Lighthouses in Sardinia: the sentinels of the sea
The lighthouses in Sardinia are structures rich in charm and history, guardians of the sea that mark the border between heaven and earth and are fundamental to help and protect sailors.
Just like the nuraghi, the lighthouses in Sardinia are a characteristic element of the island’s landscape, solitary outposts that guard the sea and guide the sailors to port with their light.
A lighthouse is a tower-like structure, equipped with a system at the top consisting of a lamp and a series of lenses able to emit powerful light signals perceptible from afar during coastal navigation. Lighthouses are considered to be the most important maritime markings and are shown on nautical charts where both the focal height and the characteristics of the light emitted are specified.
The Italian name “Faro” of these bright lookouts comes from the Egyptian island of Pharos, which is opposite the ancient city of Alexandria where, during the 3rd century BC, a tower was built on which a fire was constantly burning to help sailors not get trapped in the nearby swamp of Mareotide.
The number of new lighthouses built today is increasingly small, and although over time these fascinating towers that rise above the waves have resisted the corrosive action of salt, many have been replaced by modern digital systems such as Long Range Navigation (LORAN) and the Global Positioning System (GPS). The remaining operational lighthouses are subject to a total automation process so to reduce the operating and maintenance costs.
An important figure linked to the activity of the lighthouses is that of the guardian, a task that in ancient times was assigned to slaves, and then passed to monks in the following centuries before becoming a trade in the nineteenth century. The role of the guardians was to replenish the lamp’s combustible, turn it on and off, clean the lenses and windows and maintain the efficiency of the lense’s rotation mechanism. With the evolution of navigation assistance and rescue systems, the importance of the lighthouse has been considerably reduced.
Lighthouses in Sardinia: five of the most beautiful and mysterious lighthouses on the island
Which are the five most evocative lighthouses in Sardinia? Let’s discover it together:
1.Faro Mangiabarche: this small and solitary lighthouse is on the Mangiabarche islet, not far from the north-western coast of the island of Sant’Antioco, on the channel that separates the latter from the island of San Pietro. The name Mangiabarche (boat eater) alludes to the many boats sunk near the island, of which boulders emerge from the sea resembling the teeth of a monster. The lighthouse was built so to prevent the boats from going into the rocks around the islet, activated in 1935.
- Faro di Capo Spartivento: built in 1866 and still in function, this lighthouse is one of the oldest in Sardinia and can be reached by a four-kilometer long dirt road leading from the beach of the Baia di Chia. The 19-meter high offshore lighthouse consists of a building on which is placed the structure of the lighthouse, protected by the so-called Faraday cage. Renovated in 2006, the lighthouse of Capo Spartivento is periodically checked by the staff of the regency of Cagliari, and the underlying structure has been restored and is used as a Luxury Guesthouse.
- Faro di Capo Sandalo: built on the rocky promontory on the western extremity of the island of San Pietro, in the land of Carloforte, the lighthouse of Capo Sandalo is the furthest west in Italy and stands 138 meters above sea level. It was built in 1864 with ashlars worked by chisel and consists of a circular tower more than 30 meters high that rises from the centre of a two-story building. Equipped with a large automated rotating lantern, which emits beams of light reaching up to 34 miles, the lighthouse is divided into four apartments which once housed the families of the guardians, while in the basement there is still a large wood-burning oven where the women used to bake bread.
- Faro dei Cavoli: is on the highest point of the island of Cavoli, about 40 meters, and was built around 1856, incorporated within the pre-existing Spanish watchtower dating back to 1591. The Cavoli lighthouse was built to ensure a visual contact with the tower of Cala Pira, with that of the Island of Serpentara, and the one of Porto Giunco and Porceddus. It has a parallelepiped-shaped base and is distributed on two floors, previously hosting the living quarters of the people responsible for daily lighting, and a cylindrical tower that brings the entire building to an altitude of 37 meters. The walls are covered with small white tiles and other colours ranging from blue to purple. Today, the Cavoli lighthouse is used by the University Centre for Scientific Research Isola dei Cavoli of the University of Cagliari.
- Faro di Capo di Pula: is inside the tower of Coltellazzo or tower of Sant’Efisio on the top of the promontory overlooking the ruins of the ancient city of Nora, in the territory of the municipality of Pula. The tower built in limestone sandstone and truncated-conical structure is about 11 meters high by 12 meters in diameter at the base and came into operation in 1607. During the eighteenth century, the building was incorporated into a fort erected between 1722 and 1728 but was equipped with a lighthouse only during the nineteenth century.
Would you like to discover the lighthouses of Sardinia and have a holiday full of charm and elegance? Discover Palazzo Doglio in Cagliari.