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Arzachena, Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, Italy

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyGraced with 35 miles of spectacular coastline along Sardinia’s northern shore, Costa Smerelda (or Emerald Coast) was created as an ultra getaway for the rich and famous by Prince Karin Aga Khan IV in the early 1960's.

Watersports, golfing, shopping, fine dining and partying the night away are some of the area’s best activities. Hotel prices can be exorbitant, but that’s no problem for the area’s wealthy visitors, even less so since many arrive aboard their own private yachts. Porto Cervo is the main town.

It's been said that this region on Sardinia's northeastern coast can fetch the highest property prices in the world. Even though the private navy of luxury yachts anchored offshore may lend credence to that, it's the raw natural beauty of the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) that attracted their attention in the first place.

Here on the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, coastal bays enclose clear turquoise blue water, and a selection of fine beaches attract sunbathers and warm weather fanatics.

Throughout history the seaside granite has weathered into interesting shapes and forms. At La Celvia Beach, pale rocks form a headland, and boulders emerge from the ocean. One in particular is commonly referred to as 'Elephant Rock.'

Arzachena is a town and commune in the province of Sassari in northern Sardinia - the second largest island off the coast of Italy.

Arzachena lies half way between the original Costa Smeralda resort and Porto Rafael, both founded in the late 1950's. After Olbia and Tempio Pausania, it is the third largest commune in Gallura measured by inhabitants.

The frazione of Porto Cervo is the main resort area of Costa Smeralda for summer tourism, which since the 1960s has replaced agriculture as the main local income source.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyNearby there are numerous archaeological sites from the Nuragic period, including those from a local sub-culture known as Arzachena culture (the necropolis of Li Muri and others).

Located in an area once inhabited by the Arzachena culture, the region was known by the Romans as Turibulum, after a mushroom-shaped rock which is today the symbol of the town.

The oldest recorded use of the modern name is in a 1421 document, when king Alfonso IV of Aragon gave it (under the spelling Arsaghene) as a fief to Ramboldo de Cobaria.

In the late 16th century it was mostly depopulated, and the current town was re-established in 1716 on a hill by King Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy.

In 1909 the new village had 853 inhabitants, a population which grew substantially after the tourist boom associated with Costa Smeralda, which had originally been a small stretch of coast in the commune of Arzachena.

Arzachena is the original core of Costa Smeralda: this concept was in fact created there in 1962 by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV.

This small town in northern Sardinia is mostly famous for its beautiful beaches and tourist resorts, but there are certainly many more things it has to offer.

The Arzachena area has the most prehistoric sites on the entire island and that this territory in Gallura was the home of a unique civilization with its own rituals and traditions.

As the many remains confirm, the area where Arzachena is located was already inhabited during pre-nuragic times and was a village of great importance during the Roman era as well. There are plenty of ruins, both Nuraghe and remains from the unique culture called “Ozieri Culture”.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyThis civilization thrived before the Nuragic one and consisted of small tribes of farmers who appear to have coexisted in a semi-democratic society.

The practically complete lack of defensive walls around the villages and the fact that the archeologists seldom found weapons inside the tombs suggests that these tribes weren’t at war with each other and lived rather peacefully - which was a rarity for Sardinian populations, which have always been famous for their pride and eagerness to fight off any intruder.

Arzachena remained an essential city during the Giudicati era - it even became the capital at a certain point during the history of Sardinia – but, around the 14th century. At first it gradually began to decline, then quickly, lost all of its inhabitants due to the combined effect of the pirate invasions, droughts, and epidemics.

It started to be repopulated during the Savoy era, but it really flourished in modern times, when a group of entrepreneurs decided to create an exclusive holiday area in a heavenly part of Sardinia that had yet been exploited.

This mushroom-shaped rock is the symbol of Arzachena. Located on a hill right next to the newest buildings of the village, the place was a shelter since Nuragic times. It was, in fact, a broad and safe structure, ideal tohide a small group of people.

Now it’s a pretty famous photo spot that attracts travelers seeking a perfect Instagram moment.

The center of Arzachena is a real pearl of a location. It’s warmth and colorful ambience makes you want to get lost in it. The typical houses, made with a granite façade and often painted pastel colors, have always demanded a few pictures taken by visitors.

Go see Piazza Risorgimento and visit the churches in the area, starting from Santa Maria della Neve church - located in the square.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalySanta Maria della Neve Church was built in 1776 and added onto in 1864, this church has the typical aspect of most of Gallura’s religious buildings.

All looking very simple from the outside, but with some details on the inside, such as the wooden altar and the relics, which are exquisite.

Right next to this Church you will find the San Pietro Church and a bit further you will also see the Santa Lucia Church, famous for the rainbow staircase leading to it.

Ethnographic Mineralogic Paleoanthropological Museum was built with the intent of creating an archive for human knowledge in the area and currently hosts a large collection of minerals and fossils.

Some efforts are being made in order to bring more archaeological remains to the museum, especially after some successful excavations were carried out in the last few years.

A new city administration is push an effort to make this museum more tourist-friendly – although it features some rare rocks and crystals, there are not many people that are interested in minerals.

