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Discover the best things to do in Cagliari, Sardinia

Sights of Cagliari – bright sun, rocky shores, lush Mediterranean vegetation, pristine beaches. And, of course, architecture, which harmoniously combined the styles of not only different eras, but also peoples. Due to the fact that for centuries the city was a convenient stop on the busy sea route from Europe to Africa, battles were constantly fought for the right to own it, and it itself changed hands, which could not but affect its attractions.

Cagliari is the largest city in Sardinia. The population is about 160 thousand people, or if you include the adjacent suburbs, then almost 400 thousand.

There is no time to be bored here, because Cagliari will offer you numerous excursions, discos and night bars, luxury shops, as well as wonderful hotels on the seashore.

A brief history…

An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has been conquered many times by different civilizations. In 1324-1720 and 1798-1815 the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which in 1861 joined the Kingdom of Italy. Due to the fact that a university was founded in Cagliari, as well as an archbishopric of the Roman Catholic Church, the city became an important religious, cultural, educational, and political center, famous for its Art Nouveau architectural style and several monuments. Cagliari is also an economic and industrial hub, with one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean and an international airport. The city ranks 28th in terms of income in Italy, comparable to northern cities such as Turin, Venice and Genoa.

Overall, Cagliari has a rich history. The city was either under the rule of Pisa or Spain. During World War II, the capital of Sardinia was severely destroyed, but was then rebuilt. Despite the fact that Cagliari is divided into two parts: medieval and modern, in both you will enjoy the splendor of palaces and cathedrals, the comfort of small streets.

Cultural attractions in Cagliari

The most famous historical monument of Cagliari is the Roman Amphitheater. This grandiose structure was built in the 2nd century BC. The building is truly unique, not only due to its impressive age, but also due to its architectural features. The large-scale rounded amphitheater was carved from a solid mass of limestone; gladiator fights and theatrical performances were held here two thousand years ago.

An equally interesting building is the Church of St. Mary. Its construction began in the 13th century, and was completed only in the second half of the 17th century. A prominent architectural monument, combining several styles, it is also distinguished by its luxurious interior decoration. In the halls of the church, visitors can see beautiful paintings by masters of the 13th century, interesting sculptural compositions and ancient church utensils.

Among the cultural institutions of Cagliari, the Archaeological Museum can rightfully be called the most interesting. Its halls display exhibits from various eras, from prehistoric times to the late Middle Ages. Collections of ceramics and glass, incredibly beautiful jewelry, ancient sarcophagi and art objects – all these priceless treasures are collected in one large-scale museum.

An obligatory point on most excursion routes is the Bastion of San Remy, from the terrace of which a magnificent panoramic view of the city and its surroundings opens. The Bastion has become a permanent venue for various cultural events, so visitors to the attraction can witness a theatrical performance or visit another art exhibition.

There are many historical buildings to be found in Cagliari, and the Torre del Elefante can rightfully be considered one of the most impressive and famous. It is located just a few minutes walk from the Bastion of San Remy and is clearly visible against the background of other buildings.

Torre del Elefante was built in 1307 and served the city as a watchtower for a long time. While its design isn’t exactly intricate, there are a few small details like carved elephant statues or coats of arms that make it stand out. In addition, tourists are allowed to climb to the top of the tower in order to enjoy the best views of Cagliari.

Fortress of San Michele. Like the towers, the fortress originally served as a defensive structure, so its appearance is rather gloomy. However, today film screenings, exhibitions, lectures and other events in the city’s artistic life are constantly held here. The gloomy fortress has turned into a modern center of culture and arts.

Art lovers should visit the Municipal Art Gallery, which is located not far from the aforementioned Archaeological Museum. The gallery’s halls are decorated in a unique style and, in addition to a collection of ancient paintings, contain a rich collection of historical artifacts. During the excursion, vacationers will have the opportunity not only to appreciate the talent of medieval painters, but also to learn many interesting facts from the history of the city.

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Where to relax

Cagliari is a very green city. Another plus is that many parks are located very close to the center. Walking along the shady alleys, here you can admire the lush Mediterranean vegetation and observe the life of various birds. If you wish, you can go to the beach.

Botanical Garden. The entrance to the Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico) is located at Via Sant’Ignazio da Laconi, 1, one kilometer from the Cathedral. It was discovered in 1864, and already a decade later there were over 193 plant species. During World War II, the garden was blown up because cavalry were stationed on its land. Therefore, after the end of the war, it took a lot of effort to put the Botanical Garden in order.

Now Orto Botanico occupies 5 hectares, and on its territory there are a thousand plants, including very rare specimens. Mediterranean flora grows outdoors. Greenhouses have been created for some plants brought from South America and Australia. Antiquity lovers can look at the ancient Roman cisterns installed here.

Monte Urpinu Park (Parco di Monte Urpinu) is located on the hill of the same name, near the center of Cagliari. The main entrance is on Viale Europa. Parco di Monte Urpinu is considered one of the most beautiful parks in Cagliari. There are a lot of trees and flowers here. In the park there is a lake inhabited by sea turtles, flamingos, swans, and peacocks. From the top of the hill there is a beautiful view of the city, the bay, and the ponds of Molentargius Park. For athletes, there are tennis courts, football fields, and children’s playgrounds.

The beaches not to be missed. The most exciting entertainment remains a beach holiday. The local beaches simply amaze with their beauty; on the coast there is a suitable place for both a relaxing holiday and an active pastime. Poetto is considered the busiest and most crowded beach. It will be a wonderful holiday destination for the whole family. On the beach there are rental points for sports equipment; vacationers are offered a wide variety of entertainment. There are several attractive restaurants near the beach, and in the evenings visitors can enjoy nightclubs and discos.

Far from the central beach there are quieter and secluded sections of the coast – Chia and Villasimus. Here you can have a great break from the bustle of the city and enjoy the hot sun. In the marshy ponds of Stagno di Molentargius you can see pink flamingos.

Cuisine and restaurants of Cagliari

Cagliari has traditional Mediterranean cuisine, which is considered not only one of the most delicious and varied, but also one of the healthiest in the world. It is based on seasonal vegetables, seafood, dairy products, premium olive oil and herbs. They serve cold meats and cheeses, salted olives of various types, and common appetizers include crabs and various types of shellfish. Gourmets will be able to try the caviar of sea urchins, octopus and snails, and fresh vegetables are also a must-have addition to the appetizers.

There are a lot of restaurants in the old town, and you simply cannot go wrong with your choice, as the quality of food here is high, especially if you choose seafood dishes. What could be better than dinner for two with a bottle of homemade wine?

Fans of meat dishes will not be disappointed either, who will be served hot pork shish kebab, dozens of types of bacon and original game dishes. An important component of national cuisine is pasta and baked goods. Those who follow the principles of a healthy diet will be pleased to know that all types of baked goods and pasta here are prepared exclusively from durum wheat.

Local residents have reached unprecedented heights in the preparation of dairy products; the farms produce a special type of cheese, “kasu marzu,” which is considered one of the most exotic products in the world. This cheese is left to ripen in the open air so that the cheese fly can lay larvae in it. It is they who give the cheese a special taste; before serving, all the larvae from the cheese are carefully removed.

Mercato di San Benedetto. For a glimpse of local life, as well as a glimpse of the huge variety of seafood that awaits you on Sardinian menus, take a morning trip to the city’s main indoor market, the Mercato di San Benedetto. Along with one of Italy’s largest and best fish markets, which takes up an entire floor, you’ll see the seasonal produce of Sardinia’s fertile soil. Pay special attention to the sheep’s cheeses for which the island is famous and the characteristic pasta shapes (easy to carry as souvenirs).