Cagliari is the largest and most important town on the island of Sardinia. It is the regional capital, with about 200,000 inhabitants, and strategic as a political, commercial and industrial centre, in addition to its cultural importance as a university town. It is difficult to trace the origins of the city, legend has it that it was founded by Aristeo, the son of Apollo and the nymph Cyrene.
The whole area has been inhabited since ancient times, with evidence of this dating from 4000 BC onwards. Of particular interest are the Pre-Nuragic and Nuragic sites found close to the hill of Sant’Elia and to the current lagoons. The Nuragic people slowly developed ever stronger links with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, establishing close trade relationships thanks to their strategic location, with the large gulf offering a safe haven and ensuring increasing business.
The Romans were also soon attracted by the commercial and economic opportunities of the port of Cagliari, and decided to occupy the town and take control of all its export operations.
During the Roman period, the town expanded considerably and gained the status of a Municipium. In common with the whole of Sardinia, the city of Cagliari also lived through periods when it was governed successively by Pisa, Genoa, Aragon and Spain.
The great city of Cagliari faces onto a wonderful bay, allegedly named the Golfo degli Angeli (Gulf of Angels) because its shape resembles angel’s wings.
Cagliari has always been strongly linked to its 7 hills: St. Elias, Bonaria, Mount Urpino, Mount Claro, St. Michele, Tuvixeddu, and Castello (Castle).
Each of these hills has its own characteristics and importance for natural and historical reasons.The hill of Castello, called Su Casteddu in Sardinian (meaning Cagliari) is definitely the symbol of the city. It is the highest and noblest of the hills, visible from all parts of the town, and was particularly important during the periods of Pisan and Aragon rule, when it served as the seat of the governors and viceroys.
Castello should be your first stop on a visit of Cagliari. The ancient fortress is still partly enclosed by the walls that made it such a bastion, topped by the white towers of San Pancrazio and Elefantino. Inside, you can visit one of the town’s most significant monuments, the cathedral of Santa Maria, as well as the archaeological museum and art gallery. The other hills are equally attractive, and Mount Urpino is of great natural interest.
You are sure to remember the breathtaking view from its highest point, overlooking the city and Poetto beach, much loved by the people of Cagliari. This is where they go at most times of year to buy sea-urchins from little stalls, and where you can may see flocks of pink flamingos rising from the salt marshes and lagoons. However, the most evocative hill is certainly Bonaria. In 1324, the Aragonese built a sanctuary in the Gothic-Catalan style for an order of Mercedarian friars, and it still houses an image of the Virgin and Child, washed ashore in a chest in 1370.
This city surrounded by water, with the sea, lagoons and salt marshes on every side, has enjoyed a long history of trade with people from all over the Mediterranean. An important part of this commerce was the growing trade in salt, and indeed in mediaeval times Sardinia was known as the mythical island of salt.
The city is an amazing place with so many wonders to discover. We can rent you a vehicle and driver to help you explore this beautiful city.