Wandering Sardinia

Visitor information on the spectacular seaside archaeological site of Nora near the modern town of Pula, Sardinia.

Nora: Visit to the Ancient City on the Bay

Updated May 05, 2020

Legend has it that the ancient town of Nora was the Sardinia’s first town. It sits pretty on Capo Pula, an isthmus in the bay of Cagliari and sports two harbors from which ships could set sail in any weather.

nora sardinia
Nora with the Spanish Tower in the background

Nora shares its fabulous seaside ambience and calm ports with the site of Tharros, to the north along the Sinus peninsula in Oristano province.

Sardinia Guide Paola Loi knows the area well and writes:

Evidence suggests that Nora was first a Nuraghic settlement but it was officially founded by the Phoenicians around the VIII century BC. It became a flourishing Punic town in the VI century. In 238 BC the site was occupied by the Romans. Take a stroll to admire the ancient temple of Tanit, the forum, the Roman theater, the Villas, the Thermal baths and other remains of houses and workshops. The highlights of Nora are the mosaic floors, the temples and the thermal baths. Nearby the excavations we find the Church of Saint Efisio, an early foundation rebuilt in the 11th century. It commemorates Saint Efisio, a convert of Near Eastern origin, who was martyred here. Every year the church becomes the center of devotion of this Christian martyrs. The saint is celebrated with a solemn procession that starts in Cagliari on the 1st of May. Hundreds of pilgrims from all over Sardinia dressed with traditional costumes, walk on a long parade (approximately 15 miles on foot) together with beautifully adorned floats driven by huge oxen, to escort the statue of the Saint from Cagliari to Nora. This festival has been taking place in Cagliari and Nora since 1656 as a thanksgiving to commemorate Saint Efisio who saved the Sardinian population from plagues, wars and so on.

Every time I’ve visited, I see a city built in a golden age, where the signs of pleasure envelope the observer. The baths are near the sea, as is the Roman theater, where you can sit and feel the sea breezes waft over you.

Nora was important. Sardinia’s roads started here. Nora attracts over 60,000 visitors a year. The area is still so interesting today that researchers devote much time to sorting it all out.

The University of Padua wished to restore some of the site, but it was a complicated task. The Nora site is so complex it was hard to get tourists to understand what was going on.

So the University along with a number of specialists developed a very detailed reconstruction of Nora and put the 3D representation of it all in an app to be used with a tablet and virtual reality headsets, allowing tourists to “see” what the site looked like while the guide can see what they’re looking at and bring more information to the scene. It’s called the Nora Virtual Tour and will be used sometime in the future.

For now, we can take a drive-through of the Roman Imperial age city. You might be astounded at how much it looks like a typical modern Italian or Sardinian village.

A trip to this idyllic spot will bring you in touch with the Roman Theater:

nora roman theater
Roman amphitheater in Nora, Sardinia

And some pretty good mosaics:

mosaic in nora
Mosaico nella casa dell'atrio tetrastilo

Around Nora Archaeological Park

The modern town of Pula is a very interesting one. It’s been called “the prettiest town in Sardinia.”

The Giovanni Patroni Museum in Pula has some of the artifacts from the excavations of Nora, and there are more in the Cagliari Archeological Museum.

Head for the the lagoon of Nora at sunset with a camera and long lens; the lagoon provided habitat for many rare birds.

The nearby beach of Chia has been rewarded as one of the prettiest in Sardinia, and the town of Chia is worth a visit as well.

Enjoy this destination on the southern coast of Sardinia.

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