Cagliari, the Sardinian city of seven hills | Bellarome

Cagliari, the Sardinian city of seven hills

Cagliari is an Italian town of 153.231 inhabitants, capital of the autonomous region of Sardinia. Its metropolitan city has 430 723 inhabitants.


University and archiepiscopal seat and city with a pluri-millennial history, it is the historical administrative center of the island having been, under the name of Caralis, the capital of the province of Sardinia and Corsica during the Roman period and subsequently the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia, since 1324 to 1720, and then from 1798 to 1814. Its port is classified “international” because of its importance; performs commercial, industrial, tourist and service functions for passengers.

Lying on seven hills, Cagliari seems to be reaching upwards. The colorful and attached houses and the Fortified Citadel, which seems to touch the sky, outline the profile of the city. From the top of the fortress with its walls and defensive towers overlooking the Mediterranean, the view is breath-taking.

Rich in history, Cagliari is the perfect destination for those who want to slowly savour the maze of narrow streets of the old city, the beaches, the sea, the architecture of the city overlooking the Golfo degli Angeli, on the southern coast of Sardinia.

The name Karali, according to Max Leopold Wagner ascribable to the Proto-Sardinian [12], is composed of a root * kar and the suffix -ali and is reflected in the toponyms Carale di Austis, Carallai di Sorradile, Caraglio of Corsica, Caralis of Panfilia and dell Isauria and Caralitis of Pisidia. The root “kar” in ancient Mediterranean languages ​​meant “stone / rock” and the suffix “al” gave collective value; thus Karali was formed, which would mean “rocky location”.

Cagliari was called Krly by the Phoenician-Punic while in Latin it was Caralis or plural Carales; this last plural form is attested for the first time in the Bellum Africanum and according to a historical-linguistic interpretation it could be connected to the existence, in the first Roman period, of two distinct communities: the oldest one in the old Punic city and the most recent one represented by the Roman-Italic immigrants of the vicus munitus Caralis (quoted by Publio Terenzio Varrone), later merged during the second century BC.

During the Second World War, Cagliari suffered numerous bombings (80% of the city was more or less seriously affected, so much so that Cagliari was declared a Martyred City and received a gold medal for military value [55]) of which it is still possible see the signs in some areas of the historic center. The bombing began on February 17, 1943, with the arrival of a hundred US planes in the skies of Cagliari. Between 26 and 28 February 1943 there are the heaviest bombings, with the destruction of many important places for Cagliari. In total, the victims of the bombings in the city were more than 2,000.

In 1948 it officially became the capital of Sardinia according to article 2 of the Statute of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia. From the second post-war period onwards, the population of Cagliari grew further to reach a maximum of 220,000 inhabitants in 1981 and then dropped dramatically following the referendums held between the mid-eighties and early nineties which sanctioned the autonomy of the various hamlets of the time fascist, municipalities strongly conurbated to the historic city in a union that constitutes the fulcrum of the metropolitan area of ​​Cagliari.

During the twentieth century the urban center extended to the Poetto coast and to the Monte Urpinu area giving rise to the districts of San Benedetto, Bonaria, La Vega, Tuvumannu and San Michele.

Let’s begin our journey in this pearl of Mediterranean Sea!


The sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria

The sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria is a religious complex in the city of Cagliari located on top of the homonymous hill.

It is one of the most important Marian buildings in Sardinia.

The sanctuary is the oldest part of the complex and was the first example of Catalan Gothic architecture in Sardinia. In 1324, during the siege of Castel di Castro, the infant Alfonso had a fortified citadel built on this hill, called in Catalan Bon Aire or “good air”. In 1326 Pisa left Sardinia forever and, in 1335, the king donated the area of ​​Bonaria to the friars of the Order of Santa Maria della Mercede, at the time in its greatest splendor, who had a convent built with the annexed small church, Catalan-Aragonese style.

The construction of the basilica, which flanks the sanctuary, dates back to 1704, when the Mercedarian friars decided to build a larger church in honor of the Virgin of Bonaria. The church, built on a project by the Piedmontese architect Antonio Felice De Vincenti, was originally designed in the Baroque style; however, the works were interrupted, and towards the end of the XVIII century they were entrusted to the architect Giuseppe Viana, who reworked the project in neoclassical style.

During the nineteenth century the works still slowed down several times. On April 24, 1885, the archbishop of Cagliari Paolo Maria Serci Serra rededicated the sanctuary after work had been carried out; a large plaque was placed in memory of the double event. However, the building was only completed in 1926, the year in which Pope Pius XI conferred on him the title of minor basilica.

During the Second World War the building suffered serious damage due to bombing; it was renovated between 1947 and 1960 and then again in 1998.

The sanctuary of Bonaria was visited on 24 April 1970 by Pope Paul VI, by Pope John Paul II on 20 October 1985, by Pope Benedict XVI on 7 September 2008 during his visit to Cagliari and by Pope Francis on 22 September 2013, for to underline the link between the cities of Cagliari and Buenos Aires, which the capital of Argentina takes its name from this sanctuary.

