Cagliari, the city of the sun, rises on the Gulf of Angels and it’s a very lucky port of call, in the centre of the Mediterranean sea, between Malta to Spain. She welcomes you in a sunny day, with her vibrant colors, her beautiful waterfront facing the historical palaces of Via Roma and then going up on the hills; if you are on the outside deck of the ship, wherever you look, you will get charmed.
I was born here, and it’s very difficult to describe your own territory, because you know it very well, you know its virtues and weak points and you often, unfairly, underestimate it, but the colors of natures, of the sky, of the sea are like a framework for everything that our land has to offer: archeology, food and wine, unspoiled and sometimes savage nature, that makes it invaluable, for those who live there and for the tourists and you can only be charmed.
At the beginning of the century, David Herbert Lawrence said that Sardinia was different from any other place and he wrote about Cagliari ‘But as if it had never really had a fate. No fate. Left outside of time and history’.
“It is strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy. The city piles up lofty and almost miniature, and makes me think of Jerusalem without trees, without cover, rising rather bare and proud, remote as if back in history, like a town in a monkish, illuminated missal”.
“One wonders how it ever got there. And it seems like Spain—or Malta: not Italy”.
And nowadays you can feel exactly this way standing on the bridge of a ship: if you look at the port and the city that is within a walking distance, you can feel like you could almost touch it, a little Nativity scene climbing upward, while in front of you, in Via Roma, the Renaissance style buildings full of art nouveau decorations attract your attention with their innate elegance!
It has always been considered one of the city’s drawing room, because of its elegant porticos that host a lot of coffee bars and shops, spaced out with its narrow alleys climbing upwards the Marina of which Via Roma is the southern limit.
Cagliari is a city full of millennial history and a curios fact, that she has in common with other four big cities, Rome in first place, Istanbul, Lisboa and Prague, is that she has been built on seven hills:
- Colle San Michele
- Colle di Bonaria
- Monte Claro
- Monte Urpinu
- Tuvu Mannu
During the centuries she has often changed her name, due to the several dominations: the Phoenicians called her Krly; her present name is connected to the Spanish pronunciation of Callari and in Sardinian language the term Casteddu identifies itself with the fortified quarter of Castello.
The legend tells that Cagliari was built by Aristaeus, son of Apollo and of the nymph Cyrene in the XV century B.C. With him there was Daedalus too, according to the ancient greeks, and he was the creator of the fascinating and mysterious dedaleus buildings, the famous Nuraghe, that you can find everywhere in Sardinia.
The historians, however, tell us for sure that already in the Neolitic, the actual city was inhabited, as evidence of some domus de janas (graves dug in the rock, that we know as the houses of the fairs), but also the remains of some huts, dated around the IV-III millennium B.C. that were found in San Bartolomeo and Sant’Elia.
We have already talked in the blog about Cagliari, but with the help of Cagliari Cruise Port and with Alessandro and Silvia of Easy Holiday Sardinia, who strictly work with the CCP, we went to discover the secrets and the most characteristic angles of the city, looking for services not yet very know, but that allow us to look at this city in a new light.
This is an extra input for those who have already called this port in other occasions and, not knowing of these options, choose to stay onboard.
Let’s go to discover restaurants, places in the heart, sightseeings and do experiences, that i personally tried, in the sun city that I love so much.
WHAT TO DO IN CAGLIARI
I personally was surprised by the many options that cruisers have when they call Cagliari: besides the tours that the cruise companies offer, there is a lot more that i would define yummy and funny, to discover a city that I thought could have very little secrets for me, since I have gone to school and hung out here for years, but I have to admit that she keeps on surprising me in every corner.
Here are some alternatives to discover in a different way this port of call that offers every day new and tempting proposals to the tourists who call there.
#1. The romantic and athletic proposal
This is one of the options I didn’t know at all, because, when I was very young (oh my god I feel so old saying this!) did not exist: perhaps it is the funniest and the one that put on stake my sense of balance, that I have to admit is approaching to absolute zero!
But I am going to surprise you, because I was able to properly use the segway, very funny and for everyone and that you can find in the area of Marina Piccola, in the Poetto: very near to the port and where you will find the guys of Gringo-GreenExperience Sardegna.
Here you are spoiled for choice and also less sporty people (like Daniela :P) can choice between a lot of entertainment at a fair price:
- The segway: I recommend it, because it’s really funny and after the first dramatic moment, like “Oh my god, i will never make it”, than you you won’t get down. The Ninebot Mini Pro by Segway is a real fun!
- The Mountain bikes with pedal assistance, so also the laziest ones will have no excuses. With these bikes it’s possible, in small groups, to go for a hike to Sella del Diavolo, the Cape made of sedimentary rocks aged to Miocene period, that separate the beach of Poetto from Calamosca.
- The scooters, for a quick exploration of the area of Poetto;
- The Sups (stand up paddle), kayaks and snorkeling gear.
