The capital of the Italian island of Sardinia is a lovely old fortress. A large part of the fortress walls is still standing, including two defense towers: the Torre di San Pancrazio near the Porta dei Leoni and the Torre dell'Elefante. Both were built at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The old town -Castello- is set on a hill with a beautiful view over the Gulf of Sardinia.
When you walk around the city, you will undoubtedly notice the Spanish influence. No wonder, because between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, Sardinia was a part of the Kingdom of Aragon. Cagliari Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria) was built in the twelfth and thirteenth century in Pisan style. The church has a richly decorated interior, including a nice pulpit which was built for the Cathedral of Pisa but was donated by Pisa to Cagliari.
Much older is the Basilica of San Saturnino which was built in the fifth and sixth centuries. Although the church was damaged by bombings in World War II, parts have been preserved.
The Arsenal is now the home of several museums (Cittadella dei Musea), the National Archaeological Museum is the most interesting. The collection is organized chronologically. The first rooms contain objects of the Nuraghi and the Phoenician culture, followed by Greek, Roman and Byzantine times. There are also works by Italian, Spanish and Sardinian painters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
In the narrow streets of the picturesque Castello you can find many shops, restaurants and bars. A weekly fleamarket is held every Sunday on Bastione di S. Remy, and nearby - on the Piazza Carlo Alberto - an antiques market (on the second Sunday of the month). From the bastion you will have a beautiful view of the area too.
In and around Cagliari
Located right next to Cagliari lies the Santa Gilla lagune, a protected nature reserve with flamingos. There are watchtowers around the lagoon, but unfortunately they aren't always open. Flamingos feel at home in other salt lakes near Cagliari too, including at Oristano and Villasimius. The coastal road from Cagliari to Villasimius is stunning. Then, keep on driving to the south-eastern tip of Sardinia, Capo Carbonara.
In front of the lagoon lies the 13 kilometer long beach of Poetto. Because it's so close to the city, it is a fairly busy beach with many eateries. Located on the west side of the beach is the Poetto neighborhood, your nightlife district of Cagliari. In the bars and restaurants live music is often played during summer months. Another lively entertainment district is at the port, where you can eat traditionally in one of the many trattorias that are often run by an entire family. Speciality shops can be found in the Via Sardegna.
If you happen to be near Cagliari on the first of May, you can't miss the procession of Saint'Efisio. This patron saint exorcized the plague in the fourteenth century. On the first of May, a replica statue of him is placed in a golden coach and brought from Cagliari to a church in Pula, thirty kilometers to the south. Along the way other churches are visited. The procession is a colorful set of ox carts (traccas), decorated with local agricultural products, followed by a procession of thousands of people in traditional costumes and horseback riders, accompanied by singing and music. Remarkable is the sound of the launeddas, a typical Sardinian flute. In the evening there's a big party in the old center of Cagliari, with performances of dance and music.
Northeast of Cagliari, you will find a beautiful, unspoiled rugged coast at Ogliastra. It is an area for nature lovers and people who want to relax and enjoy the beauty of Sardinia, far away from the crowded beaches.
The Sulcis Nature reserve - where over a thousand deer live - is located just along the coastal road from Cagliari to Teulada, a nice route to drive with a rental car. Halfway you pass the ruins of the Roman city Nora. You can still see how the streets used to run, there are beautiful mosaics and a portion of a temple and amphitheater remain standing. Near Teulada are the remains of another ancient settlement, Bithia.
Teulada is located about 65 kilometers southwest of Cagliari. It is an industrial town where terracotta items are made. The name is therefore derived from the Latin tegula which means terracotta. Teulada is situated at the likewise named Gulf, between Capo Malfatano and Capo Teulada. You will find long sandy beaches and rocky coves here. Some beaches, like Porto Zafferano with its high white sand dunes, are only accessible by boat. More beautiful beaches can be found east of Teulada, including the beach Chia with its Spanish tower.
Cagliari itself has no large range of hotels, but in the vicinity of the city - near the beaches - however are plenty of hotels and holiday resorts. If you you want to visit Cagliari during summer months we recommend booking your accommodation well in advance.
The old center of Cagliari is largely pedestrianized. Other streets are accessible for cars but often very narrow and moreover most streets follow a one-way street system. At the port and at the stadium you can park your car for free. Nearly everywhere else you have to pay for street parking. Exceeding the parking time limit will result in your car simply being towed! A rental car is a must to explore the area. Keep in mind though that there are sometimes winding roads. Furthermore, on Sundays the roads get particularly busy in the vicinity of Cagliari, as many people return from the beaches back to the city.
The Cagliari Airport is located twelve kilometers northwest of the city. The airport is easily accessible by rental car: it is right along the highway SS130.