The Province of Carbonia-Iglesias is the least extesive in Sardinia. It is located in the islands extreme southwest, bounded by the Province of Cagliari on the east and by the province of Medio Campidano on the north. It is a newly established province: actually, it was created following a regional law of 2001 which provided for a new distribution of the Sardinian territory by increasing the number of provinces from four to eight.
The Province of Carbonia-Iglesias covers 1495 square kilometres (6.2% of the Sardinian territory) and has 23 communes, including two islands: the Island of San Pietro and the Island of Sant'Antioco (this one is connected to the territory by an artificial isthmus and is the fourth for extension in Italy), both form the Archipelago of Sulcis.
The province has a hinterland with great landscape interest and areas left completely untouched: indeed, here we find the Sulcis Natural Park. The 23 comuni of Carbonia Iglesias are also part of the historic sub-region Sulcis Iglesiente, a region famous for its ancient origins and traditions.
And history has resided here since before Antiquity: the first human settlements, in fact, date back 5,000 years ago, selected by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians as a place for settlement. These peoples were the first to discover the ore deposits (lead, zinc, silver, barium, copper) present in this area. The deposits were gradually abandoned, as they had been widely exploited until the Middle Ages, and they were rediscovered in the mid-19th Century, when capitalists, technicians and workers came to this area from all over the world.
After the Second World War, the area's mining industry in the area entered into definitive depression. Today, the "remains" of that period - buildings and equipment, some of which is still in operation - are solid exemplars of industrial archaeology.
The old town of Iglesias, one of the most beautiful in southern Sardinia, is rich in monuments. Among these monuments is the Cathedral of Santa Chiara, built between 1285 and 1288 and later expanded and redesigned in Gothic-Catalan style: today it houses many statues, paintings and valuable furnishings, including a 16th-CenturyLate Gothic Cross and an 18th-Century canvas of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Saints.
Other than the Cathedral, pay a visit to the Church of San Francesco, the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie and Salvaterra Castle. And outside the old town lies the Church of Madonna di Valverde, built in the 1200s. Finally, the Mining Museum features a collection pertaining to the history of the mines of Iglesias.
The Province of Carbonia-Iglesias composes part of the so-called "Sulcis Iglesiente," an area in southeastern Sardinia overflowing with archaeological zones, mineral parks and beautiful beaches. Not far from the city of Iglesias is the striking Valley of Antas, boasting various archaeological remains, likethe homonymous temple, built in the 6th Century B.C. and restructured under the Roman Emperor Caracalla (211-217).
Continuing towards the coast, we approach the remains of the mines of Ingortosu and Montevecchio, significant exemplars of industrial archaeology. In particular, Montevecchio and the remains of its mines make up one of the eight sites that are part of the Geo-mineral Historical and Environmental Park of Sardinia, protected by UNESCO.
Going southwards and inland, Carbonia, intriguing exemplar of a "new city," fact, it was built in the late 1930s as housing for the numerous coal miners (N.B. carbon means coal in Italian, hence Carbonia). Less than 2 miles from the city the archaeological area of Mount Sirai holds the remains of an ancient city settled by Phoenicians and, later, Punics. The settlement is divided into several areas: the village, where one can still make out quite clearly the neighborhoods, the squares, the houses; the religious structures, with the temple inside the city and the Tophet, an open sanctuary; and the necropolis, with ancient Phoenician graves and the subterranean rooms of the Carthaginians' funerary hypogeum.
Not to be left out are the two islands of Sulcis: Sant'Antioco, connected to the mainland by an isthmus and rich in archaeological remains; and San Pietro, with its unique elevated coasts dropping dramatically to the sea (at least on the island's west, where erosion has created cliffs, caves and recesses of striking beauty); and low, straight and sandy coasts in the east.
The Province of Carbonia-Iglesias is home to the Natural Park of Sulcis, one of the largest forested areas in Europe. It is an ideal place for trekking or bicycling excursions, during which one can admire the area's lush vegetation and rich fauna. It is worth noting the presence of the Sardinian deer, which was saved from extinction in this very area.
But the Province of Carbonia-Iglesias is also a water lover's dream, with its varied coasts ranging from flat beaches made of fine sand to rugged cliffs. Speleologists will thrill at the caves of Su Benatzu di Santadi, chosen by the Nuragic Civilization as places of worship; or Is Zuddas, with its white aragonite, and Su Mannau, hidden between the woods.
The typical products of this area of Sardinia are many, starting with the fish that is abundant along the coasts.
Besides the "classics" such as tuna, swordfish, mullet, anchovies and sea bream, the mullet roe (bottarga) is widespread: made with the dried eggs of tuna or mullet, it is used as a starter, perhaps spread on bread accompanied by butter, or grated over spaghetti.
Cheese types include pecorino, which pairs well with carasau bread, thin and crispy and prepared according to various methods, such as guttiau bread, warmed in the oven with olive oil and salt, or wet and rolled up.
It is worth recommending the first courses, such as malloreddus, gnocchi made with semolina topped with sausage gravy; and culurjonis, dumplings stuffed with ricotta and mint, or with a filling made of potatoes, fresh cheese and mint.
Finally, the wines, such as Carignano del Sulcis, a DOC wine of intense ruby red color, is dry and fragrant and possesses a minimum total alcohol content of 11.5 °. It is perfect with first courses, grilled meats, salami and matured cheese.