Any time of year is perfect for packing your bags and visiting the city: now all you have to do is to find out what to see in Cagliari and to start planning your trip.
What to see in Cagliari
Located on the southern coast of Sardinia, Cagliari is a city that has much to offer. The signs of its very eventful past are reflected in the city’s architecture: founded first by the Phoenicians and then occupied by the Romans, for years Cagliari was a disputed city between Pisa and Spain, eventually falling under Piedmontese rule. Indeed, the city’s architecture reflects the cultural melting pot that has characterized the beautiful splendid Sardinian capital for centuries. The question that arises at this point is: what is there to see in Cagliari? From the historic centre to its natural wonders, it is time to discover everything that this Sardinian city has to offer.
The historic centre, the Bastion of Saint Remy and the towers
We begin our journey to discover Cagliari in its marvellous historic centre, where you can admire the impressive Bastion of Saint Remy. Constructed between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was named after the first viceroy of Piedmont and was built to connect the castle to the lower city. Evidently, this splendid viewpoint is the perfect place to admire the city, strictly from above. The bastion has a classical style and its colour fully reflects the material used to build it: the famous limestone that distinguishes many buildings in the city.
A very short walk will take us to the Torre dell’Elefante, which, together with its twin, the Torre di San Pancrazio, towers over Cagliari’s old town. It was built in the early 14th century by the Pisans, who feared a possible attack by the Aragonese. Once again it was constructed with splendid white limestone, which contrasts with the blue sky.
Cagliari Cathedral and the city’s Gothic architecture
Cagliari Cathedral, around 5 minutes’ walk from the Bastion of Saint Remy, is one of the examples of Pisan Gothic architecture in the city. Although its construction dates back to 1200, over the centuries the entire site has been reworked and enlarged several times: from Gothic inserts to the reconstruction of the Romanesque façade (dating back to the early 20th century), this cathedral is striking for its dazzling colour, which contrasts with the blue sky. Numerous treasures are “hidden” inside: from the wooden sculpture of the Madonna with child, dating back to the late 14th century, to the crypt located under the pulpit, which contains the remains of the Sardinian saints.
Cagliari’s City Hall
Next on our journey to discover Cagliari is the Palazzo Civico (City Hall). Built in the late 19th century and located opposite the harbour, this building is once again dominated by white. Constructed – like many other buildings in the city – using white limestone, the City Hall successfully blends Gothic and Art Nouveau styles. The octagonal towers on the façade stand 38 metres high. Inside, the building contains the council chamber and offices, as well as some noteworthy paintings and a 17th-century Flemish tapestry.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria and Catalan influences
As mentioned at the start, Cagliari is a city that has undergone various rules. The influence of Aragonese-Catalan rule is clearly visible in the façade of the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. This majestic sanctuary stands on Bonaria Hill, at the top of a long, spectacular staircase. Built in the 14th century, this church soon became the most popular Marian shrine in all of Sardinia. Consequently, in 1908, Pope Pius X named the Madonna di Bonaria the island’s main patron saint.
Cagliari’s natural attractions: Molentargius Park and Sella del Diavolo
Visiting Cagliari allows you to admire the natural attractions that can be found around the city: a perfect way to unwind, to leave behind the chaos of the city and to immerse yourself in a lush, peaceful setting.
We begin our journey to discover Cagliari’s natural attractions with Molentargius-Saline Park. Its 1600 hectares of natural beauty are home to various protected animal and plant species. The park is inhabited by pink flamingos, which appear to have nested in the area for the first time in 1993. It is a splendid, delicate place, whose rare ecosystem is characterized by both freshwater reservoirs and reservoirs with varying degrees of salinity. You can rent a bicycle to visit it, perhaps accompanied by a tour guide.
One of the most notable natural attractions in the surroundings of Cagliari is Sella del Diavolo, a promontory that rises to the south of the city and is a perfect place for a walk to discover maritime flora. There is a path here which, starting from the Calamosca slope, will allow you to walk along the whole promontory, eventually leading to a splendid cliff above the sea from which you can admire the truly unique panorama.
Beaches in Cagliari: a seaside holiday
If you visit Cagliari during the summer, remember to pack a swimming costume: it would be an unforgivable mistake not to take advantage of the area’s beaches. It is a short journey from the monuments to the sea. Indeed, in Cagliari – and in its immediate surroundings – there is no lack of beaches. We begin our tour of famous beaches with the city’s most popular beach: Poetto. 8 kilometres long, this strip of land extends from Sella del Diavolo to Quartu Sant’Elena. Here you will find a turquoise sea and very fine white sand that immediately evokes the Caribbean.
If you have rented a car, take the opportunity to explore the entire coast as far as Costa Rei: in addition to enjoying the splendid sea, you can admire the beautiful Mediterranean landscape that extends beyond the car window. Stop off in Costa Rei which, in 2009, was included among the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Rather than spoiling the surprise, we will say nothing more: it would be extremely reductive to try to describe this kind of natural spectacle in words.
What to eat in Cagliari: the gourmet delights of the table
Traveling in Italy allows you to discover art, architecture, and, above all, the pleasures of good food. This is no less true of Cagliari: the city has a rich gastronomic tradition and very high-quality ingredients. Notable appetizers include “pane carasau” flatbread and Sardinian pecorino, which anticipate the exceptional tastiness of what is about to arrive on the table. When it comes to first courses, you should be sure to indulge in “maloreddus”, typical semolina gnocchi, and culingionis, tasty ravioli stuffed with pecorino, potato and garlic. If you are still hungry, you can try numerous main courses, from fish soup, which the people of Cagliari call “cassola”, to “panadas”, pies stuffed with meat and vegetables. There are also many meat courses such as the famous “porceddu” suckling pig. End your meal with the area’s traditional desserts: cheese-based “pardulas” and the famous “seadas”, sweet ravioli stuffed with cheese and covered with honey.
To visit Cagliari and Italy, you must have a passport or ID card that is valid for travel abroad. The country is part of the European Union.
When is the best time to visit Cagliari? The answer essentially depends on your reasons for traveling to the Sardinian capital. If you intend to spend your time on the beach, the summer months are undoubtedly the best period to book a trip. Summer is warm and sunny with little rain. Summer temperatures reach a maximum of 31 degrees, except on days when the sirocco wind is blowing and the temperature can exceed 40 degrees. Spring and autumn are also excellent seasons to visit the city, especially if you are not interested in swimming in the sea, although you may encounter some showers.