Things To Do In Cagliari
Cagliari is the capital of the lively Sardinia City and it is cleverly divided between the breathtaking beaches of the south coast, its unique tradition, countryside charm, and gastronomic delights. If you go around the countryside part like the small town of Teulada, you can see people dressed in their local Sardinian costumes and admire ancient carts still pulled by an ox in the village feast. A tour around the hilly part of Cagliari will bring you to its row of restaurants that serve excellent lunch in typical Sardinian pleasant canopy rods in a very rustic, pleasant balcony with an amazing view. The excursions in Cagliari are always a fantastic experience and you can dedicate a day to discover crystal clear beaches, a medieval style Old Town, elegant and century old cathedrals, impressive monuments, magnificent towers and palaces, and historic bastions.
When To Go:
Cagliari is blessed with a pleasant climate all year round, making it an ideal holiday destination. Summer time (June to September) is clearly the hottest months and temperatures are commonly in the low to mid 80s, a perfect climate when going around the tourist sights of the city. It is for the most part dry with a lot of daylight. This is the best time to see Cagliari aside from the fact that tourism usually reaches its peak and gathers thousands of pious pilgrims towards August 15. This is the most awaited festival here and it is celebrated annually in honor of Saint Mary or the Feast of Ferragosto.
The spring season months of March to May is also the best time to go on tour in Cagliari because the temperature is moderate, not too cold, not too hot and you will delight in the sights that gets filled with lush green vegetation, the most colorful blooms, and a cold atmosphere that ranges from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter season (November to February) can be characterized by rains and extremely cold weather. If you are not comfortable going around the “sweater weather” avoid travelling during these months.
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Here are the interesting attractions and things to do in Cagliari:
Cathedral Of Santa Maria (Cathedral Of Cagliari)
The Cathedral of Cagliari or Cathedral of Santa Maria was established and dedicated to St. Mary during the 13th century. The Cathedral of the city is located in Piazza Palazzo, along the Castello district. It is the historic center of the Sardinian capital and the official home of the bishop of the archdiocese of Cagliari. It was built on the ruins of the church that was dedicated to St. Cecilia. It is a wonderful monument of beauty and art and for those who visit Cagliari, it is a must see attraction. There are not enough words to describe how significant and breathtaking this cathedral is; you have to go and admire it entirely, without haste and spend time observing its details. This cathedral has undergone several transformations by architects; Spotorno, Fossati and Giarrizzo and the medieval initial construction are still visible along the Campanile square section, the arms of the transepts and two rosettes, and the Pisan chapel that is dedicated to the Sacred Heart.
The exterior was rebuilt in limestone and from the inside there are three naves with a transept and four side chapels where there are several artistic styles. On the right aisle are; the Chapel of Santa Cecilia; the Chapel of Our Lady of Eusebio which is also called the Chapel of the Black Madonna for the black color of the statue and the Chapel of San Michele on the left aisle. You can admire the Chapel of the Baptistery, the Chapel of Santa Barbara and the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy Under presbytery, if open, you can visit the crypt - the sanctuary of SS. Martyrs that was built in 1658 by Archbishop Francisco D'Esquivel digging it into the rock, consisting of three large chapels communicating with each other in parallel. These are all beautiful and entirely covered with colored marble. The chapel in the center contains the relics of about 300 martyrs of Sardinia while the walls and the side chapels keep the relics of St. Lucifer and San Saturnino. It is a fascinating cathedral where history and religion merge and not to be missed while in Cagliari.
Santuario e Basilica di Bonaria
The Santuario e Basilica di Bonaria stands on a hill that slopes with a staircase of white marble and ivory from which you can look at the magnificent view of the busy port and the Gulf of Cagliari. The church is famous because it was built in honor of Our Lady of Bonaria, a statue which was abandoned in a wooden box from a merchant ship hit by a storm, miraculously it was found intact on the shore and collected by the priests. This icon soon became the reason of worship, either in Sardinia or elsewhere.
It is quite characteristic that the Argentine city of Buenos Aires was named by Bonaria; this underlines the reputation that this statue has gained in the world and also explains how Pope Francis, a native of Buenos Aires came in pilgrimage to visit this basilica in 2013 that recalls his city.
