes non-ferrous metals, chemicals, refined petroleum, processed food, textiles, wine, and leather and wood products. Sardinia has a troubled economy, in which a low per capita income and high employment have traditionally prevailed. The flourishing tourist industry has been an important contributor to the economy.
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