A very nice possibility, if the whether permits, it’s to reach the small coves where the staff can arrange a picnic. This can be a very romantic occasion, especially at the sunset, when the panorama is breathtaking.
#2. City Tour by Fiat 1100
Here is another possibility that got me really thrilled: a very nice and perfect tour of the city of Cagliari on board a beautiful Fiat 1100D dating back to 1964!
Everyone will turn to look at you, because on a car like that, still working perfectly, a black car quite impressive, not for its size, but for the majesty to the way it drives in a hot Friday afternoon among the modern cars, with its typical motor noise that make me crazy: it’s impossible to go unnoticed.
This excursion is proposed by Valentina Prasciolu, graduated in Cultural Operator for Tourism and Touristic Guide since 2008 and Massimiliano, our driver, who is in charge of the beloved grandfather’s car.
In this staff there is also Natascia, graduated in 2014 in Cultural Operator for Tourism: they are the guys of Viva Cagliari Tour and they offer a variety of city tours that you will be spoiled for choice!
The prices, as you can see in the official site, are really available to all. Their strength is the devotion to the customer: they are very nice and will guide you in every secret corner, included the wonderful area of Villanova, a piece of heaven in the city!
In the narrow alleyways that you will cross, you will be able to look at the wonder of the balconies and the areas outside the front door of the houses, full of colored flowers, a show that from a couple of years is also a very popular contest. A way to maximize your own neighborhood.
A lot of people envied me when they crossed us and greeted us very surprised, but I really advise you to do it, because you will reach a lot of unknown corners of Cagliari, with all comforts and you will stop in very famous places and will have the possibility to stretch your legs and to take a lot of beautiful pics from different angles.
#3. City Tour, the armchair city tour
What is different in this bus than others? It is smaller and so it can go also inside the walls of the ancient city, it is reserved and it makes a very original and interesting route that lasts about one hour.
It is particularly for those that, for various reasons, prefer to tour the city just sit comfortably to observe the monuments and all the wonders right in front of them.
Every seat has a multilingual system to use with the disposable headphones provided when you get in.
It stops in different strategic points where it’s possible to get down and take pictures. Below you can find a map of the itinerary: if you click it you will able to download it as a PDF, very easy to print.
#4. Regional Park of Molentargius Le Saline
This park is a perfect example of an urban naturalistic park: as you can see it is perfectly integrated in in the metropolitan area of Cagliari.
It is famous for hosting throughout the year a lot of couple of pink flamingos, that are very beautiful and magnificent when they take flight: it’s like a pink cloud that dwells in the sky!
I get always amazed and it is a spectacle in nature I will never get used to! They are elegant in every pose and they share the park with various species, about 250, of water, migratory, overwintering and breeding birds.
Among them, the purple heron, the egret, the marsh harrier, the swamphen and the black-winged stilts.
You can notice the extension in the picture taken from Monte Urpinu: you can clearly see the about 1.600 hectares of freshwater ponds alternated with an agricultural plain, various channels and the salty basins of the former state saltworks.
The visit of the park is for everyone, for the birdwatchers and sport fans, for the nature lovers, and for those who likes the outdoor activities. It is possible to rent bicycles, but you can also do the themed multilingual tours by electric vehicles (minibus and boat).
This is the best way to enjoy both the nature and the industrial archeology, in an environment where a glorious industrial past and the wonderful vitality of the many species of birds live together.
- Ecosafari Tour
- Hiking Tours
- Combined Tours
- Bikes Rent
Where to eat
In Cagliari you can find a lot of restaurants and cafeterias, but I want to suggest you something very particular, that is closely related to our wine and culinary traditions and in some cases revisited in a more modern way.
The first place is for all that follow a vegan and vegetarian diet, a very popular trend that not very often can offer something typical: but in this case you can taste a very different dish, the Gintilla (that in Sardinian language means lentil).
Here you can find recipes and traditional food rethink in a vegan way, to everyone’s taste, very sofisticate and well orchestrated plates, cooked on sight by a young and very able Chef, so that you can control in every moment the quality of the ingredients.
This restaurant is situated in the central Corso Vitt. Emanuele II (but you can find a similar one also in Porto Rotondo); it is a young and dynamic place, elegant but not intrusive at the same time: every detail reminds the nature, from the wooden table to the furnishings on the walls.
In the menu you can find seasonal ingredients, strictly 100% bio and farm to table, as his owner Paolo Mantovano explains.
Here you can taste fresh bread – amazing, I can tell – that is prepared every day with bio flours and cereals.
Down here you can see some examples of what we ate; I am not vegetarian or vegan, but I tasted every single plate and I was charmed by the Chef gesture while preparing them! You can find this place in the guide ‘Mangia Vegano 2017’.
