Though little travelled by tourists, Sardinia’s interior is in many ways the most interesting part of the island, dominated by thick forests and rugged peaks. The local inhabitants have retained a fierce sense of independence and loyalty to their traditions, and this is especially true in the ring of the once almost impenetrable Monti del Gennargentu, centred on the island’s highest peak, La Mármora (1834m). The range forms the core of the Barbagia region, called Barbaria by the Romans who, like their successors, were never able to subdue it, foiled by the guerrilla warfare for which its hidden recesses proved ideal. More recently, the isolation and economic difficulties of the Barbagia’s villages led to widescale emigration and, among those who stayed behind, a wave of sheep-rustling, internecine feuding and the kidnapping of wealthy industrialists or their families that continued until the last decades of the twentieth century. Today, the Barbagia’s main appeal is to outdoors enthusiasts, particularly mountain hikers; Oliena’s tourist office for routes and lists of guides.
Sardinia’s long eastern seaboard is highly developed around the resorts of Siniscola and Posada, but further south it preserves its desolate beauty, virtually untouched apart from a couple of isolated spots around Cala Gonone, and, further down, around the port of Arbatax, in Ogliastra province.