Cagliari Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Italy > Cagliari > History

Cagliari, is a city which has inspired poets and writers, it displays a rare, unusual beauty sat on the splendid Angel bay: these impressive stone forts are reflected in the crystal waters, these forts are immediately (and unexpectedly) visible to those who arrive by sea.

70 years ago, D.H. Lawrence felt that the city that rose in an unexpected like a golden mountain, he compared it to Jerusalem, claiming that there was nothing Italian about it.

Words can hardly describe the scenery that greets you from the prow of the boat, as you approach the coast. The city rises behind Via Roma culminating in the ancient majesty of the Castello quartiere. Via Roma is the keeper of many of the city's memories, a silent spectator of all the comings and goings of the local bourgeoisie who have chosen her as one an ideal place to take an afternoon stroll. The Via was at one point abandoned by Cagliari's inhabitants, but she now seems to be undergoing some form of revival: once again, people sit on her benches and reflect on life, while those who used this place to carry on sordid transactions have now fled to darker dens.

Via Roma leads from the port to Essa, Marina, which is part of the centro storico, along with Stampace, Villanova and Castello. In ancient times it was surrounded by a wall, today it still conserves its square shape of the Castrum romano, delineated by Via Roma, Largo Carlo Felice, Viale Regina Margherita and by the Castello's forts on the hill. It is a maze of streets and steps which lead down to the sea, allowing you to glimpse beautiful snippets of the bay and the mountains of Capoterra; the silence in these sidestreets which contrasts with the chaos of the port and the Largo Carlo Felice is bound to stun any visitor. In the past it was the headquarters of many religious buildings which have long since been destroyed, but some of the main attractions in the city are still its churches eg the Baroque churches of Sant'Antonio Abate and Santa Rosalia, the Gothic Catalan design of Sant'Eulalia and the Santo Sepolcro, and the Renaissance interiors of Sant'Agostino.
The art nouveau style can be seen in the palazzi as they gaze proudly at their reflection in the waters, they stretch along the seemingly endless Via Roma, but whose boundaries are marked by the church of San Francesco di Paola, the town hall and the modern building which houses the regional Council.
History seems to seep through every brick in every wall, a history made up of art, ancient flavours and thousands of years of tradition. At the ends of the alleys, you can glimpse a sight of olden day craftsmanship: an elderly gentleman sits in the shade, head bent over a table covered with instruments, now no longer used in the modern professions, but which he uses to give life and splendour to a 100 year old chest of drawers. Often there will also be a young man working alongside him, decorating terra cotta vases, continuing a tradition that many thought had long since died out. There are also some modern shops that allow both old and new craft traditions to happily co-exist. Visitors are seduced by the aromas that waft out of the many trattorias on Via Sardegna. Elegant restaurants and small family-run eateries offer up the delights of Sardinian cuisine.

Via Manno marks the end of the quartiere, here you will find high quality shops, the heart of commerce and trade, although in recent years many of the more distinctive boutiques have had to close.

Castello sits next to Marina, this is the city's ancient stronghold. Three ports can be reached from here to the north is Porta San Pancrazio (or s'Avanzada) and Porta Cristina, with Porta dei Leoni to the south. These introduce to a grid of narrow tiled streets in which can be seen traces of the Spanish domination.

The first two ports lead to Piazza Arsenale where the Torre di San Pancrazio stands and where you'll find the headquarters of the Cittadella dei Musei. Via Martini, which has been renovated (along with other streets such as Via Lamarmora and Via Cannelles), leads to Piazza Palazzo. This was once the political, administrative and religious centre of the city. The Cathedral is located here, as is the Vecchio Municipio, the Palazzo Viceregio and the Archbishops headquarters.The whole quartiere is a melting-pot of churches blessed with glorious architecture and precious furnishings eg the church of the Blessed Virgin
(Chiesa della Purissima) in Via Lamarmora, la Chiesa di Santa Croce, Saint Joseph's and Santa Maria del Sacro Monte di Pietà.

