Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Roman Sites & Museums in Sardinia

Following their success in the First Punic War, the Romans annexed Sardinia from the Carthaginians in 238 BC. It was not until 227 BC that Sardinia and Corsica became a  province of the Republic. Roman occupation of the island brought much of the Nuragic civilisation to an end. They met with resistance from communities living in the mountainous interior. Besides being militarily strategic, the island was an important source of grain for Rome. In 456 AD the Vandals conquered the island, bringing Rome rule to an end. 

Create Your Sardinia Itinerary & Travel Lists

Roman Ruins & Sites in Sardinia

Antas Roman Quarry

The quarry represents a rather rare case in the ancient world, since it is in direct contact with the site where the stone was quarried. Approximately 800 m away, in a path not too far from the sanctuary, but still challenging due to the uneven terrain, there are three quarry areas set within a grove. Looking around, one can still clearly see the cutting lines that were followed during the extraction of the limestone. The beginning of the quarrying activity could refer either to the first Roman phase of the sanctuary in the 1st century BC, or to its reconstruction in the 3rd century AD.

Archaeological Park of Turris Libisonis

On the right bank of the river Riu Mannu, in an area to the north-west of present-day Porto Torres, lie the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Turris Libisonis, founded in 46 BC by Julius Caesar and for this reason known as Colonia Iulia. The first excavations were carried out in the 1940s by Massimo Pallottino, who identified one of its three bath complexes in which several mosaics, statues and bas-reliefs were recovered. Within the archaeological area are also the remains of wealthy domus, once belonging to prominent members of the city, from which come magnificent mosaics such as that of Orpheus. The archaeological park can only be visited at certain times, and with entry to the Turritano Antiquarium Museum.

Necropolis of Su Crucifissu Mannu

At a short distance from Porto Torres, a necropolis was excavated between the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, reused at least until 1500 BC. It consists of 22 domus de janas excavated in the limestone rock, some with shaft entrances and others with corridor entrances adorned with various symbolic elements. On the surface of the rocky terrain, there are numerous signs of carts dating back to the Roman period, which probably transported the stone blocks for the construction of the nearby Turris Libisonis. With free access, the archaeological site will give you an incredible feeling of exploration in search of the hypogea scattered in the area.

Nora Archaeological Site

According to ancient sources, Nora was one of the first cities founded in Sardinia. Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans followed one another on this small peninsula, which established itself as an important trading centre in the ancient Mediterranean. Most of the visible structures are from its Roman phase, built between the 1st century BC and the 4th century AD. Visitors can explore the remains of the Roman city’s main features, such as the baths, sanctuaries and living quarters, in which splendid mosaics survive, and the theatre, which, given its excellent condition, is still used for concerts in the evenings during summer.

Roman Amphitheatre, Cagliari

One of the best examples in Sardinia where an archaeological ruin merges with the modern city. It was built between the end of the 1st  and the beginning of the 2nd century AD, becoming part of the city landscape from that time on. Throughout its history it had many roles: it was the site of gladiatorial battles, a quarry, a family shelter and a concert arena. It is undoubtedly a symbolic place of the city of Cagliari, which can be admired from the streets that surround it. By paying a small ticket, it is possible to get closer to better observe it, but unfortunately, neither walking in the arena nor visiting its inner areas is allowed.

Roman Baths of Fordongianus

The baths are located in what was the border area between Romanised and indigenous territory. The town was first known as Acque Ypsitanae, founded in the late Republican age, later took the name Forum Traiani, sometime between 98 and 117 AD. The first part of the baths was probably built between the 1st and 2nd century AD, linked to health-giving deities, due to the healing properties of the thermal water. The large pool flanked by a portico is still visible, which connects to the second part of the baths, consisting of the classic division into frigidarium, tepidarium and two caldaria. In addition, small traces of painting still survive in one room, a fairly rare occurrence in Sardinia.

