Cagliari: 10 things to see and visitWhat to see in Cagliari in 1 or more days: a useful guide with the main places to visit in the city and surroundings
Cagliari is beyond doubt one of the most fascinating destinations you can reach from the Port of Civitavecchia.
With its historic monuments, proof of great cultures of the past, its beaches with clear water and its breath-taking views, the Sardinian capital will seduce you at first sight.
The connexion with Civitavecchia is guaranteed daily by the Tirrenia ferries, on board of which you can also embark your car and get around the surroundings. To learn more about the departure times click here.
If you are wondering what is there to see and visit once you get to Cagliari, keep reading this article and you'll find out everything you need to know for a perfect holiday.
1. Castello Neighbourhood and the Old Town
Most of the monuments worth visiting in Cagliari are in the historic Castello Neighbourhood.
With its imposing walls, the Saint Pancras Tower and the Elephant Tower, Saint Remy Rampart, the Gate of the Lions, the Cathedral of Saint Mary, the narrow alleys and all the exclusive old buildings, the Cittadella dei Musei and the antiques and artisan shops, the medieval Castello neighbourhood is the real heart of Cagliari.
100 meters away from the sea, this neighbourhood was founded by the Pisani in the 13th century. Since then and until the Second World War postwar period, it was the seat of the power and the noble residences of the Kingdom of Sardinia.
As you might have already understood, going for a walk in this neigbourhood is an absolute must that you can't miss! Keep reading to know in detail some of the main monuments.
2. The Poetto Beach
Absolutely unmissable, during your stay you must visit the Poetto, main beach of Cagliari that extends for about 8 km from the promontory of the Sella del Diavolo to the coast of Quartu Sant'Elena.
A small paradise a stone's throw away from the city where you can spend a relaxing day as well as having fun in any of the many pubs, bars, and night clubs.
The beach also offers a wide range of services, like bed & breakfasts, hotels, parking facilities, beach resorts and much more.
3. Cathedral of Saint Mary in Cagliari
The Cathedral of Saint Mary is probably the most important monument of the Castello neighbourhood. Built by the Pisani family in the 13yh century over the ruins of the old church of St. Cecilia, the cathedral is a combination of different art styles and it houses 7 centuries of historic memories of the city.
Inside there are many artworks like the wooden sculpture of the Madonna and Child, of the Venetian school (second half of the 14th century), some fifteenth-century paintings, important silver jewellery, a big composition in the central ceiling by Filippo Figari and much more.
It's worth noting, under the presbitery, the Underground Sanctuary of the Martyrs, digged in the rock by archbishop Francisco D’Esquevel in the 16th century, with Sicilian Baroque stucco decorations that sate back to 1618.
4. Cittadella dei Musei
In the north side of the hill where stands the Castello neihbourhood there is the so-called Cittadella dei Musei, the museum association of Cagliari.
Some of the permanent exhibitions that you can visit are the Archeological museum, recently enhanced by the Giants of Mont'e Prama found in the archeological excavation in Cabras; the National Art Gallery that houses paintings by Sardinian painters between the 16th and 20th centuries, some artworks of the 15th-17th centuries from the Genoa, Naples and Rome schools and much more; the Museum of anatomical wax - Clemente Susini, which houses one among the most interesting collections of anatomical wax in the world (no suitable if you have a delicate stomach!) and finally the Public Museum of Siamese art Siamese (MAS) entitled to the Cagliari collectionist Stefano Cardu.
Every museum has a story to tell, and every one of them is worth visiting with time and calmly. Besides, from the top of the hill you'll be able to enjoy a fantastic 360° view over the whole city!
5. Saint Remy Rampart
Impossible not seeing it, the Saint Remy Rampart is one of the most important monuments in Cagliari and it is a compulsory stop for those visiting the city.
Built over the old city walls of the 19th century, it owes its name to the first Piedmontese Viceroy, Filippo-Guglielmo Pallavicini, Baron of Saint Remy.
In 1901 was inaugurated the double flight of steps that allows access to piazza Costituzione, it stops at the covered walkaway and ends under the Triumphal Arch in the Umberto I terrace: from up here you'll enjoy an extraordinary view over the city anf the Gulf of the Angels.
A short flight of steps takes into another square named after Santa Caterina. It was gravely damaged by War World II bombings in 1943, but after the war the imposing complex was reconstruted according to the original design.
6. Marina Neighbourhood
Throbbing heart of the city, the Marina Neighbourhood was build around the port of Cagliari and it still preserved the flavour of the old sea towns.
Amids historical buildings, old churches and small shops, you can simply go for a walk looking and do some shopping while you smell the tempting flavours coming from the species shops.
