Inhabited since the Nuragic age, the area of Pula has numerous sites bearing witness to its past. The Nora Archaeological Site is without doubt the jewel in the crown of the area’s local heritage and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Sardinia.
Theatres, watchtowers, churches and entire towns…Pula’s monuments today constitute a vital part of the spellbinding natural landscape and contribute to its unique nature.
Perched on a headland extending towards the sea, Nora was one of the first Phoenician settlements in Sardinia, founded, according to the legend, by the Iberian hero Norace. During the Punic period, Nora was transformed into an important administrative, religious and trade centre, but it was during the successive Roman domination that most of the buildings still visible today were constructed: the forum, the theatre, places of worship, the baths, stately homes and the mosaics. The archaeological site is open to visitors and during the summer season becomes a stunning stage for numerous concerts, festivals and shows.
Not far from Nora, visitors will stumble upon a little gem from the 12th century: the church of Sant’Efisio built, so the legend goes, on the spot of the saint’s martyrdom. The church is the end point of the procession in honour of the saint that takes place at the beginning of March. A statue of the saint is carried here from the church of the same name in Cagliari, where it resides for the rest of the year. Built from sandstone and limestone blocks on an earlier sanctuary dating from the Early Middle Ages, the small Romanesque church with its simple and severe lines owes its charm to its position: a stunning place of worship, a few steps away from the sea.
Located in the historic centre of Pula, the Patroni Museum safeguards important artefacts from excavations in Nora and the surrounding area. Among the finds are objects used in daily life and for ritualistic purposes, as well as items from the Nora burial grounds including a gold leaf depicting the image of a Gorgon – the inspiration for the museum’s logo. An interesting section is dedicated to underwater finds. There are plans to enlarge the exhibition and to set up a restauration laboratory that will doubtless find resonance among the museum’s more curious visitors.
Built by the Spanish at the end of the 16th century on the peak of the same name, the Coltellazzo Tower overlooks the Nora Archaeological Site and was probably built using materials from the ruins of the Punic city. The tower formed part of the defence grid built by the Spanish to protect again raids by the Barbarians and aimed to protect the inlet and the fish farms from attacks. In visual contact with the close-lying towers of Cala d’Ostia, San Macario and Diavolo (Sarroch), the tower offers stunning views over the surrounding coastline. It was recently restored and is open to visitors.
The Cala d’Ostia Tower was built under the House of Savoy on the coast of S. Margherita di Pula, close to the ruins of the identically-named Spanish tower that was destroyed by an accidental explosion in 1773. Built at the mouth of the River Pedras de Fogu, the tower had a vital defensive function: its purpose was to prevent invaders from gaining access to supplies of freshwater and from landing on the plain of S. Margherita, from where they would have easily been able to reach and attack the city of Pula.