The first inhabitants of Cagliari were the ancient Nuragic people, the people who built the truncated-cone stone towers. In the National Archaeological Museum the Giants of Mont’e Prama, splendid statues from the Nuragic period, have become a symbol of a still mysterious civilisation.
Cagliari was a Phoenician colony, then a prosperous Carthaginian city, became Roman in 238 BC, later ruled by the Vandals, then Byzantine. In the medieval period, it was under the control of the city of Pisa. In 1326, it became Catalan, a stronghold of Aragonese domination on the island, with the same privileges as Barcelona, gradually adopting Spanish language, art, and customs. From 1355, it was the seat of the Sardinian parliament and a strategic port in the Mediterranean routes.
With the Treaty of London in 1718, Sardinia was attributed to Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy, and Cagliari also became Savoyard. When the Savoys were forced by the revolution to leave Turin, Cagliari became the capital of the Piedmontese state for a few years.
Must-see places include the waterfront of the port, set up with walkways and wooden paths, benches, and sculptures. The Castello district, built in the 13th century by the Pisans and later fortified with walls and bastions, was the seat of civil, military, and religious power. The Castello’s ramparts, erected to defend the city, are now places of culture and recreation, with the Bastione di Santa Croce providing one of the most panoramic views of the port.
The Quartiere Castello can be accessed through medieval gates, and it houses the City Palace where art and painting exhibitions are held. Here, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, erected by the Pisans in the 13th century, holds 7 centuries of historical memories of the city. Inside, there is a wooden sculpture of the Madonna with Child from the Venetian school (second half of the 14th century), and under the presbytery, the Underground Sanctuary of the Martyrs, carved into the rock in the 16th century, with Baroque stucco decorations.
A 13-minute walk from Castello, in via S.Ignazio da Laconi, the Amphitheater is the largest Roman monument in Sardinia. In the historic district of S.Avendrace, Tuvixeddu is the largest Punic-Roman necropolis in the Mediterranean, and in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you can visit the remains of Villa Tigellio, also from the Roman period, with mosaics and beautiful decorations.
In Stampace, there is the church dedicated to S.Efisio, the Saint protagonist of a procession that takes place on May 1st, featuring traditional costumes, floats, and horses.
Not to be missed, a short distance from the city center, is Poetto, Cagliari’s beach to be enjoyed in every season, stretching for about 8 km from the promontory of Sella del Diavolo to the coast of Quartu Sant’Elena.
Visit the San Benedetto market, one of the largest indoor markets in Europe, where the ground floor is dedicated to fish: lobsters, shrimps, swordfish, tunas, and seafood to be enjoyed on-site, as well as bottarga and, of course, octopus. Next to the market, there are many grocery stores, bakeries, and pastry shops. At Lo Squisito, you can buy niche products from all over the world.
To explore the world of artisans, a walk in the Villanova district is necessary, leading to Piazza San Domenico and Piazza San Giacomo, where ancient rites related to the passion of Christ are celebrated in the Easter period, and in the summer season, they become lively evening places. Goldsmithing in Sardinia deserves attention; jewellery is crafted in filigree, a particular technique that requires considerable skill. Earrings, pendants, traditional bracelets are unique objects, as well as the handcrafted ‘fede’ Sarda.
For those who love walking among open-air stalls, the Sunday morning market in the S.Elia fishermen’s district is a must.
Where to Eat
Sa Schironara A place rich in traditional atmosphere, where you can taste the traditional, roasted Sardinian suckling pig. WEBSITE
Da Marino al St.Remy Refined cuisine with a careful selection of both seafood and land products. WEBSITE
Sa Piola A restaurant for those who love elegance while remaining traditional. WEBSITE
Terrazze di Calamosca A special place just a stone’s throw from the sea, where you can enjoy delicious aperitifs and refined gastronomic proposals. WEBSITE
Where to sleep
Casa Clàt 9 suites, a restaurant, and a lounge bar on Viale Regina Margherita, between the Bastion of Saint Remy and the Marina. A design project that gives new life to the ancient Palazzo Frau, created by artists and designers inspired by the sea. The hotel has a garden, an open-air lounge with a corner dedicated to the best raw seafood on the island. WEBSITE
Azuni D suite In the historic center of Cagliari, in the Stampace district, 10 minutes from Poetto beach, Domitilla Asquer di Flumini, a Milanese architect and photographer with Sardinian origins, has opened Azuni D suite, an art-gallery suite with two rooms: an elegant 19th-century residence with the comforts of a hotel and the characteristics of a gallery, with exhibitions set up ensuite and catalogs to contact the authors. WEBSITE