Roman Bridge of Porto Torres

One of the most important Roman engineering works in Sardinia, the bridge at Porto Torres was built during the imperial period. Seven arches span the river Riu Manno, carrying a section of an important road that connected Turris Libisonis to Karales, today’s Cagliari. The bridge has been continuously used, by both light and heavy vehicles, until the 1980s, being repaved several times. Restoration work was carried out in 2020, allowing those who visit today the chance to admire the bridge’s original paving stones, on which there are still traces of the passage of the carts that, over the centuries, crossed its 132 metres.

Roman Fountain of Sant'Antioco

In the heart of Piazza Italia is the ancient fountain named ‘Is Solus’. This was built by the Romans during the canalisation of spring waters, and consists of four interconnected stone tanks with barrel vaults. The place acquired fundamental importance for the town of Sant’Antioco over the centuries, since it was the only water supply point for a long time. In 1911, works were carried out to preserve the monument, which hid it from view under the pavement of the square. Today, with some difficulty, visitors can catch a glimpse of the ancient fountain by approaching the glass windows once they have descended the stairs.

Temple of Antas

One of Sardinia’s most iconic archaeological sites, the columns of the reconstructed Roman temple are widely used to promote the islands great attractions. The area had long had sacred and religious associations. Close to the base of the temple archaeologists excavated three tombs dating to the Nuragic period, between the 9th and 8th century. Directly in front of the temple, and partly covered by it, are the foundations of a Punic temple that was constructed around 500 BC. Besides interestingly complex archaeology, the temple is in an archaeological park that located in a picturesque valley.

Tharros Archaeological Site

The city began as an ancient Phoenician trading centre, established around the 8th century BC. It is known for its extremely rich grave goods, mainly from the Carthaginian period, between the end of the 6th and 238 BC. The Romans modified the urban layout, building the structures necessary for city life. As a result of numerous excavations that have taken place at the site since 1850 it is possible to visit the ruins. Visitors retrace the ancient Roman road system while exploring what remains of the settlements, such as the iconic columns over the sea of the tetrastyle temple.

Museums In Sardinia with Roman Collections

Antiquarium Arborense, Oristano

Founded in 1938 but based in the Palazzo Parpaglia since 28 November 1992, the museum houses some of the most significant antiquarian collections on the island, with artefacts mainly from Tharros. The museum tour is structured on two different floors: the ground floor hosts an engaging exhibition on forgeries derived from Nuragic bronze statues and tells the human history of the Oristano territory, from the Neolithic to the Roman and early medieval periods; the first floor houses the other rooms, one dedicated to archaeologists and Efisio Pischedda, former owner of the museum’s most important private collection, one to retables, with important paintings dating from the 13th to the 16th century, and a tactile room for blind people.

Antiquarium Turritano, Porto Torres

The museum is adjacent to the archaeological park of the ancient Roman colony of Turris Libisonis. It was built between 1971 and 1973 to house the many artefacts from the archaeological site but  only opened to the public in 1984. Numerous artefacts testify to the vibrancy of the city and its port activity are on display: ceramics and everyday utensils, votive and cultic furnishings, statues of the city’s magistrates who lived between the 1st and 3rd century AD, as well as inscriptions, cinerary urns and remarkable mosaics and frescoed plasters. Also visible in the museum are the partial remains of a thermal bath, brought to light during the building extension works.

Archaeological and Palaeobotanical Museum of Perfugas

The museum, founded in 1988, exhibits the most significant archaeological and palaeobotanical finds from Anglona, a historical region in Northern Sardinia that overlooks the Gulf of Asinara. Within five sections, dedicated respectively to palaeobotany, the Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Eneolithic, the Nuragic period, and the Classical and Medieval periods, the environmental and human history of the territory is exhibited. Starting from the plant fossils returned from the petrified forests, you can see finds of the first human habitation dating back to the Lower Palaeolithic, admire the magnificent statuette of a Mother Goddess with a child from the Middle Neolithic, and precious artefacts from the Nuragic and Roman periods.

