Digging Up History in Porto Torres, Sardinia
Roman Ruins in Porto Torres, Sardinia

Can you imagine? You are building a new train station, and every time you put a shovel to the ground you dig up an ancient statue, vase or Roman coin. This is the case in Porto Torres--a working dock city on the island of Sardinia.

Like a great many cities in Italy, Porto Torres was built and rebuilt, each civilization one on top of the next.

Geography played a huge part in the development of this colony, as ships came to the harbor directly from Rome. Prior to the Romans, the Phoenicians and Carthaginians used the harbor as a seaport. The harbor now is serviced by ferry boats shuttling people and goods back and forth from Genoa, Italy and Marseille, France, as well as the island of Corsica.

Invading hoards and malaria have both plagued the history of Porto Torres, making the further inland city of Sassari the more significant, but in our entire stay there we saw neither hoard nor mosquito. It had come to our attention that, in fact, malaria had been wiped from Sardinia in the 1950s. We hope the hoards stay away as well.

Roman Ruins in Porto Torres, Sardinia There is a important excavation happening at this moment of the ancient Roman colony of Turris Lybisonis. Having to fulfill the needs of the Roman people, the Turris Lybisonis was equipped with thermal baths and temples, the most significant of these dedicated to Fortuna, goddess of luck, chance and, you guessed it, fortune. The Antiquarium Turritano houses many of the artifacts found by citizens of the city, many times during
their work and everyday lives. We were most impressed by the many mosiacs painstakingly reassembled by the patient historians assigned to this important project. Those guys are crazy patient.

Roman Ruins in Porto Torres, Sardinia Because the excavation is an ongoing venture, the city does not allow bumbling tourists to crawl about on the ruins, so we had to be satisfied to keep our big, clumsy feet on the outskirts, sneaking over the tracks of the nearby train station to get the best views. We were helped greatly by a sly old man who knew the best trail for our covert actions.

One of the most fascinating attractions of Porto Torres is the 1st century Roman bridge, spanning the Mannu River, that has stayed in use through the centuries to this day. The bridge was the key reason we decided to venture to Porto Torres and although we were unable to walk across due to renovation, we were able to hike down and see its seven arches from the river below. The length of these arches are asymmetrical and the blocks of stone used were enormous, giving the structure an impossible, unwieldy air. Fantastic.

Porto Torres is also home to the most amazing cookies we’ve ever seen. They are literally works of art. Upon entering the bakery of Trincas M Chiara, a charming Sardinian man laden with freebies, we were surrounded by the scent of fresh baked deliciousness and the lacy artistry of cookies for all occasions.

Wedding Cookies in Porto Torres, Sardinia

The most beautiful of these were the traditional wedding cookies of the region called dolce della sposa or sweets of the bride. The proprietor explained to us that each of the cookies were handmade, that there was no factory involved. The time and attention put into each one of these little masterpieces was astounding, we felt as though we were in a gallery. How could we leave without some newly purchased goodies to take with us to the beach?

Balai Beach in Porto Torres, Sardinia Ahhh…we were the beautiful people. Seriously, don’t they all hang out on Mediterranean beaches? Our white-sanded beach, Balai, was shared by our fellow beautiful people basking in the sun, sailing little boats and fishing off of the interesting rock jetties (venturing out on the rocks was a bit painful on the feet--the little children running on them had convinced us to
come out barefoot, but shoes would have been a better choice). Blue water, a fabulous view, sun kissed red noses and warm sand between our toes--life would have to work pretty hard to improve on this.

Fortuna had clearly smiled upon us.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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