This is the largest basilica in Sardinia and it can be reached by public transport or by car. The area is quiet and you can always find a parking space in front. It is well maintained and situated in a location that is easily accessible and preceded by a staircase that makes it even more magical. This basilica is a sacred church for the Sardinians and much admired by every visitor. It has lovely side chapels and interesting sculptures that suggest the appearance of the image of the Madonna.
Chiesa di San Michele
The Chiesa di San Michele is located in the heart of the historic district of Stampace. It is the perfect example of Baroque style and Sardinian architecture. This church is currently governed by the Jesuits. It is a silent place devoted to meditation and contemplation of works of value contained therein. Of particular value is the pulpit of Charles V, made in 1535 during the visit of the emperor to the city of Cagliari. The interior is rich with white marble, stucco, frescoes, and magnificent chapels. Inside the sacristy is the largest canvas of Sardinia. The church is very welcoming and predisposes to meditation, the frescoes are captivating and there is lovely furniture to admire in the old sacristy. Another very positive aspect, of this sacred place is you can enjoy and understand the works of art with the explanation of its very competent local volunteers who are always present in the church.
The seventeenth century church was built thanks to the legacy that the lawyer Angelo Francesco Dessì made to the Jesuits. This octagonal church richly decorated and remains one of the most beautiful churches in Cagliari. It features eight chapels that run on either side of the church to form a sort of ambulatory purpose to avoid disturbing the faithful during the celebration of the liturgy. The sacristy is full of paintings and wooden statues made by Lonis which are carried in procession during the Tuesday of Holy Week. Because of its architectural lines, lavish interior decoration and the huge collection of sculptures and paintings, it represents the main testimony of Baroque art in Sardinia and in Italy.
The Poetto is an impressive beach in Cagliari that can be easily reached by buses (via CTM Bus) leaving from the city center or ten minutes by car. It is lined with comfortable beach resorts, kiosks, and bars with restaurants. The beach stretches for about ten km from Cagliari until Red Margin (Quartu Area). It is a long beach with clear waters and suitable for children.
Be sure to visit the Marina Piccola where you can take a walk to admire the boats, enjoy an ice cream, or a hearty dinner at the excellent restaurants. There are various small bars where you can also stop for lunch. At night, it has lots of bars where you can hear many different types of live music. Poetto has a beautiful landscape around it with the imposing profile of the Sella del Diavolo, all to be photographed while in Cagliari. It is lovely and not to be missed along with all the sights and monuments of this fascinating city.
Sailing Center Marina Piccola
Renting a boat with a guide from the Sailing Center Marina Piccola is the new way to experience the bay area of Cagliari, the Gulf of Angels, and the Devil's Saddle (located opposite the famous Poetto Beach). The cruise tour is a three-hour excursion during which you can stop for swimming and snorkelling. The skipper Maurizio is very polite and will entertain you with details that are beyond the traditional tourism.
You can see the beautiful bays, the presence of cormorants, the magic of the open sea and much more. The boat (maximum 6 passengers) has the ability to move around freely. The cost is affordable and can be booked and set sail in an hour, even outside the recommended times as long as all six passengers are completed. The skipper is very friendly, knowledgeable, and can give you tips on the best restaurants and places to stay while in Cagliari.
Island of San Pietro
The Island of San Pietro has a unique small town called Carlisle, a mixture of the romantic fishing villages of Genoa, Sardinia and Arabs, blended in everyday scenes with clothes hanging from the balcony and from old men sitting along the narrow road to redo their nets and sewing with the hook. It portrays the shadow of ancient customs and routine life in Sardinia. The island explodes with life and nature. The thousand voices of men, machines and city noises are mixed with those of donkeys, flamingos and the breeze from the Mediterranean Sea. It is an island that is nearly two-hour journey by car and ferry from Cagliari. The locality is nice, tidy and well served, but what fascinates tourists are the primitive parts of the place (western part) from where you can look down on the sea that stretches to the horizon and wait for the sun.
You can stroll along the promenade of the port and get lost in the narrow streets of Carlisle (included in the official list of the most beautiful villages in Italy) and admire the view of the historic walls and breathing mix of Sardo-Ligure atmosphere with the typical colored buildings and the characteristic square that gets crowded in summer as well as plenty of restaurants, pubs, clubs etc. As for the beaches, the water is crystal clear everywhere and being a small island it is always sheltered from the wind. There are great beaches to swim and many small and medium sized coves to discover here in the Island of San Pietro.