Archaeological Museum Ferruccio Barreca

The museum has been open to the public since 9 January 2006, and houses numerous artefacts related to the ancient city of Sulky, which lies beneath modern Sant’Antioco. The centre was founded by the Phoenicians towards the end of the 9th century BC and was one of the most important trading ports in Sardinia throughout antiquity. The museum tour is narrated in three rooms, which respectively display the finds of the settlement, the necropolis, and the tophet, i.e. the three main nuclei of the urban settlement. Phoenician, Punic and Roman artefacts are displayed in the showcases, which attempt to narrate the different aspects of society, related to daily life, religious, funerary and sacred contexts.

Archaeological Museum of Olbia

The archaeological museum in Olbia celebrates hundreds of years of history in Sardinia’s north-east area. Located in the city’s harbour, this modern building was designed with portholes and walkways to reflect Olbia’s history as an important port. The permanent display take an extensive view of the various periods of Olbia’s past, from the Phoenicians, Greeks, to the Punic and Roman eras. Pride of place in the museum are the conserved remains of Roman boats that had sunk in the ancient harbour and discovered again during the construction of the museum building.

Archaeological Museum, Alghero

Inaugurated on 22 December 2016 inside a historic building dating from the 15th-16th centuries, the museum displays a vast array of objects relating to the history of Alghero and its surroundings. The exhibition plan, which is extremely clear and well marked, is structured around three thematic areas: the sea, ways of living, and the world of the sacred. The finds come from marine, settlement and sacred-funeral contexts, covering an age from the ancient Neolithic to the 17th century AD. Some of the reconstructions of the excavation contexts inside the museum are incredibly engaging, such as that of one of the rooms of the Roman villa of Sant’Imbenia, recomposed inside with the colourful and precious marbles that adorned it.

Civic Archaeological Museum of Cabras

The Museo Civico “Giovanni Marongiu” – Cabras opened in 1997 exhibiting the local history of the Cabras municipality (including the Sinis Peninsular), from prehistory to medieval times. Artefacts come from Neolithic, Nuragic, Phoenician-Punic, Roman and medieval sites in the area. Two notable displays include the Roman shipwreck of Mal di Ventre, dated to the 1st century BC, and a small collection of the large stone statues, the ‘Sardinian Giants’, recovered by archaeologists at the Nuragic necropolis of Mont’e Prama.

National Archaeological Museum, Cagliari

Given the quantity of objects from all over the island, this museum is certainly the most important in Sardinia. Since 1993 it has occupied one of the buildings in a complex known as the ‘Citadel of Museums’, built within the district of Castello, reusing the space of the ancient medieval walls. It houses more than 4,000 objects that tell 7,000 years of history, ranging from Prehistory to the Early Middle Ages, in an itinerary that is divided over 4 floors, each with different themes. In the collections visitors can admire statuettes of the mother goddesses, Nuragic bronze statues, a large part of the Nuragic giant statues of Mont’e Prama, as well as Punic and Phoenician jewellery and Roman statuary.

National Museum Giovanni Antonio Sanna, Sassari

Sassari has one of the most important museums in northern Sardinia, by virtue of its diverse collections and the numerous exhibits that have enriched its showcases over the years. It was initially built in 1878 to house the collection of antiquities that belonged to an industrialist and politician from Sassari from whom the museum takes its name. In 1932 the present site was built, and now housing some of Sardinian history’s most representative artefacts, starting with those from the Palaeolithic period, dating back 500 thousand years. A large room is dedicated to artefacts from the Nuragic period, in which the characteristic figured bronzes are displayed. The last part of the exhibition is dedicated to the Roman and early medieval period, with numerous artefacts from the nearby site of Turris Libisonis.

Villa Sulcis Archaeological Museum

Opened in 2008, the museum aims to tell the story of the Sulcis territory by exhibiting important artefacts, found in various archaeological sites. The tour begins by recounting prehistory and protohistory starting from 6000 BC, analysing the evolution of society from that time onwards. Particular attention is paid to the Nuragic civilisation, and Phoenician artefacts, to which a room is dedicated with material from Sant’Antioco-Sulky and Bitia. Another room is dedicated to the Phoenician-Punic centre of Monte Sirai, in which, in addition to the artefacts, reconstructions of a kitchen, burials, and tophet are proposed. The experience is certainly educational, and allows visitors to fully understand the identity of the area.