Sardina known for its sandy beaches and hiking trails but you would be wrong to ignore Cagliari
Updated: Oct 8
With just under a half a million known inhabitants Cagliari is the 26th largest city in Italy and of course the largest city on the island of Sardinia. Cagliari the capital of Sardinia or Casteddu the Sardinian name literally means castle. For a brief weekend, this fine city would be this Englishman's castle.
It would be my first time visiting this ancient city although as you will learn I hope it would not be my last. I found myself delving into the long history of this ancient city. I discovered it wasn't just I who grew fond of this now Italian city but several civilisations who came before I. As far back as the Neolithic age there's evidence of civilisation here - some have speculated due to the findings related to the Giants of Sardina civilisation may even predate this time. More of the Giants in my video and lower down the page.
Historical sites include the prehistoric Domus de Janas, very damaged by cave activity, a large Carthaginian era necropolis, a Roman-era amphitheatre, a Byzantine basilica, three Pisan-era towers and a strong system of fortification that made the town the core of Spanish Habsburg imperial power in the western Mediterranean Sea. Its natural resources have always been its sheltered harbour, the often powerfully fortified hill of Castel di Castro, the modern Casteddu, the salt from its lagoons, and, from the hinterland, wheat from the Campidano plain and silver and other ores from the Iglesiente mines.
Today the city is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic centre, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments. It is also Sardinia's economic and industrial hub, having one of the biggest ports in the Mediterranean Sea, an international airport, and an income level in Italy comparable to that of several northern Italian cities.
Venice, Florence, Rome & Milan are cities you would think of when seeking an Italian city break and you wouldn't be wrong in seeking out these cities. Although if I had to pick my favourite from the four mentioned I would argue Florence must be seen if you see only one. However, another person would most likely pick another and their friend may pick another as this is just personal preference. What would rarely come into the equation is the case for Cagliari - now while I would never argue Cagliari is superior to any of these cities (well maybe Milan). It would be a rare day that anyone would fight in that corner and I'm going to bet many simply won't have it on their radar. Well, I'm hoping that will soon change as you are made more aware of this ancient city while you direct this post and my various YouTube Videos on my Channel The Wondering Englishman.
One of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Europe is to be found in Cagliari and this alone could be a reason to visit and I'm sure the Sardinia tourist board (I am not sponsored by them or anyone) will tell you the same. Cagliari Cathedral (Duomo di Cagliari, Cattedrale di Santa Maria e Santa Cecilia) is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to Saint Cecilia. It was built in the 13th century in Pisan-Romanesque style, obtaining cathedral status in 1258. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was renovated along Baroque lines. In the 1930s it finally received the current façade, in Neo-Romanesque style, inspired by Pisa Cathedral. Just in case you never make it there - here is a short clip of this magnificent Cathedral.
Of course, no weekend break to any Italian city would be complete without diving into all the glorious food. Many will rank Italian food as the best in the world - I think controversially it's a close tie between French, Italian & English (don't laugh until you have really tried it!). Cagliari has a huge advantage being well placed in the Mediterranean so capable of providing all budgets with some of the finest Mediterranean seafood. From buying it fresh in the numerous markets dotted around the city to getting an accomplished Sardinian chef to cook you up something tasty.
In my mind, at least, no Italian food binge is complete without devouring fresh magnificent pasta. I feel sorry for those who avoid carbs or those who claim they can't eat Gluton because they will be missing out on something genuinely wonderful while visiting any Italian city. When in Cagliari I discovered a marvellous Pasta restaurant perfect for a quick lunch and those on a budget. It was called Zio Tom Pasta. It features in my long-form video on the city - titled "24 Hours in Cagliari".
Of course, there is far more to Cagliari than food and Cathedrals and the one place that stood out for me was the Archaeological Museum where the Giants of Sardinia are on display. The Giants of Mont'e Prama to be more precise are ancient stone sculptures thought by mainstream Archaeologists to be created by the Nuragic civilization of Sardinia. However, those that subscribe to Ancient Astronaut theory suggest they may predate Neolithic civilisation by thousands of years - however this is a fringe idea that is sadly being overlooked by the majority of historians. The statues are fragmented into numerous pieces, they were found by accident in March 1974, in farmland near Mont'e Prama, in the comune of Cabras, Province of Oristano, in central-western Sardinia. The statues are carved in local sandstone and their height varies between 2 and 2.5 meters. My advice would be is to go see them and form your own opinion on where these Alien-like Giants came from.
I could go on and on about everything Cagliari has to offer but I think it would be wiser to enjoy my video 24 Hours in Cagliari Sardinia - Travel Guide by an Englishman Cagliari is served by a large number of Europes Airlines and depending on where you are flying from you are more than likely to be able to pick up a good deal if you plan ahead. Kayak, Google Flights and Skyscanner should be the go-to websites for searching for the best flight deals. However, my personal favourite for European flight deals is Skyscanner. For some reason, Skyscanner works best when searching for European Flights over any of its rivals.
Over the years I've had the fortune to stay in an array of hotels, apartments and various forms of accommodation while travelling. For the majority of travellers, I recommend Booking.com - yes there are hotel comparison websites such as Trivago and Kayak. However, from my years of travel experience, I've discovered both of these comparison websites do not have all the hotels, hostels and apartments listed. The reasons behind this could be some premises simply do not pay the comparison sights a fee or the reason could be something else. If you know of the reason do leave a comment below. However, I have discovered no matter what the location Booking.com will 9/10ths of the time have the most competitive deal and generally more choice. However, if you are super keen to get the best deal- use Booking.com, Kayak, Trivago, Lastminute.com and Hotels.com in separate browser windows.
An alternative which I do recommend for your accommodation is Airbnb. The city authorities still allow Airbnb in the city (it hasn't been banned just yet). I've booked a number of apartments via Airbnb. If you have not used them before (you have probably been living under a rock). But if you use this referral link you will get many Dollars or Euros off your first booking and I'll get a very small referral kickback. I'm an Airbnb host as well as a frequent Airbnb traveller. I love Airbnb because not only does it make travelling more affordable but it also allows you to stay off the beaten track. Staying with a local or in your own cottage is far more unique than staying in a generic hotel you could find anywhere in the world. Use the map below to search for the perfect Airbnb stay within walking distance of the centre of Cagliari Sardinia.
Of course when you are done with Cagliari there is the rest of Sardinia to discover. It is possible to get around Sardinia on Buses and Trains but in reality you will miss out on all the beautiful secret beaches that are only accessible via car. If you need to find a rental car for Sardinia I recommend using this comparison tool. Happy Holidays!
Thanks for reading - Keep Progressing happy travellers! - The Wondering Englishman