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According to tradition it appears that the locals of the small districts of Ruinas Mannas and Ruineddas, prompted by the Barbary raids, moved towards Nurazzeddu, thus creating a larger centre with a bigger population, which, concentrated around the San Gavino church.
It was probably from this church that the town acquired its name, during medieval times.
During the following era, the term Monreale was added, from the name of the castle built in the XI century on a hill a few kilometres from the town, “il mon real” or royal mountain, often the residence of the “giudici d’Arborea” (historic administration of the region of Sardinia).
During the historic administrative period of the region of Sardina, San Gavino had a fundamental role, positioned as it was exactly along the boundary between the two “giudicati di Cagliari e di Arborea” (historic administrations of Cagliari and Arobrea, of the region of Sardinia), and became the county town of the curator of Bonorzuli.
In the XIV and XV century, San Gavino suffered serious loses and devastation due to the wars between the historic administration of Arborea and the Aragons; almost completely and utterly destroyed, the town was reconstructed in the vicinity of the churches of Santa Chiara and Santa Croce.
The town’s economy has always been linked to the farming and animal rearing sector; the cultivation of saffron is of particular importance, which dates as far back as 1300, and nowadays is the most important cultivation.
The railway line favoured the introduction of San Gavino in the great industrial mining sector; the line to Cagliari prompted the Montevecchio Company to construct a private line, property of the mine that linked Montevecchio to San Gavino.