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Overview

Sardinia’s capital rises sharply from its harbor, in a series of walls, bastions and towers that are ascended by steep winding streets, stairs and welcome public elevators. Its long history of invaders from the sea prompted these impressive defenses and also gave Cagliari its appealing mix of architectural styles and not a few treasures the invaders left behind. The best of these are at the city’s crest in the Castello neighborhood, where the cathedral, defensive walls, medieval towers and palaces cluster in a series of narrow streets and wide piazze that open into terraces with glorious views of the city and harbor. Inside Cattedrale ...

Sardinia’s capital rises sharply from its harbor, in a series of walls, bastions and towers that are ascended by steep winding streets, stairs and welcome public elevators. Its long history of invaders from the sea prompted these impressive defenses and also gave Cagliari its appealing mix of architectural styles and not a few treasures the invaders left behind. The best of these are at the city’s crest in the Castello neighborhood, where the cathedral, defensive walls, medieval towers and palaces cluster in a series of narrow streets and wide piazze that open into terraces with glorious views of the city and harbor. Inside Cattedrale di Santa Maria on the wall near the main entrance is a priceless carved stone pulpit that was originally in the Duomo of Pisa, and a rather grand crypt of inlaid marble. Beyond, inside another fortress known as the Cittadella dei Musei, is the Museo Archeologico, with one of all Italy’s best collections of ancient bronze and gold work, as well as other artifacts from prehistoric civilizations that thrived on the island more than 3,000 years ago. Among the medieval towers that guard the gates to the walls, the best known is to Torre dell’ Elefante, with a carved stone elephant that gives the tower its name. Below the citadel, a 2nd-century Roman amphitheater is carved into the hillside. Although it is a bit away from the Castello and harbor quarters, visitors with an interest in food and local life should visit San Benedetto Market in the morning; it’s not only a fascinating introduction to Sardinian life and foods, but a far less expensive source of edible souvenirs than the gourmet shops near the harbor.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Year-round, but Cagliari can be brutally hot in the summer, when all the locals flee to the beaches and most restaurants close. Spring and fall are the best seasons.