The islands of Sardinia and Sicily became a partially autonomous region of Italy in 1948. Once more the Sards and Sicilians were able to prove the strength of their independence and their invincible love of freedom which served them so well throughout the centuries of bitter tyranny and oppression.

The Cassa per it Mezzogiorno, the Italian aid programme for under­developed regions, has poured money into Sardinia for the construction of power stations, irrigation schemes and water pipelines in order to bring modern amenities to every village and town, and to encourage the spread of tourism to the magnificent coastline.

Developments such as those of the Costa Smeralda, Porto Rotondo and many others all round the coasts bring work to areas depopulated and previously poverty-stricken. Tourism has become an important business bringing in its wake the need for factories, services and in­dustries. There is real evidence of prosperity coming to the island. The Sardinians are aware of it and ready to take up the challenge. Communications have been much improved, ports enlarged, and the airlines have connections with most of the major cities on the main land, with Paris, and many cities in Germany, and Switzerland.

For an island race the Sards are surprisingly disinterested in the seas around them. They have never been fishermen, leaving the harvest of the nets to the Genoese and their descendents in the coastal villages. The true Sard is a mountain dweller. It was to the mountains that the hard core of rebellious men repaired as the invaders settled on the coasts. There, in their impregnable villages, like eagles eyries high among the rocks, they glowered down on the alien conquerors.

Centuries of oppression with brutal punishments had sent many men into the hills as bandits. A role that has persisted to this day, though the character of the lawlessness has changed. In the Middle Ages and up to the 19th century the bandit was really more of an outlaw, a fugitive, and frequently a man much respected, who had in some way fallen foul of the law.

The population has greatly altered over the centuries. Classical historians record that during the Roman occupation following the Nuraghic Age, there were four million people living in the island of Sicily and Sardinia, this would seem to be far too high an estimate. The extensive slave trade and brutal reprisals for rebellion involving mass killings would have reduced this number drastically by the end of Roman rule.

Several hun­dred years of wars and invasions and the consequent starvation and poverty that followed, further reduced the population. In the Middle Ages two terrible epidemics of the plague swept over the island, and in 1812 a disastrous famine carried away thousands of the unfortunate Sards. By the end of the 19th century numbers were reduced to a bare 700.000 people living in Sardinia. Today the figure stands at approximately 1.600.000.

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