If you are not a fan of the vegan food, than you can choose, no hesitation, the traditional, Sardinian dishes of the restaurant Sa Piola, where you can find from the land and from the sea traditional Sardinian recipes. Sa Piola is presided over by SLOW FOOD.
I was astonished by the care even in the pasta tipe, with the typical shapes of the Sardinian tradition, some of them very rare and that are not very easy to find, because only a little number of persons keep on the tradition to produce them in their own homes.
The history of this restaurant, situated in the old neighborhood of Stampace,in Vico Santa Margherita, close to Piazza Yenne, is closely tied to the Vinci family, starting with the nice owner, Giuseppe Vinci: his history tells about redemption, about a life turned upside down, and it is also narrated in a book “Il prezzo del riscatto. Storia di una famiglia dal purgatorio all’inferno” published by Hoepli.
But focusing back on the restaurant, Giuseppe tells us about his painstaking will for searching all the refinements and the delicacies that are part of our food and wine heritage, and for bringing them in his restaurant that has now become a real excellence.
Down below you can see some of the dishes we could taste.
An unusual experience I want to advise you is to immerse yourselves in the atmosphere of the Mercato San Benedetto, that has a display of about 8.000 square meters, divided in two levels and it is the biggest civic market in Europe in which about 300 dealers work: here we had a very unusual breakfast!
Thanks to Alessandro and Silvia, of Easy Holiday Sardinia, who supported us during our visit in Sardinia; I got to know two special guides, obviously regularly listed in the official register of the touristic guides of the Sardinia region.
- The first one, Francesco Manca of Your Sardinia Experience, that offers services related to tourism, can suggest you an urban tour (but not only), to discover unusual itineraries, also onboard of a vintage Fiat 500 dating 1972.
- The second one, Franco Cerniglia, of Sardinia Tourist Guide, makes people discover all the beauties of Sardinia in an environmentally friendly way.
They are both very experienced and could answer all our questions; they welcomed us with a tray of typical desserts cooked by Francesco’s mother, a very nice and much appreciated thought! The Sardinian hospitality is unique and this gift is a shining example!
Together, in the early morning, it was about 8.30 Am, we could admire one of the most valuable attraction, according to the tourists coming from all over the world, that shows at the ground floor the fish department, full of colors, chattering, a lot of careful customers coming and going and where very patient and kind operators explained me the qualities of different species that I had never seen before!
Kindness belongs to this place and this is a considerable added value: in the brief time available we had to tour freely, everyone was so patient to answer my many questions with a smile and an unique availability!
Upstairs you can find the produce section, meat, grocery, consumables and services.
The produce section, indeed, is astonishing for its many nuances: the fruits is stacked neatly in the counters, following the color scale and making everything very agreeable at first sight! It somehow reminds me of the market in Barcellona, the famous Boqueria (that anyway is smaller, just over 2.300 square meters wide).
Here in the market, except on Sunday, it’ possible not only to get a tour, but also to have a traditional and rich breakfast or snack: surely you won’t easily forget it!
We had ours in the box 194, I Cherchi, that offers to the public Sardinian niche products, but not only, local brewed beers, delicious jams and so on: the breakfast, as you can see in the pictures, was based on typical charcuterie, cheese (one seasoned and the other one “younger”) flattened and very delicious breadsticks – I could have eaten almost 3 kilos – and a very tasty fig marmalade!
In a world where the retail industry is the leader, the small one needs to specialize to emerge in local food excellences, national and international, and this is its strength, the reason you must visit it! Test it!
The regional capital of Sardinia, as you could notice, it’s full of surprises, and the job done by Cagliari Cruise Port – that I would remind you is part of Global Ports Holding, the most important operator in the world cruise terminals – in making people discover unusual places in South Sardinia, with a service that cuddles the soul, it’s really something unique in the international panorama.
To expand horizons, to cuddle the cruiser as soon as he gets down the ship, with ad hoc services, to cooperate with the local realities, can only be the first step to secure customer loyalty and the tourist can only be fascinated by our wonderful island and maybe he could decide to come back for a different experience of vacation!
A virtuous example for all other cruise terminals. And I have every reason to believe that this is only the beginning of this adventure and other surprises are waiting for us in the immediate future: in the meantime I am waiting for you to read my next posts to discover the other unique destinations of my travel (as soon as they are ready they will be directly linked).
- Cagliari e il Sulcis, Catania e la zona dell’Etna: destinazioni tutte da esplorare!
- Cagliari and the Sulcis, Catania and the Etna area: destinations to discover
- Alla scoperta di una Cagliari insolita
- Discovering an unusual Cagliari
- Sulcis I: Iglesias e Masua, due gioielli della costa sud-occidentale
Kindly translated by our senior editor Cinzia Marchisio
Image credit @crazycruises.it by Daniela Pisano
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16/09/2017 ore 14.00 – “Post protetto da Licenza Creative Commons International CC BY-ND 4.0″