The area of Arzachena is rich in ruins from pre-Nuragic and Nuragic times and has quite a few well-preserved buildings and complexes. La Prisgiona Nuraghe complex is one of the most important in the North of Sardinia and has a great view of the surrounding territory.

Another famous Nuraghe in the Arzachena area is the Nuraghe Albucciu which is considered sort of a “connection building” between the pre-Nuragic and the Nuragic styles.

Its rectangular shape is, in fact, unusual for a Nuraghe but there are some features - such as the tholos dome that would later evolve in the Sardinian towers’ classic structure.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyIf you are looking for interesting Giants’ Tombs - the two best sites are Coddu Vecchiu and the Li Muri Necropolis. The first one was probably the burying site of the people from the nearby Prisgiona complex, while the latter has a bit more history.

It was built by the aforementioned people of the Ozieri Culture and has the particular feature of being composed of single tombs – while the majority of burials in Sardinia are collective.

Each deceased person was buried in their personal space and had a burial kit. Similar tombs have been found in Corsica and Crete, to show that, even in such early times, Sardinia was well integrated with the other Mediterranean populations.

You can have a full tour of the archeological remains in the area. For more information, check the website of Arzachena Archaeological Park

Capriccioli is one of the most beautiful beaches in North Sardinia. Since Arzachena is the beating heart of Costa Smeralda, it is no surprise that there are plenty of pristine beaches in the area.

Capriccioli Beach is located 17 kilometers or 10.5 miles from Arzachena - not far from Porto Cervo, and it overlooks the La Maddalena Archipelago.

Its two coves provide a safe spot to swim because when blowing winds makes the water dangerous in one, the other one will always be much calmer.

The beach is equipped with everything the beach-goer might need, there are plenty of top hotels in the area making it a great holiday location.

Liscia Ruja - which many consider a single beach, the place is actually made of several smaller beaches and coves. The water is crystal-clear and shallow and the sand is soft and golden, as you would expect from any place in Costa Smeralda.

It’s not possible to get there directly by car - meaning you will have to park a little further away because, to avoid overcrowding, the access is limited to a few hundred people.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyGrande Pevero, one of the most famous beaches of Costa Smeralda, or the Emerald Coast, is another beach location near Porto Cervo, that is surrounded by typical Mediterranean plants, giving off a wild aroma and a peaceful feel.

The bottom is mainly sandy but some rocks in the water make the view even more interesting. There are smaller coves along the beach and behind it is a golf course.

Spiaggia del Principe is another location that is famous not only for its beauty but also because it was supposedly the Costa Smeralda founder’s favorite spot – hence its name which translates to “Prince’s Beach”.

The rocks that emerge from the sand and go all the way to the water contribute to the unique beach’s atmosphere. Sunset is magnificent here! Remember that, like many other beaches in the area, this one is often pretty crowded, so be sure to get there early if you wish to grab a nice spot.

Cala Petra Ruja Beach is a little lesser known and isn’t equipped with any sort of services, so it’s the ideal place if you prefer a quiet spot without giving up on the emerald, heaven-like panoramas. The water is said to be so clear that it’s difficult to estimate how deep it is. (even so, don’t expect to find a completely empty beach)

Arzachena is a quick drive from Porto Cervo, so to get to Arzachena it is only about 26 kilometers or 16 miles away from Olbia, where you’ll find the nearest airport and harbor with connections to the rest of Italy as well as to Europe.

The best way to get there is definitely by car. You just need to follow State Road SS 125 – it will take you about 30 minutes to get there.

If you are traveling by public transport, you can hop on bus 601 that has regular departures from Olbia Porto Isola Bianca station. The journey lasts about one hour; the bus ticket cost is nominal.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyThe first modern settlement of Arzachena formed around the countryside church of Santa Maria della Neve, dating back to 1776.

The territory is in fact rich in archeological sites, which means that the area has been settled since ancient times, and that local culture had reached a high level of development.

The Archeological Park of Arzachena consists of 8 archeological sites, spanning from Middle Neolithic to Late Bronze Age. A journey through Nuragic history, surrounded by Mediterranean maquis, the typical rural settlements called “stazzo” and the stones, all telling the story of Sardinia.

The La Prisgiona Nuragic complex is a compound tholos Nuraghe consisting of a central tower and two lateral towers, protected by walls. Inside there is a well, over 7 meters deep, and the meeting tent.

The complex comprises over 90 tents, some yet to be unearthed, and some constructions dedicated to artisanal labs, which shows the level of evolution of this settlement.

The complexity of this archeological site, the finds (including a vase of a very peculiar shape), the beauty of the surroundings (Capichera) make this attraction a must-see.

The Coddu Vecchio Tomb of Giants is a funerary monument destined for collective burials, typical of the Nuragic era.

The monument is well preserved and shaped like a half moon, consisting of many blocks of increasing size, at the center of which a bigger stone is placed (a stele 4.4 meters high). The latter has a small opening that leads to the burial corridors.

