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Fountain at night, Cagliari

View of Cagliari from the harbor

Chiesa Sant'Anna, Cagliari

Check out a complete
history of Cagliari
Sardinia Now

Roman Amphitheater, Cagliari

Welcome to Cagliari
from Jesse's Journeys in Italy

165,000 in the City (approx.  300,000 in the metro area)
Official Website
: Cagliari
Wikipedia: Cagliari

Map: MapQuest

Cagliari, which sits at the top of the Gulf of Cagliari, an arm of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and at the mouth of the Mannu River, was a German submarine base during World War II, and was heavily bombed by the Allies.  It was not the first time that Cagliari has been the base of, or target of, warring nations and empires.

It's general history follows that of Sardegna, but it has its own specific history too.  It was settled by Phoenecians, who in their struggles with the Naragi called on Carthage for help but, in due course, Carthage came to dominate the by then flourishing city.  But Carthage was defeated by Rome.  Rome met the fate of all empires, at  Cagliari was ruled by various and sundry powers, including, the Vandals, and the Byzantine Empire.

Cagliari was a Pisan city between the 11th and 14th Centuries, when Pisa was warring against Genoa.  Ultimately it fell to the Spaniards, who already controlled Sicily.  However, when the Austrian's defeated the Spaniards, and  Sardinia was briefly under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire.  The Empire was eventually "displaced" (1720) by the House of Savoy (Piemonte) who designated the island the Kingdom of Sardinia which they ruled from Turin

The House of Savoy later roused the ire of Cagliarians, who expelled their Savoian rulers and most of the Piemontese who settled there.  The rebellion was ultimately put down but every year the feisty, and long-memoried Cagliarians, still celebrate their rebellion during a festival called Sardegna Day ("Die de sa Sardigna") which is held during the last week of April.  Sardegna was united with Italy in 1870.

Today, Cagliari is a modern, industrialized port city, with layers of history that date back to at least 1500 BC. Sitting on the effluvial plain of the Mannu River, surrounded by hills and swamps, there are four districts, Marina (the port area), Castello (where the Pisans erected various fortifications, Stampace and Villanova.

One will find numerous ancient buildings including the Roman Amphitheater, the Basilica of San Saturnino (5th century), the Tower of St. Pancras, a Pisan construction built in 1304 as part of the fortifications of the Castello, and the Duomo, built in the 13th century in the Romanesque-Gothic style.

In Castello, one should pay a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Sardegna, which has an impressive collection from all periods of the Island's history.  Close by the Duomo is the Governor's Palace, which is now the seat of the Provincial Government of Cagliari.

Many of the noteworthy buildings in Cagliari, however, are not ancient, just old.  They were built during the 18th Century, including the City Hall in the port area, done in white marble and influenced by the Art Nouveau style.  In the districts largely built in the 1930s, there are a number of buildings done in the Art Deco style, and others, like the Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice) in an almost brutally Fascist neo-classical style.

Many of the buildings reveal the inexplicable Sardengese taste for flower decoration, and white marble and white limestone are used in much of the construction, and absorb and reflect the Mediterranean light in a way that gives Cagliari its own distinct look and feel.

The streets and piazzas in the old town are narrow and windy, as usual with medieval cities.  There are many good shops, selling traditional crafts, and modern fashion.  The restaurants are numerous, and some very very good.  Among the multitude of cafes, a traveler will find one that suits him or her to a "T".

Alas, the visitor who searches out Cagliari in any depth is also going to find large area of poorly designed, poorly constructed apartment buildings, which were built to house a growing population of workers, and the dismal looking factories and shops they worked in.  And the modern port, of course, is ugly in a beautiful sort of way.

But, if you visit Cagliari, don't stay in the city the whole time.  Head for the 13 kilometer Poetto beach with its fine white sand.  Or go hiking or bike riding along the coast or just outside the city.  Sailing, windsurfing, diving and other recreational activities can be organized through one of the local operators.

Another popular place in Cagliari is the immense park of Monte Urpinu, close by the CastelloThe Castello itself has great views of the City and environs, but if you have a car, you can drive to the top of the hill inside the park where there is an even wider view, including the Castello district, the seaside beaches, the swamps on the city's outskirts and the Gulf of Cagliari.

A day exploring Cagliari will give you a well-deserved appetite, and in this as with all else, the local chefs do not disappoint.  Many dishes, of course, are based on seafood, but the chicken and  meat dishes are satisfying.  Italian and Spanish gastronomic traditions mix with the peculiarly Sardegnese...and the result is...perfetto!

So, now that you know more about Cagliari, you will probably want to visit - soon.  Be forewarned, Summer is hot (very) so if you can, make the City a spring or fall destination.  You can fly to the International airport near the city, or take a ferry from Tunis, Palermo (Sicily), Trapani, Genoa, Livorno, Civitivecchia, or Napoli.

by Vian Andrews 13 September 2005

Region of Sardegna (Sardinia)


Air: Cagliari Airport
Ferry:  from Tunis, Palermo (Sicily), Trapani, Genoa, Livorno, Civitivecchia, or Napoli

In the Sardinian language Cagliari is  "Casteddu", or "castle".

Duomo door, Cagliari

Torre dell'Elephante, Cagliari

The Church of Bonaria (Fair Winds) in Cagliari, dedicated to Mary of Bonaria. Spanish sailors who established Buenos Aires, the Capital of Argentina, named the city for the church and its patron saint.