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Cagliari has a way of making you feel instantly at ease. Maybe it’s the sparkling clear sea, framed by long strips of sand and green headlands. Or it’s the beautiful November days when you can go out in just a t-shirt. Or the casual walk through its streets that reveals a stunning jewel of remote or recent history.
Here are some ideas on what you absolutely must see if you have an extra day to visit Cagliari. The San Benedetto market, the old district of Villanova, the Early Christian Basilica of San Saturnino, the hill and the Basilica of Bonaria, the hidden cove of Calamosca and the small port of Marina Piccola, under the promontory of the Sella del Diavolo.
As you explore Cagliari, every place offers a different, fascinating view: as you lean on the belvederes, walk down the tree-lined promenades, sip a drink at one of the open-air cafés on the bastioni. You can wander through the historic quarters’ narrow streets, where every wall is etched by time, admiring facades, stepping into small churches, and taking glimpses through open portals.
Cagliari, founded by the Phoenicians, over time was seized in turn by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Vandals and the Byzantines. In the Middle Ages, it became the capital of one of the four Giudicati before more invading armies landed on the island’s shores: Pisans, Aragonese, Spanish, Piedmontese up until the unification of Italy. The layers of history and art left by these events and peoples are engraved on the city.
Religion in Cagliari is deeply felt. The procession of Sant’Efisio, held on May 1st to honour a solemn vow made four centuries ago, involves the whole city and the faithful from throughout the island. The rites of Easter Week, culminating with the joyous and moving S’Incontru (The Meeting), take the old historic quarters back in time. In the museum of the Sanctuary of Bonaria dozens of ex voto paintings give thanks to the Virgin for her protection in times of danger, both on land and sea.
One day to be captivated by Cagliari, to stroll through its cobbled historic districts, admire its Nuraghic-age findings, taste local specialties, absorb splendid views, dip your toes in the surf, have a close encounter with stately flamingos and watch the sunset as you sip a drink at a café on the bastions. Treat it as a taster, it will tempt you to come back.
Cagliari offers the full range of Sardinia’s food culture. Dishes and products of the island’s farming and pastoral tradition, and fish dishes which are Cagliari’s version of Mediterranean cuisine. Here good cuisine begins in the small trattorie and restaurants of the historic quarters. There is no lack of stylish restaurants and creative chefs who rely on the local produce to prepare delicious and surprising dishes.
Out and about, a casual stroll through the city, perhaps just to take a look at shop windows and passers-by. Or heading to a specific venue to see a show, listen to music or take part in cultural festivals. In Cagliari you can do all of the above in an unhurried, pleasant way. Take a stroll through the shopping streets, discover the workshops of artisans or the small outlets of young designers.
The artwork and collections on display in Cagliari cover a very long time span reaching right to our days. At the farthest end of this timeline are the Archaeological Museum findings, including Neolithic stone statuettes of stylised geometrical female figures. But Cagliari also has fascinating modern artwork: in the porticoes of the Regional Assembly’s building in Via Roma stand the stone sculptures of Costantino Nivola, while the City’s two largest collections of 20th-century art are housed in the Municipal Art Gallery.
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