The old private palaces, which still bear traces of the ancient nobility and are still closely linked with the areas around them. Numerous shops and workshops grab the attention of passersby and in the evening, lots of pubs and bars offer an comfortable place to relax where the young things of Cagliari can eat, drink and listen to live music.

It is difficult not to be tempted by the Bastione di Saint Remy on Sunday morning where you can indulge in lots of purchases in its market. From the Bastion you can wander into Via Università and drink in the sights of the Torre dell'Elefante and the ancient university library in the ex Seminario Tridentino. The Scalette di Santa Chiara are just ahead and lead to Piazza Yenne and on to Stampace.

Stampace is another area that has many churches. The first is Sant'Anna, which is in Via Azuni, this is a breathtaking piece of architecture with a grand and imposing flight of steps. Behind her is Santa Restituta's and Sant'Efisio, where stories of persecutions and martyrdom dating back to the dark ages add to the religious significance of this church. At the end of Via Azuni, beyond the Porta dello Sperone, is the Baroque Chiesa di San Michele, which is just as sumptuous as Sant'Anna.

The monumental Saint John's hospital is on Via Ospedale and it is worth visiting, dating back to the second half of the XIX secolo, as are the nineteenth century prison and Carlo Alberto barracks in the spacious Passeggiata di Buon Cammino. These buildings are enough to make a criminal think twice. The little church of SS.Lorenzo e Pancrazio is also close by. Viale S.Ignazio is home to some of the most important sites in the city: Anfiteatro Romano and the Villa di Tigellio. The Orto Botanico lies between these two buildings and is of national importance as it is filled with rare trees and offers a veritable oasis of peace for any visitor or tourist.

The Chiesa dell'Annunziata in Corso Vittorio Emanuele dates back to the XVII century and is the home to the Scolopi order. Viale Trento is near to the Corso and is filled with many villas from the early 1900s.

From here, we enter into the quartiere of Sant'Avendrace where the Necropolis of Tuvixeddu rests on the hills of the same name the Necropolis was used by the Romans and behind this lies a tomb monument known as Grotta della Vipera the viper's cave.

Villanova is also an historic quartiere, which represents the city's expansion beyond its ancient city walls towards the adjoining countryside; remains of these can be seen in some of the ancient gardens which are hidden by high walls.
There is an intense air of deep spirituality which is often unleashed to full effect during Holy Week, where processions start from St. James' and St. John's. Some of the churches which take part in the processions have cloisters (S.Mauro and S.Domenico). This was once the kingdom of the artisans, the leatherworkers, carpenters, restorers, shoemakers, barbers and painters used to have workshops here, but it has now become home to hypermarkets and shopping centres.

To the north, the Viale Regina Elena marks the boundaries of this area, which stretches back to the rock of Castello, close to the Public Gardens, where you can visit the Modern Art Gallery.

The city seems to have spread out towards the east and the west and from here arose the quartiere of Villanova, and where the quartieres of sia verso est che verso ovest, dove a partire dal primo dopoguerra sono sorti i quartieri di S.Benedetto, S.Lucifero arose after the first world war (around the area which contains Basilica di S.Saturno and the Chiesa di S.Lucifero), S.Alenixedda, Bonaria, all of tutti di origine recente, which owe their name to the churches around them. The city expands westwards to the quartieres of Genneruxi, Monte Urpinu, Fonsarda and La Vega, Monte Claro until it reaches Pirri (which is Cagliari's 11th district); it stretches south with areas such as Quartiere del Sole, La Palma, S.Elia (an ancient fishermen's suburb, which was at one time separated from the city) and Poetto. Moving further north you will find S.Avendrace, Is Mirrionis, S.Michele and lastly the newly created Mulinu Becciu.

The city reaches down to Molentargius and S.Gilla, and at sunset, thousand of lights in the hills twinkle on the water and the evening sky is filled with flamingos returning to rest amongst the reeds.