Asinara, the island with an interesting history

A natural paradise in the middle of the emerald sea, inhabited by numerous endangered plant and animal species and strictly protected by the environmental law. Asinara, the second-largest Sardinian island after Sant’Antioco, is located on the northwest of the region. A pearl of the Sardinian nature and a territory with an extremely interesting history, the island attracts numerous tourists interested in discovering this unusual place.

History of Asinara

This little Sardinian island has a long and interesting history. As a matter of fact, Asinara has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years. The oldest traces of the human presence, the ancient necropolis called domus de janas in Campu Perdu, date back to the Neolithic Age. In the following centuries, Asinara was colonized by the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans, who used to call it Herculis Insula¹. The waters around the island still conserve remains of the Roman boats whereas the cove Cala Reale hides a load of the ancient amphoras, which lay accumulated on the sea bed. Nowadays, the area constitutes and extremely important archaeological site.

In 1885, the Italian government decided to establish on the island a hospital and a penal colony. As a consequence, 50 families living on the island at that time were forced to resettle, and the majority of them decided to set up a village on the nearby peninsula Stintino. During the first World War, Asinara served as the penitentiary facility for war prisoners. Some years later, in the sixties, the Italian authorities established there a maximum security prison, where brigatists and mafiosi were incarcerated. In all these years, only one prisoner managed to escape from the strictly protected jail. For this reason, the Asinara’s prison used to be called the Italian Alcatraz.

The prison was eventually shut down in 1998. Two years later, the island was put under the protection and since then the territory constitutes the Asinara National Park (Parco Nazionale dell’Asinara).

The Asinara National Park

Limited human activity over the last centuries allowed the island to conserve a lot of its natural flora and fauna treasures and a unique ecosystem. The 52 square kilometers of Asinara are a habitat of many rare and endangered plant and animal species. A particularity among the animals are the white Sardinian donkeys. It is believed, that the island owes its name to this rare animal, since the Italian word asino means exactly a donkey. Moreover, the territory is the habitat of about 150 species of marine birds, horses and mouflons. With a relevant presence of the cetaceans, since years Asinara is a part of a Marine Protected Area called the Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary.