Sicily grabs all the attention when it comes to popular Italian islands, with Sardinia left largely in the shadows. To the west of the Italian mainland in the Mediterranean Sea just south of the French island of Corsica, Sardinia is a hidden gem, well worth discovering. Phoenicians, Romans, Moors and Catalans have all tried to conquer this island, but instead of dividing it, they have left it with wonderfully varied cultural legacy.
The most beautiful beaches in the entire Mediterranean Sea line the coast of Sardinia, and some of the best are only a few kilometres from Cagliari. One of Italy’s longest beaches, Poetto, lies just east of the city. The fine sandy strand stretches to the horizon, and a delightful restaurant at the harbour on the southern end provides a tasty accompaniment to an evening by the sea. Poetto is also a great spot for watersports such as surfing.
You cannot leave Cagliari without sampling genuine local cuisine. Sardinian food is distinguished by its powerful flavours, something it shares with the local wine, cannonau. Carasau (a thin crispy bread), porcheddu (basted piglet) and culurgiones (a ravioli-like pasta stuffed with pecorino cheese and mint) are other traditional favourites. City-centre restaurant Su Combidu, is a great purveyor of authentic local cuisine served in traditional surroundings.
Enjoy the view of Bastione San Remy
Castello, Cagliari’s old town, lies atop one of the city’s seven hills, making it the ideal spot for spectacular views of the Gulf of Cagliari, or Angels’ Gulf. The Bastione San Remy tower, constructed from the typical local white lime-stone, is a particularly good place for viewing the rest of the city, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. From here, it’s just a short walk to the lovely Romanesque Cathedral of Cagliari.
Marvel at the Wildlife
Sardinia is home to a remarkable range of unusual and attractive birds and animals, and you don’t have to go far to see them. Within Cagliari itself are several ponds inhabited by beautiful pink flamingos. Grab your camera and head for the Stagno del Molentargius nature park.
To really get the best from your holiday in Cagliari, it helps if you know something of this island’s unique history. To discover more about what makes Sardinia so different and so special, visit the Cittadella dei Musei (Citadel of Museums) and absorb the historic atmosphere of the Castello district, where the streets show the past in all its fascinating glory.
See the Beehives
You’re unlikely to find bees in any of the 8,000 Nuraghi stone dwellings scattered across Sardinia. Unique to the island, these beehive-like stone dwellings from the Bonze Age are somewhat mysterious, although many believe that they were used either as religious temples or as military strongholds. The most well known Nuraghe is the Unesco World Heritage Site Nuraxi su Barumini, located about 60 km north of Cagliari.