This old neighbourhood was once inhabited by fishermen and merchants and it is today the presentation card of the city. It is an ideal place to spend the evening in any of the many restaurants, among the smells and flavours of the traditional Cagliari cuisine.
7. Monte Urpinu Park
Monte Urpinu, a stone's throw away from the city center, is beyond doubt the most important park in Cagliari.
It's an deal destination to spend a pleasant day with your family, to have a picnic or to go for a walk around the pine trees and small lakes. The park is approximately 98 meters above the sea level and it extends over a surface of 247,000 sqaure meters.
Inside you can find swams, turtles and also wonderful turkeys that live in freedom. Walking around the tiny ways that flank the hill you can go up to the Belvedere, a natural panoramic viewpoint from where you'll enjoy a wonderful view over the city: the old town, the Saline di Molentargius, the Poetto seafront and the promontory of the Sella del Diavolo.
Up here, to keep you company, there is the characteristic Statue of Saint Francis of'Assisi built by Martini in 1984.
8. Basilica and Sanctuary of N.S. di Bonaria
An old legend says that in March 25, 1370, a ship coming from Spain, was surprised by a storm, which obbliged the sailors to throw into the sea all the cargo, including a mysterious box that ran ashore at the feet of the Bonaria hill.
Nobady managed to open or lift the box, except the friars of the Mercy, who brought it to the small church on the hill and they discovered the contents. The box contained a statue of the Madonna with Child, who was holding a lighted candle in her right hand.
With the arrival of the miraculous Madonna, venerated by the faithful and praid to by sailors as their protector, the small church became the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Bonaria.
The significant flow of pilgrims nudged the friars to build a bigger church. The works started in 1704 and continued for many years. In 1926 the biggest Christian temple in the island was consacrated and it gained the title of minor Basilica minore. In 1908, Saint Pius X proclaimed the Madonna di Bonaria the highest Patron Saint of Sardinia.
The complex of the Basilica di Bonaria includes the Monastery and 2 Churches. It stands in a priviledged position, with a wide panoramic view of the sea and the Gulf of Cagliari.
Curious fact: The basilica was the first place that Pope Francis visited after being elected.
9. Elephant tower and St. Pancras Tower
The Elephant Tower and St. Pancras Tower were built by the Pisani family around the 14th century. They stand out in the old Castello neighbourhood and are the symbol of the city.
Both were built in 3 of their sides of Bonaria white limestone and over the sides are tiny embrasures. The fourth side, looking to the Castello neighbourhood, is opened and shows several floors with wooden crossbeams.
The St. Pancras Tower is the highest (36 meters) and it was the first to be built (1305). Its massive gates and two heavy portcullis protected the north entrance of the Castle.
The Elephant Tower (1307), 30 meters high and with a heavy gate with portcullis, instead, owes its name to the small elephant sculpted on one side.
Both, originally built to defend the city from the Aragonese threat, were over time destined to other functions: warehouse, armoury and also prison.
10. Molentargius Saline Park
Highly recommended if you love being in contact with nature, the Molentargius-Saline Natural Regional Park extends over around 1600 hectares between the city of Cagliari and Quartu Sant'Elena, looking onto the Poetto Seafront.
A true oasis in the middle of the city with long paths that you can cover running, walking or riding your bike.
The main attraction, which has become symbol of the park is the presence of beautiful pink flamingos as well as many other species of wild birds, like mallard, gadwall and northern shoveler, common pochard and tufted duck, western swamphen, coot and common moorhen.
Some of the water birds you might see are heron, little egret, common stilt, pied avocet, great cormorant, kingfishers and many others.
Admission is free and our tip is to explore it by bike: at the Sali Scelti building a bike rent service and a bikesharing station are available.
Cagliari: 10 things to see and visit
- HOW TO GET THERE
- Sanctuary and Basilica of Bonaria:The Sanctuary opens from 6:30 to 12:00 and from 16:30 to 19:30Free admissionCathedral of Saint Mary in Cagliari:Working days 7:30- 12:00 and 16:00 - 20:00 | Holidays 8:00 - 13:00 and 16:30 - 20:30Free admissionTowers of the Elephant and St. Pancras:Tuesday through Sunday: 9:00 - 17:00. Closed on MondayTower of St. Pancras: general €4,00 reduced €2,50Tower of the Elephant: general €4,00 reduced €2,50Molentargius Park:The park opens every day from sunrise to sunset. The welcome service and the information point (bike renting, boats, electric bus and guided visits), in the ground floor of the Building Sali Scelti (Via la Palma), opens Monday through Sunday from 9:00 to 18:00.