Sardinians - Orientation

Identification. Sardinians are the inhabitants of the island of Sardinia, today an autonomous region of Italy. Sardinians see themselves as a distinct ethnic group while being Italian by nationality.

Location. The island of Sardinia lies in the central Mediterranean Sea, 184 kilometers north of the African coast, 208 kilometers west of the Italian port city of Civitavecchia, and separated from Corsica to the north by the 11-kilometer-wide Straits of Bonifacio. With an area of 24,090 square kilometers, Sardinia is the second-largest Mediterranean island, after Sicily. The island consists primarily of mountainous Plateaus, rising gradually from the west and forming the Gennargentu Range in east-central Sardinia, with its highest peak, Punta La Marmora, at 1,834 meters; the eastern plateaus plunge dramatically into the sea. Most of the land area of Sardinia is unsuitable for agriculture; the most important exception is the Campidano Plain, a corridor of fertile lowlands in the southwest stretching from the Gulf of Cagliari to the Gulf of Oristano. Forests, too, cover a relatively small area; most of these are of cork oaks, an important natural resource of the Island. Two-thirds of the island is covered by the degraded vegetation characteristic of the Mediterranean, called maquis (Italian, macchia ), much of which is suitable for pastoralism. Sardinia has a typical Mediterranean climate of mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. At lower elevations, from sea level to 450 meters, the summer drought can last five months, although above 900 meters the dry period is reduced to three months. The mean annual rainfall (at Cagliari, sea-level) is 48 centimeters; however, the amount of rainfall is highly riable from year to year.

Demography. Sardinia has roughly 1.6 million inhabitants and is the least densely populated region of Italy. The two main urban centers are Cagliari, the regional and Provincial capital in the south, and Sassari, a provincial capital in the north; the two other provincial capitals, Oristano and Nuoro, are rapidly growing towns that serve as local urban centers.

Linguistic Affiliation. Most Sardinians speak standard Italian as well as their local Sardinian language, although Sardinian is now declining in urban areas. Sardinian is a family of related dialects that derive from the ancient Latin of the Romans. There is no standard form of Sardinian. There are small pockets of populations that speak other colonial Languages, such as Catalonian Spanish, which is still spoken in Alghero.

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