Cagliari (or Casteddu in Sardu meaning castle) on the south coast of Sardinia, is the island’s capital and was once the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia. It is an ancient city, known to have been inhabited as long ago as the Neolithic period, over 5,000 years ago.
The city today is known for its architecture, University and International Airport and for having one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean but when I visited last Autumn, Cagliari didn’t have the feeling of a city at all. It was more like a charming and inviting town, an old friend even. Despite it being my first visit there, it somehow felt familiar yet new, all at the same time. I only had a few hours to explore so I took the opportunity to wander through the old town, its narrow, medieval streets and beautiful cathedral…
The Castello Quarter
Climbing the stairs of the Bastione San Remy on the southern side of the Castello’s fortifications is the most evocative way to enter the old town. At the top you’ll be rewarded with an impressive terrace and views across the port and out to sea as well as back across the city to the distant mountains.
Walking north through the narrow streets you’ll come to Piazza Palazzo and the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Castello.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Castello
The cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century, has a lovely façade, despite having seen many facelifts over the years, the most recent being in the 1930’s in a Neo-Romanesque style, inspired by Pisa Cathedral. Inside you’ll find a mixture of Gothic and Baroque features. It’s not subtle but it is very impressive.
Caffè delle Arti
We stopped for a simple lunch at Caffè delle Arti with a cool beer and more stunning views, before heading south again and following the streets back down to the port.
Walking back towards the port
I would love to return one day to get to know the city better but, for now, those few hours were a wonderful introduction. I’m sure Cagliari would make a great base from which to explore the south of the island and I hear there are more fine churches to see, interesting museums and an 8km sandy beach to enjoy. It’s not glitzy or glamorous neither is it tacky or touristy. Despite the number of budget flights that land here, I’m pleased to say, mass tourism seems to have passed it by.
Disclosure: I was travelling in Sardinia while working for Sardinian Places. As always these are my own, honest opinions.
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We almost, almost went to Sardinia last summer but somehow ended up in Czech Republic! I see from your post that we need to consider a trip there again sometime soon.
I am “afraid” of going anywhere Italian… I have a feeling once I hit those lands I won’t be doing much more besides eating! 😉
Hello Kat, I’m glad you enjoyed our island. Next time, if you want I can show you the area where I grew up: the Costa Verde, the green coast if you did’n see yet. I am a tour guide and I know the area very well because I was born and grew up in this area! You can’t miss Piscinas, Scivu or Montevecchio and Porto Flavia Mines!!
Greetings from the island.
Thank you Laura, that would be wonderful! There really is nothing better than being shown around by a local! They know all the wonderful little secrets that you might otherwise miss.
I found it very interesting his review of my island (I live in a village near Cagliari), I found her very interesting blog, full of ideas and news for travelers from all over the world, greetings from Sardinia! Fortza Paris.P.S. sorry for my bad English.
Thank you so much! That’s lovely to hear (and your English is far better than my Italian, let alone my Sardu!)
What a beautiful place! I would love to island hop thru the Mediterranean Sea. Being from an island, I feel attracted to other islands with not so chaotic ways of life.
I know what you mean but the quieter island life is very appealing indeed (although I do love visiting big cities and enjoy a bit of hustle and bustle as well!)
Oh wow, after spending last Easter in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre and two weeks on a road trip around Milan, Verona, Venice, Bologna and Florence last September, I did tell my husband we had to do the south of Italy next but you have just convinced me! I think Italy might be my favourite destination ever!
There’s still parts of Italy I’ve yet to discover, including Venice, but my next visit will be a culinary experience in Tuscany in April! I’ve been before but it was a long time ago and I’m eager to go back. Hope you make it back there soon too.
I am eager to travel Europe more, despite coming from England I feel like I lived a fairly sheltered life growing up and never really traveled much in continental Europe.
Italy is up there near the top of my bucket list on European destinations and after reading this post and seeing your pictures, it makes me very envious of folks who are able to travel around Sardinia because I would love to be there!
We recently visited France (Paris) and those images of the intricacies within the architectural design remind me of many of the buildings such as the Louvre, Notre Dame etc.
This is a really great post and an inspiration to encourage us to get out and explore more of Europe’s amazing culture! They always say that you don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it anymore, and I think this is completely true when I reflect on Europe as a whole now that I live in the States.
Thanks Chris. We certainly our very lucky to have so many wonderful places within easy reach. On the other hand, I’ve yet to visit the States – it’s so vast I wouldn’t know where to start!
We live just outside of Cagliari and we love going in for the day and walking around.
There is so much to see! The elephant tower is my favorite. There’s also an awesome park that leads up to a stunning view of the city cemetery. I hope you get to visit again 🙂
Thanks Adrianne, so do I! 🙂
I’m in love with the north of Sardinia and have yet to visit Sardinia’s capital. Thanks for another fabulous post on the island I know call home. 🙂
Jennifer! I’m shocked. 😉
You really must go there, it’s lovely!
I have been to Italy twice, but never to Sardinia. Anyone who knows me or has seen messages I have posted in travel forums knows that I love Italy. One of the things that is interesting about Italy is the diversity of the various regions that make up the country. The differences in the history of each region including the various peoples that have occupied them and added their own culture to the mix, make trips to Italy exciting.
Thank you for this description of Cagliari. It gives me a starting place for when I do finally get to visit Sardinia. And looking at those photos makes me wish I could pack my bags and leave tonight.
That’s great Lee and I do hope you make it back to Italy soon. I love Italy too and I’ll be back there in April – can’t wait!
Sadly I have never been to Sardinia or anywhere else in Europe. I am very envious and your photos are amazing. I found several of them reminded me of Cuenca Ecuador, which I have been to many times and love to death.
I am guessing the architects that designed the structures in “El Centro”, had visited Sardinia prior to constructing the cathedrals and buildings of the old part of town. Now I want to go back to Cuenca again and Europe even more :)!
Cuenca’s old town looks like a fascinating place to explore and photograph. I’d love to go there one day! I do hope you make it to Europe sometime. There are so many magical places that I’m sure you’d love.
As you say, it certainly doesn’t have the look or feel of a city – not judging by the photographs, at least. Looks more like a sleepy town… there doesn’t seem to be all that many people out and about.
The details in the cathedral look incredible.
That’s true, Paul, there weren’t many people around, apart from when it came to finding a place to park. I expect, being a university town, that it does have its lively moments though! And I’d love to be there for a festival when I’m sure the city really comes alive.
I am a big fan of Sardinia but have only been to the North of the island, once on a business conference and twice on a cruise. You have inspired me to visit the South now too. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Castello looks incredible.
I really did love Sardinia and I can’t wait to go back again, especially to the west coast as I didn’t see any of that. Hope you get to discover more of the island for yourself one day too.
Lovely colourful photos to brighten up a grim day in England. I’d like to go to Sardinia one day – does it feel like it’s part of Italy, or has it got a different identity?
It felt to me a bit like a country in its own right rather than part of Italy but then I always think of Corsica, simply as Corsica and not part of France, even though it is of course. Mind you, every region I’ve been to in Italy has it’s own individual character – all wonderufl in different ways.