Although it’s an Italian region, the island of Sardinia offers a one-of-a-kind culture all its own, and there’s perhaps no better place to experience this than Cagliari. Stride past its medieval walls to the Castello District to explore centuries-old cathedrals, piazzas and galleries. This cosmopolitan capital city is also a great place to indulge in a spot of designer shopping or enjoy a cocktail on the terrace, or you can venture outside to visit ancient ruins. Cagliari is a festive place at any time, whether you’re taking in a performance at the Bastione Saint-Remy or a traditional parade.
Cagliari’s port is the largest in Sardinia, and it’s conveniently located in the heart of the city. When you disembark, you need only cross the wide avenue in front of the port’s entrance and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the city. Cagliari is an easy city to explore on foot, and this is perhaps the best way to get around because you’ll be able to find the hidden cobbled lanes and secret gardens that make the city so beautiful. However, if you wish to explore the rest of Sardinia there are also taxis available at the port along with bus and shuttle services.
If you only have an afternoon in the city, you must start off in the Citadel of Museums and Castle District. This medieval old town offers a bevy of museums, historic buildings and cultural sites including the staggering collection at the National Archaeological Museum and Spanish artworks of the National Gallery. Soak in the sun and admire stunning floral displays at the Cagliari Botanical Gardens, featuring thousands of specimens at the base of the Roman Amphitheatre. Ancient Roman statuary dots the gardens as well. And if you want a panoramic view over the city, head to the Bastione Saint-Remy to take its scenic lift up to the top.
You can expect the traditional Mediterranean diet in Cagliari, featuring a blend of Italian influences and freshly harvested produce from the island. Indulge in multiple courses during a leisurely lunch or dinner, starting off with spaghetti prepared with fresh clams or sea urchins. Sardinian gnocchi is a classic dish prepared with sausage, pecorino cheese and tomato sauce. For the second course, you’ll usually be served a fish dish caught straight from the sea, whether it’s a whole lobster or fried sea anemones. Save room for sweets – pardulas are small ricotta-filled pies, and sebadas are made from cheese, honey and semolina.
Apart from the Archaeological museum, there are several more unusual, quirky galleries contained in the historic Castle district to explore. One of these is the Wax Museum, featuring models of human figures and anatomy. You’ll also find a Museum of Siamese Art in this district which offers an intriguing collection of art from the far east! If you want a taste of local life, get up early and make your way down to the San Benedetto Market. This colourful, bustling marketplace is filled with fish and produce stalls, and you’ll see local restaurateurs and residents alike bartering for the catch of the day. It’s spread out over two floors with a jaw-dropping variety of seafood. On the hunt for souvenirs? Sardinia is prized for its cork handicrafts. Artisans turn this eco-friendly raw material into intricate trays, a long-lasting piece to take home. Head to the Isola shops to find cork goods as well as woven fabrics, pottery, jewellery and handmade baskets for sale. If you have time to get outside of the city, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular scenery on this rugged island. Go hiking in the Gola Su Gorrupu canyon to explore its caves and clifftops, or tackle the clifftop Selvaggio Blue trail to enjoy views over the Gulf of Orosei.