Today, there are 29,887 inhabitants, which when it was founded, had only 50,000. And the recent Italian city, Carbonia, was founded by Mussolini in 1938. It was built in two years and retains the Fascist architectural structure, with huge buildings, wide streets that converge at the Piazza Roma, where the most important public buildings, such as City Hall, the Civic Tower and the Church of St. Pontian. Most notable is a bell tower of volcanic rock in that church. Carbonia means "carbone luogo or terra" (earth place or coal), indicating their strong relationship with the mineral. Its construction began in 1937 near the largest coal mine in Sardinia (and throughout Italy). When created, its purpose was to make sure that all of the workers were part of the new coal mine, in order to reduce the cost of the labor. All of the streets were designed in order to get to the mine in the shortest amount of time, as well as to connect with the city center.At its best, when the coal mine represented the main source of energy in Italy, Carbonia was a goal of foreign and Italian immigration. In fact it was one of the pioneers in multiculture in Italy. After the 70-when the mine finally closed the city fell into depression and many people abandoraron.
In Sulcis Iglesiente, you’ll find the most extensive and important mining area in all of Italy. In fact, it was the first mining complex in the world to be recognized by UNESCO. The mine is a true underground city and was used continuously from the Phoenicians to Mussolini and a small section still remains in use today. However, most of the mines or Serbariu have been converted into a museum about coal and its place in Italian culture.
The museum itself is very interesting. After the bus left us at the stop in Carbonia, we took the main street to the center of town and headed west along a large avenue which I imagine must once have been the miners’ walk to work. Those who were lucky had bicycles, but keep in mind that in those times a bike would have cost up to three months’ wages. When we approached the end of the avenue, we began to see the huge iron pulley supporting the mine elevator cables. At first glance, we thought it was abandoned and off-limits and (to be honest) we were pretty disappointed. We started to circle the compound looking for a way in anyways and came across a road which seemed to lead to the mouth of the mine, a fact confirmed by the huge excavating machine in the distance. Finally, we saw a huge building with a side entrance: the museum. I thought it would be a rather ho-hum visit, but it’s actually one of the most interesting places I visited in Sardinia. To start with, I learned a lot about the history of the Second World War and, in specific, Italian Fascism. I learned about the struggle that workers faced to earn a decent living, the way they lived, and, above all, about the various types of coal and their extraction.
This crash-course in mining history look place in a large building which was once the changing room and entrance to the mine. Here, the miners turned in a token in exchange for a lamp and exchanged it again upon leaving. If someone didn't leave the mine, they’d have that worker’s token and know to send a search party.
The best part, however, was the chance to actually strap on a helmet and descend into the old mine. The mine has eight levels and seemingly endless miles of tunnels (though we only saw the first one). We did a route through some of the most protected areas and saw the various extraction zones. It seems like the place doesn’t get too many visitors…we didn't see any other tourists and so we had the museum guide all to ourselves!