The Tombs of Giants were placed in specific locations thought by many to be “energizing”, and their mere visit was considered rejuvenating.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyCoddu Vecchio, or in Gallurese dialect Coddu Vecchju, is situated in a particularly captivating location: behind the tombs you can admire the wonderful vines of the Capichera region, which gives its name to one of Sardinia's most famous and renowned Vermentino wines.

The Municipality also turned the spotlight on summer this year. It is impossible to organize large events with thousands of people crowded in front of the stage, but in Arzachena it was still possible to put in place a calendar of events capable of animating both the town and its villages.

The Arzachena Summer Festival schedule will be announced in late May or early June 2022, including concerts, white nights and open-air cinema as well as numerous other activities.

This is the town in the Gallura region around which the Costa Smeralda emerged, in the northeastern part of the Island, a symbol of luxury, high society and elite tourism in Sardinia

Breathtaking landscapes, beaches of incomparable beauty, hills covered with vineyards and archaeological treasures. A vast and unique territory characterizes Arzachena, a small town in the Gallura region, 25 kilometers from Olbia, with a population of 14 thousand residents in the wintertime.

There are pretty much the same number of beds at the hotels in a locality in constant demographic and economic growth - famous for the Costa Smeralda, a symbol of elite tourism that emerged in the 1960s.

Things that contribute to its marine prosperity are granite mining, a distinctive feature of the architecture in the old town centre, and famous wineries producing Gallura’s Vermentino wine.

Until the 17th century, the little residential area of Arzachena was just a small group of little houses located around the church of Santa Maria. Today, it is a triumph of colours: little squares and facades of pink granite and white stone, flower-filled views and green spaces dotted with boutiques, delights and artisan products.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyAround the little town, there are the typical stazzi, rural settlements converted into B&Bs and agritourism facilities, as well as numerous districts in a ‘young’ Municipality established in 1922.

The largest ones are Abbiadori, Baja Sardinia, Cannigione, once a fishing village and now a tourist village, and Poltu Quatu, a modern marina in a ‘fiord-like’ cove.

Then there is Porto Cervo, an architectural 'gem' that blends with the landscape and the most exclusive holiday location in Sardinia, brimming with yachts and celebrities during the summer, as well as aperitifs and elegant star-studded evenings, scintillating nightlife, luxury hotels and villas, glamorous restaurants and clubs, sailing and golfing events - and beautiful women.

All around, there is wild scenery, like Capo Ferro, and countless Costa Smeralda beaches. Cala Granu stands out, as does the ‘crescent-shaped’ expanse of soft white sand of Grande Pevero.

Behind it, there is the well-kept grass of the Pevero Golf Club and opposite, there are the islands of Li Nibani. A destination very popular with celebrities is the Piccolo Pevero, the long half of its ‘big brother’.

Then there are the delightful coves of the Romazzino bay. Poltu di li Cogghj was the Aga Khan’s favourite beach: it is now known as the Prince’s Beach and is a stretch of fine sand divided by pink rocks.

On the opposite side of the Costa Smeralda promontory you will be charmed by La Celvia, with fragments of shells and quartz powder, overlooking Cala di Volpe, a little harbour where scenes from ‘Agent 007- the spy who loved me’ were put on film for the movie.

Further South, behold the spectacle of the most beautiful Costa Smeralda beach, Cala Capriccioli. The landscape is enhanced by the little islands in the Arcipelago di La Maddalena National Park: Soffi, Camere and Mortorio.

Arzachena-Costa-Smeralda - ItalyIn the distance, you will see the shoreline of Liscia Ruja: coves lit by the white reflections of sails. The largest beach is the scene of a great celebration during the 15th of August Ferragosto holiday.

Closing the coast, is the, evocative and secluded La Suareddha. Other masterpieces scattered throughout the 90 km of the Arzachena coast, include the ‘silky’ stretches of Tanca Manna and the splendid Ea Bianca - or Cove of the Junipers.

Nearby La Sciumara there is Padula Saloni, a pond populated by herons, black-winged stilts and western marsh harriers - a valued bird watching destination.

Arzachena is not just sea and high society, but it has an interesting past that made an indelible mark. In the old town centre there is the monti incappiddhatu (mountain with a hat), a rock known as the Mushroom, shaped over time in an original way and used since the Recent Neolithic Age.

A walk in the countryside you will allow you to discover a vast archaeological park. The oldest and most famous site is the Li Muri necropolis (late 4th millennium BC), known as ‘grave circles’.

Among the evidence of the Bronze Age, the nuraghe Albucciu, a ‘corridor-type’ building, hidden in a wild olive thicket. The remains of the village are around the nuraghe and 80 metres away there is the tomba Moru, the result of the transformation of an allée couverte into a Tomb of Giants.

Nearby, you will find the little temple of Malchittu, the ‘theatre’ of ritual ceremonies. Not to be missed is La Prisgiona in the valley of Capichera, consisting of trilobed nuraghe and a village of approximately one hundred huts.

To conclude the archaeological tour, there are two Tombs of Giants built in multiple phases between the Early and the Intermediate Bronze Age: the tomb of Coddu vecchiu with a four-metre high stele, and the famous tomb of Li Lolghi, made entirely from granite, with a long burial chamber and a long exedra, respectively 27 and 26 metres in length.

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