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Island of Asinara

Date of Submission: 01/06/2006
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of the Environment and land Protection
State, Province or Region:

Region: Sardenia - Province: Sassari

Ref.: 5002

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The island, located in the north-west of Sardinia, brings the National Park of Asinara, whose area is encompassed among Punta Scolondri, Punta dello Scorno, Punta Salippi and Punta Sabina.

The island has a surface of 51,9 square kilometers, a length of 17,4 km and a width which ranges from 290 meters of Cala di Sgombro to 6.4 km of the northern part; it has a coastal development of 110 km and the highest altitude of 408 metres (Punta della Scomunica). The territory is entirely state property.

The marine and underwater island environment is a protected natural area, with an extension of 10.732 hectares over the sea. From a geological point of view, the Asinara is part of the Nurra, on the north-east of Sardinia, made up by more than 80% of granolithic and micacistes rock which characterize the island  landscape together with the vegetation of wood and garrigues. Among the metamorphic rocks, great interest is attached to rare black anfiboliti erciniche that are 950 million years old, being the oldest rocks in Italy.

The Asinara is formed by four mountain agglomerations that are surrounded and linked by a narrow and flat coastal belt. The west coast,  with very deep bottoms, is steep and rocky, whipped by the winds of the fourth quadrant and almost inaccessible from the sea (phalesies can sometime overpass 200 m) ; the west coast, flat or uneven, climbs down towards the bay of Asinara and presents the typical rias morphology with nook and sandy shores (Fornelli, Sant'Andrea, Cala Arena, La Reale) and related ponds behind the dunes.

The first human traces can be found in the prehistory with the "domus de ianas" (sprites' houses) built inside soft lime stone, unique in the island, by Campu Perdu. For its central position in the Mediterranean, Asinara was already known and enjoyed by Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans; in the middle age monks from Camaldoli settled in there devoting themselves to agriculture; more recently,

In late ‘700, shepherds from Sardinia and Liguria  colonized the island till 1885 when all the 500 inhabitants had to move away to let the isle becoming a penal colony and a quarantine station (as decided by King Umberto di Savoia).

During the great War it was a concentration camp for many thousands of austro-hungaric soldiers, and 5000 soldiers died on the island and were buried in a dedicated charnel house. In the 70's it become a high security prison for convicts for organized crimes, also imprisoning the most dangerous  criminals of red brigades, Sardinia anonymous and mafia.

An history definitely marked by human presence and by a strong isolation too, which allowed to safeguard the place while avoiding feasible ventures or tourism settlement developments, elsewhere characterizing the territory.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The National Park, set up on the basis of Acts 394/91 and 344/97, has been managed up to now  by a provisional managing committee. By Presidential Decree on the 3rd October 2002, were officially set both the Park and the Park body, which is a management body envisaged for national parks by framework act on protected areas.

The park body will also manage the Protected Marine Area set by decree of the Minister of the environment and land protection on the 13th of August 2002.

Both the park and the marine area are enclosed in the trans-frontalier protected area "international cetaceans sanctuary "(Act. 391/01).

The Asinara is furthermore a Site of Community importance (M.D. on the 3rd of April 2000), proposed within the implementation of Nature Network 2000.

Strict regulations on island tend to guarantee the conservation of the marine and land natural environment. Institutional decrees (M.D. 28.11.97, M.D. 13.8.02, Presidential Decree 3.10.02) make indeed compulsory the authorization to access to the isle, with numerous clauses, no permission to use own vehicles, prohibition of sport fishing, anchorage and navigation with the exception of authorized means.

Comparison with other similar properties

Asinara island, in its territory, represents an unicum in the basin of the Mediterranean from a geological flora and fauna, both on land and sea, for the state of its territorial naturalness and outstanding presence. Sardinia and Corsica, even if present similar conditions, nevertheless encompass them into restricted territorial areas and  in conditions with very high man- induce pressure.