Asinara is an Italian island, virtually uninhabited. The census of population of 2001 lists one man. The island is located off the northwestern tip of Sardinia, and is mountainous in geography with steep, rocky coasts. Because fresh water is scarce, trees are sparse and low scrub is the predominant vegetation. Part of the national parks system of Italy, the island was recently converted to a wildlife and marine preserve. It is home to a population of wild Albino donkeys from which the island may take its name.
In 1885 the island became state property; a lazaretto, the Primario Lazzaretto del Regno d'Italia, was built at Cala Reale and an agricultural penal colony was established at Cala d'Oliva. About 100 families of Sardinian farmers and Genoese fishermen who lived on Asinara were obliged to move to Sardinia, where they founded the village of Stintino.
During the First World War, the island was used as a prison camp for some 24,000 Austrian and Hungarian soldiers, 5,000 of whom died during their imprisonment. It was used as a place of detention for Ethiopian POWs during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. Majority of the Ethiopians kept there were members of the Ethiopian nobility.
In the 1970s the prison facilities were refurbished as a maximum security prison. In past years was assigned mainly to detention of mafia members and terrorists, and has housed the likes of such as the mafia boss Totò Riina. Prisoners and warders were the only inhabitants of Asinara for about 110 years, until the closure of the prison in December 1997.