The name of the Sardinian capital
Cagliari, means ‘castle’ in Sardinian... and this ancient trading port has been fought over, invaded and settled by hordes of Europe’s seagoing tribes, from the Phoenicians to the Carthaginians, and, of course, the Romans. Today, you don’t need to be remotely seagoing to discover this historic (and highly cosmopolitan) spot – just a decent pair of walking shoes, an Italian phrase book, and a hearty appetite.
The main shopping area in Cagliari is centred around the marina, with many interesting boutiques and high-street names dotting Largo Carlo Felice and the shaded arcades of palm-lined Via Roma. To channel Italian style, try sleek, designer boutiques such as Volonté (Largo Carlo Felice 40) or the venerable department store la Rinascente (Via Roma 143). The city also has several flea markets that repay a rummage, including an antique and bric-a-brac market (Piazza Carlo Alberto) on the second Sunday of the month, while the huge San Benedetto (Via Francesco Cocco Ortu) food market is a wonderful place to find speciality Sardinian foodstuffs.
Food & Drink
There’s a great culinary selection in Cagliari, whether restaurants, trattorias or simple eateries. The Sardinian capital is an ideal place to sample the distinctive local cuisine, which includes deliciously fresh seafood, culurgioines (pasta stuffed with potatoes and mint), fregola (small balls of pasta) and many incredible-tasting cheeses. Feast on seafood at Monica e Ahmed (Vittorio Emanuele 119) or Ristorante Al Porto (Via Sardegna 44). There are plenty of cheap eats at relaxed venues such as Pizzeria il Porcile (Via Porcile 9), where a lunch of pizza and accompanying drinks will leave you change from €10.
Cagliari celebrates the preamble to Lent with flair in the form of celebrations, costumes and parties. Among the highlights are parades, during which locals wear traditional masks for different roles such as sa panettèra (the baker) and tiàulus (the devils).
Holy Week is celebrated with great solemnity and ceremony in Cagliari, and there are some breathtakingly spectacular processions organised by the various local fraternities, in particular on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Festival of Sant’Efisio
In celebration of Sardinia’s patron saint – who saved the city from the plague in the 17th century – colourful parades pass through the flower-lined streets of the city on 1 May every year. Sirens and horns from ships in the port signal the arrival of the saint’s effigy, which is held aloft on a golden ox-drawn coach.
Cagliari Open Monument
A number of fine architectural edifices that are usually out of bounds to the public are opened up and available to visit and explore across the city.
Rosso Tango Art Festival
This festival is a passionate celebration of dance, with a variety of lively performances and contests involving tango specialists. Visitors have the chance to take part in vibrant milongas (tango events), and there is also a chance to take part in ballet and yoga classes.
Besides a range of comfortable and modern four-star properties, Cagliari offers some enticing boutique accommodation options. The Place Cagliari (Via Sant'Efisio 59/61) has beautifully decorated, romantic rooms; many with wood-beamed ceilings. Cagliari Boutique Rooms (Via Garibaldi 105) is also gorgeously appointed, with a prevalence of pale tones and wooden floors. Near the harbour, the chic three-star Maison Miramare Boutique Hotel (Via Roma 59) is coolly eclectic, filled with art, and has great attention to detail. Just down the road, the splendid Marina Di Castello (Via Roma 75A) is among a number of lovely B&Bs in Cagliari.