Sa Jara Manna: an island within the island
With its rare animals and plants, the Sa Jara Manna plateau is unique in the world.
One of the most magical places in Sardinia is surely Sa Jara Manna. It is a basaltic plateau on the border between Marmilla and Sarcidano, which dominates the surrounding landscape thanks to its 550 meters of average height.
Famous for being the habitat of the last wild horses of Europe, Giara is considered a biotope of national importance, due to some unique geographical, environmental and socio-cultural characteristics.
Origins and history of Sa Jara Manna
The term “giara” seems to derive from the Latin “glarea“, or gravel, which indicates a stony ground. It was formed about two million years ago by the lava that flowed on an arenaric base from two craters that are now extinct, but still clearly visible. One is Zepparedda (the peak of the plateau, 609 meters high), the other is Zeppara Manna (the most panoramic point). The two eruptions, which occurred 700 years apart, covered the existing valley forming a large basaltic plain.
The plateau is located in an elevated position, not because it rose but because the surrounding territory lowered, eroded by water and wind. Since basalt is a very resistant rock the plateau has not been affected by erosion.
Compared to the other minor jara of Serri and Siddi, this one is called “manna“, that is “large“, due to its extension: about 45 square km. Half of it is in the municipality of Gesturi (for this reason it is also called Giara di Gesturi), the other half is divided between Genoni (1600 hectares), Tuili (450) and Setzu (250).
Its area, with an ecosystem characterized by rare animals and plants, touches other small villages, such as Albagiara, Assolo, Genuri, Gonnosnò, Nuragus, Senis and Sini. Each of them houses naturalistic, archaeological, artistic and ethnographic museums, which can be reached on foot, by bike or on horseback.
The Giara is a natural impregnable fortress with rampart-like escarpment walls. For this, over the centuries it has been an important defense against invaders. However, the traces scattered on the plateau testify to a very remote past. On the top there are 24 nuraghi, mostly single tower. Among these, the Bruncu Madugui on the south-eastern edge is the most imposing Sardinian protonuraghe. Also worth mentioning are Pranu Omus in Genoni, Santa Luisa in Tuili, San Lussorio in Albagiara and the Scab’i Ois nuraghe, near the spring in the park of Cracchera.
Furthermore, the Giara is crossed by the longest stretch of paved Roman road in Sardinia: 7 km. It is no coincidence that in the Middle Ages shepherds wandered around the plateau, crossing the steep mule tracks called “scalas“. The pinnetas, shelters similar to nuragic huts, were their homes.
Sa Jara Manna: a unique ecosystem
Since 1995, the Giara has become a Site of Community Importance. Indeed, the typical flora and fauna are not found elsewhere. There are luxuriant woods with cork oaks (often oblique due to the mistral wind), holm oaks, downy oaks, strawberry trees, mastic trees and myrtles. During the spring, helichrysum, asphodels and rock roses grow, as well as cyclamen, orchids and morisia, an endemic plant that gives its name to the local botanical garden.
Then, there are the spectacular is paulis, natural depressions that collect rainwater. In spring these ponds are covered with white buttercups, in summer they dry up and create a lunar landscape. Instead, in autumn the rains color them the dark red of tamarisk trees, while in winter they are covered with a thin layer of ice. In some cases, the is paulis last all year round, such as the two pauli maiori. They have a rich microfauna, which mainly includes tiny crustaceans. These are real living fossils, which have remained unchanged for millions of years. In addition, there are birds such as the marsh harrier, the black-winged stilt and the mallard.
Finally, there are the famous ponies della Giara. They are the only example in Europe of a colony of wild horses. Usually, they gallop through the bushes in small groups, drink from the pauli and feed mainly on buttercups. Today, there are about 700 specimens that graze in the wilderness of the Giara. In addition to the ponies, the fauna of the plateau includes wild boars, weasels, hares, martens, foxes and 60 species of birds.
Do you want to discover the natural wonders of Sa Jara Manna and live a holiday full of charm? Book a stay at Palazzo Doglio in Cagliari