Bastione di Saint Remy
The Bastione di Saint Remy offers one of the most stunning views of Cagliari. A must see, especially at night when the city begins to illuminate. Not much to see other than the view, but there are a few bars and a small craft market that operates from 6:00 PM until midnight and attracts tourists to shop or simply look around.
If you don’t like to climb the stairs, you can take the free elevator ride via Regina Elena entrance and arrive in an attractive square which offers a panoramic view of Cagliari. It is best to go there at night, because the air is fresh and the view is superb. You can walk, have a drink (there is a cafe terrace) and even dance the tango or salsa outdoors. This is the starting point towards the old city, the towers, the small typical streets, the amphitheatre, and the Il Castelo district. Located in the heart of Cagliari, it is a magnificent perspective to address the different facets of the topography of the city.
Monte Urpinu Park
The Monte Urpinu Park is easily accessible on foot or by car and 20 minutes walk from the Bastione di St. Remy. It is 98 meters above sea level, well maintained, pleasant to browse through its trails, and has a large outdoor play area for children. The views of the city and the salt lakes are great at any time of the day from this point. It is one of the jewels of Cagliari.
In winter, it allows walks and hiking adventure in the woods. In summer, especially on Sundays when the beaches in Cagliari are packed, it is a viable alternative not only for families with children, but also for those who simply adore tranquillity and nature. This park looks really beautiful at sunset; you can see the ponds of Molentargius with flamingos and the splendid Poetto Beach, as well as the entire city of Cagliari. You can also enter the park of the mountain during the high season (June – September) and meet the colorful peacocks along the way as well as enjoy freshly picked ripe strawberry.
Tower of San Pancrazio
The Tower of San Pancrazio was built in 1305 and served as a defensive stronghold for the numerous attacks by the Genoese and the Moorish warriors against Sardinia. It is not to be missed, very beautiful, is easily accessed from the port of San Pancrazio, and at the top you can enjoy an exceptional 360 degree view with a breathtaking panorama.
This tower is visible from every point of the city and to preserve its excellent condition it underwent a full restoration in 1906. This structure also served as a prison cell during the Aragonese period. It is one of the highest points in Cagliari and for just €3 you can climb (no elevator) and reach the top. It has a twin tower which is called the Tower of the Elephant.
Torre dell'Elefante (Tower of the Elephant)
The Torre dell’Elefante or the Tower of the Elephant is one of the must-see sites in town and serves as the gateway to the medieval quarter of Castello. It is a beautiful tower with the spectacular view of the gulf from the terrace. A visit is best done with its excellent guides that will inform you about the history of the tower and the entire city. The tower is characterized by the statues of elephants connecting the streets of the old town. It is a "small" piece of the big puzzle on why there are unique buildings in the Old Town.
The tower is named after a small sculpture placed on a shelf on the south facade, which is an elephant, a symbol of strength and power. The tower was built of limestone blocks of Bonaria and had a purpose that is purely defensive. It was designed by architect Giovanni Capula and inaugurated in 1307.
The tower has five floors, the last four of which have floor and access stairs to the upper floors in wood. The door still has the massive gates that closed the entrance to the city and that today are suspended by chains. The entrance to the tower is possible from the side and from the north, via a marble staircase located behind a fence.
During the early times, the tower had many different uses; powder magazine armory and in 1800, served as a prison, as well as the place where the bodies were exposed or the severed heads of those sentenced to death as a warning to those who transgressed the laws. Together with the Tower of S. Pancrazio, its twin, it is one of the most beautiful structures in Cagliari and is also one of the symbols of the city.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale has interesting and compact dimensions where you can see several ancient artifacts arranged in chronological order. All captions are in Italian and to better understand its contents, take the guided tour (at a cost of €5 per person). The guide will lead you to all the exhibits and provide details, explanations of each specimen, and answer some questions. You will find here the famous Giants Mont'e Prama (the oldest rock sculptures created by the first civilization in Sardinia). The museum is located in the Citadel Museum, at the top of the historic center of the city.
Cagliari is a fascinating capital city that is both multifaceted and multidimensional because it will make you appreciate nature, religion, culture, traditions and history of Italy and Sardinia the more you discover and learn about the origin of each attraction. Here, the majestic nature is bitter and sweet at the same time, changes in form and appearance depending on the point from which you can admire it and every element is revealed with amazing colors produced by nature.
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