Ghilarza and its territory are located in the heart of Guilcer, on the right bank of the river Tirso and the large lake, nestled within a magnificent arc of hills. It’s a timeless land where every century has left its mark in the sediment of history, a history etched in stone that embodies the essence of this region.
Due to its strategically significant geographical location and favorable climate, human presence in the area dates back to ancient times. This is evidenced by the abundant presence of monuments and remnants from the pre-Nuragic and Nuragic eras, whose origins can be traced back to the recent Neolithic period when the great Nuragic constructions began to emerge.
An important element suggesting the existence of organized settlements dating back to Roman rule in Sardinia is the ‘a Karalibus Turrem’ Roman road, which traversed the southern part of Guilcier’s territory, connecting Cagliari to Porto Torres. Excavations conducted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries revealed the remains of necropolises from the Roman era. Following the decline of the Roman Empire, Byzantine domination took hold, primarily through the monastic presence, particularly that of the Benedictines and Camaldolese. In addition to introducing the religious worship of oriental saints, they played a decisive role in teaching new agricultural practices and the introduction of new crop species. These presences laid the foundation for the emergence of four religious centers in the Ghilarza area: San Raffaele Arcangelo (S. Serafino), San Michele, S. Maria di Trempu, and San Giovanni.
Between the 16th and 17th centuries, Sardinia faced an era of economic and social crisis brought on by plagues and epidemics that significantly reduced its population. Between the 1600s and 1800s, Ghilarza’s territory witnessed historical events tied to the Kingdom of Sardinia, including transitions from Spanish and Austrian dominion to becoming part of the Kingdom of Savoy in 1720. Subsequently, a period of intensive social and administrative reforms ensued, leading to the island’s full administrative integration with the mainland territories of the Savoy family in 1847. This was a crucial step toward the formation of the Kingdom of Italy. With reforms in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Ghilarza maintained its privileged status, becoming the seat of one of the 53 districts into which the regional territory was divided. The creation of a large artificial reservoir on the Tirso River led to different and often conflicting events in Ghilarza and Zuri.
While Ghilarza solidified its position as a leading municipality in the surrounding area, Zuri lost its best lands, experienced significant depopulation, and transitioned from an independent municipality to a fraction of Ghilarza. In 1852, the Reading Circle was founded in Ghilarza, becoming one of the oldest cultural associations in Sardinia.
These associations, originally established with the aim of promoting cultural diffusion and growth, typically found their headquarters in major cities like Cagliari, Oristano, Sassari, and Nuoro, serving as meeting places for prominent individuals, writers, and artists.
Similarly, the Workers’ Mutual Aid Society, which emerged in the latter half of the 19th century as an association of local artisans, is one of the earliest examples of such organizations in Sardinia. It bears witness to the central role of Ghilarza and Zuri in the broader island context.
The cultural vitality of Ghilarza is further exemplified by its rich calendar of events throughout the year. Additionally, the culture of sports thrives in the area, with numerous active sports associations that have been dedicated to promoting and maintaining a healthy sporting tradition for decades.
Despite human habitation dating back to ancient times, large, unspoiled areas remain, teeming with plant and animal species endemic to the Sardinian Corsican system. Those who venture into the countryside of Ghilarza immerse themselves in an environment characterized by Mediterranean maquis: myrtle, lentisk, and strawberry trees, accompanied by olive and wild olive, pear, holm oak, and cork oak trees. In certain areas, especially near the lake, these landscapes take on the appearance of real forests. During spring and autumn, it is still possible to discover wild fruits of the undergrowth, such as antunna and delicious wild asparagus. These, along with agricultural and livestock products that continue to characterize the local economy, form the basis of the traditional cuisine in the region.