Porto Flavia: a “window into the sea” in the south of Sardinia

Porto Flavia: the history of a revolutionary engineering project

Sardinia full of discoveries including Nora and the Archeological park of Pula representing a line separating the past with the present, and Porto Flavia a panoramic window onto the Iglesias sea.

Porto Flavia is a magical place on the southwestern shore of Sardinia, a port dug into the calcareous stone and suspended between the sea and the sky.

The incredible cave on the peak of the sea is truly an industrial archaeological monument nestled in one of the most beautiful seafront landscapes of the Mediterranean. The shades of blue are complemented by green pine forest surrounding the beach and the 133-metre tall cliff Pan di Zucchero which changes colour with the position of the sun.

Porto Flavia is a hamlet of Masua in the land of Iglesias and is a 20th-century engineering wonder. Although it’s a mining site, it’s not a mine but a port of shipment for the materials extracted in the nearby mines.

The structure was inaugurated in 1924 and its design was made by engineer Cesare Veccelli who named the project after his daughter Flavia.

To build the mining port, two overlapping tunnels were dug into the calcareous cliff and punctuated by nine silos each 18 metres tall, fundamental for storage and capable of holding up to 10.000 tons of material. The extracted minerals were brought by a Decaiville train-track and kept in the higher tunnel, meanwhile, the lower tunnel has a removable conveyor belt so the material could be put directly into the cargo hold of the big ships with secure quaysides in the proximity of the promontory.

The suspended port was truly a revolution allowing the Belgian mining company Veille Montagne, owner of the local mines, to lower the price of boarding materials and simplify the transportation of heavy minerals which until that moment were loaded by hand onto small Latin sale boats (also known as Bilancelle) and taken to Carloforte from which the loads would be taken to Italy and other destinations in the world.

During the 60s, the extraction activity was slowly abandoned and the structure was closed, today Porto Flavia has been carefully restored and is open to visitors to discover an important part of the history of the Iglesias territory.

Porto Flavia: all information to visit the site

In 1882, a young Gabriele D’Annunzio together with Cesare Pascarella and Edoardo Scarfoglio arrived in Sardinia sent by Cronaca bizantina magazine.

The future Vate was only 19 years old at the time he visited the Masua mine and in his reportage, he wrote about the miner’s condition and how they were undernourished and were working at massacring rhythms: “People of which the sense of life is anguished, forced to extenuate their lungs in the poisoned air of the tunnels, their arms crushed by rocks and sleeping on the wet floor without litter, under the black beams of smoke. The families of those men have no joy; in those burrows all affections are dead; the stroking hand falls from exhaustion. They appear from the tunnels like shadows and enter the darkness of their homes after crossing the greenery under the sunlight unable of a deep breath”.In 1924 Porto Flavia was rebuilt changing the life of the minors with a positive influence also on the local economy.

Porto Flavia complex is now open to visitors and tourists, the tickets for a guided visit can be bought:

  • online (within 24 hours on the previous day of the visit)
  • In the ticket office Ufficio del Turismo in Piazza Municipio in Iglesias
  • In the ticket office of Porto Flavia

Telephone and email bookings are not accepted. The visit and your chosen hour to visit the structure are written on the ticket either in Italian or in English. The visiting time is of more or less 50 minutes.

It’s necessary to present yourself in the ticket office with a digital or paper receipt of the ticket at least 20 minutes before the visit. In case you are late, it will not be possible to access the site and visit the structure.

The prices of the tickets are:

  • Whole: 10.00 €
  • Reduced (children of 6/12 years and seniors +65): 6.50 €
  • Groups (at least 20 paying adults): 8.00 €
  • Schools: 6.50 € (not purchasable online)

It’s necessary to respect precise rules while visiting Porto Flavia, if these rules are not taken into consideration you will not have the right to a refund.

Here is what the regulations foresee:

  • Wear gear suited for a museum site.
  • Avoid presenting yourself in a swimming costume or skimpy clothing.
  • It’s obligatory to wear closed shoes (no flip-flops, trekking sandals, sandals or clogs). The foot must be completely protected.
  • Inside the mine site, it’s not allowed to take video without the written consent of Iglesias municipality (you may only take photographs)
  • Animals are not allowed (of any size)
  • Praams are not allowed (new-borns may enter if carried in a baby carrier). Children cannot be carried.
  • Drinking, eating and smoking are not allowed.

Also because of the sanitary scare caused by COVID-19, before and during the visit it’s obligatory to take on the following measures:

  • Measure the body temperature before entering, if over 37,5° the entrance to the structure will be denied.
  • Wearing a mask is obligatory
  • Obligatory to hygiene hands (including gloves) before entering
  • At least 1-metre distance between people of different families and groups

Each visit at Porto Flavia contains 40 people divided into 2 groups. The second group must wait at least 15 minutes before entering the tunnel.

Further information is available on the Iglesias Municipality website or www.visitiglesias.com

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