The fourteenth-century sanctuary was extensively remodelled in the fifties of the twentieth century, in order to bring it back to its original form. The facade, aligned with that of the basilica, is very simple, gabled. To access the church you enter the portal, in Gothic style, which was recovered from the medieval church of San Francesco in Stampace, which was demolished in the nineteenth century.

The interior, always in the Catalan Gothic style, has a single nave with an ogival vault. On the left side there are three chapels, also in Gothic style, cross-vaulted, while on the right side there is the arch that connects the sanctuary to the basilica (the four chapels that opened on this side were demolished following the work of construction of the basilica).


Cathedral of Santa Maria

The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Santa Cecilia is the main place of worship in Cagliari, the mother church of the metropolitan and parochial archdiocese of the historic Castello district.

The church looks like a combination of different artistic styles and houses seven centuries of historical memories of the city of Cagliari. Built during the thirteenth century, in Pisan Romanesque style, it was elevated to the rank of cathedral in 1258. When Cagliari was the capital of the kingdom of Sardinia, the representatives of the three stations (arms of the Sardinian parliament) took an oath inside.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the temple was renovated according to the canons of the Baroque style. In the thirties of the twentieth century the current neo-Romanesque facade was raised, inspired by the prospect of the cathedral of Pisa.

The cathedral, in addition to being an important place of Catholic worship, where the main celebrations of the liturgical year presided over by the archbishop take place, is one of the best known and most visited monuments in Cagliari.

Probably founded as early as 1217 (when the Pisans settled on the hill of Castello), the first mention attesting the existence of the church of Sancte Marie de Castello dates back to 1254. In Romanesque forms, this original church had a rectangular plan, divided into three naves by columns, with a cross vault on the two lateral naves and a wooden roof of the central nave and was dedicated, like the Cathedral of Pisa, to Santa Maria Assunta.

In 1258, after the destruction by the Pisans of the Giudicato capital Santa Igia and the cathedral of Santa Cecilia, the church of Santa Maria di Castello was elevated to the status of cathedral of the Cagliari diocese, alongside the cult of Santa Cecilia in the dedication. At the beginning of the 14th century the transept was built, which made the plan of the church in the shape of a Latin cross, and the relative two side doors. A Gothic mullioned window was also opened on the facade and work was carried out on the bell tower. The construction of the first chapel, in Italian Gothic style, inserted in the left arm of the transept, dates back to the first twenty years of the 14th century.

With the conquest of Cagliari by the Aragonese the right transept was completed and other chapels built, of which only that of the “Sacra Spina” (also called “Aragonese Chapel”) remained intact.

In the early twentieth century, following the detachment of some marble elements [without source], the Baroque facade was demolished at the end of a dispute which saw the then superintendent of the monuments Dionigi Scano as protagonist, who trusted in the hope of finding yourself under the ancient Romanesque facade [3]. The cathedral remained about twenty years without a facade, until, in 1933, the current neo-Romanesque facade in Pisan style was built using the “forte stone”, a limestone from the Bonaria hill and sculptural fragments of the original church. The project was implemented on a design by the architect Francesco Giarrizzo.

In 1999, a restoration of the dome, the roof and the bell tower was carried out.


Tower of San Pancrazio

The tower of San Pancrazio, built during the Pisan domination (1258-1326), is the tallest tower in Cagliari.

The building, one of the symbols of the city (so much so that the turrets in the civic building in via Roma were inspired by the two Pisan towers), is located at the highest point of Castello, next to the Palazzo delle Seziate, and can be reached from the via Indipendenza, from viale Buoncammino through the Porta Cristina, and from via Ubaldo Badas via the San Pancrazio gate.

The visit to the monument allows visitors to admire vast panoramas of the city and the surrounding area.

The tower was built in 1305, at the request of the Pisans, by the Sardinian architect Giovanni Capula, who also designed the Elephant tower, built two years later.

Capula also designed a third tower, the Lion tower, recently renamed the Eagle tower, and incorporated into the Boyl palace since it was partially destroyed in 1708 by the British bombing, in 1717 by the Spanish cannonades and finally in 1793 by the attack by of the French during which he lost his upper part.

Subsequently, the side of the tower was closed, which faces Castello for officials and warehouses. In Aragonese times the building was also used as a prison. In 1906, by the engineer Dionigi Scano, there was a restoration aimed at bringing the tower back to its original appearance, especially through the liberation of the walled side in the Aragonese period.

The tower served as a defensive bulwark for the numerous Genoese and Moorish attacks. In addition to serving as a defense, it was and still is, together with the Elephant tower, the main door to enter Castello.

In 2013, the San Pancrazio complex was at the center of a rearrangement project aimed at rationalizing its museum spaces. Some of these interventions were also carried out thanks to the funds from the Lotto Game.


Church of Sant’Efisio

The church of Sant’Efisio is a religious building in the city of Cagliari, among the most important from a religious point of view because it is linked to the cult of the saint most venerated by the people of Cagliari, the martyr Efisio.

It is found going up the narrow via Sant’Efisio, which runs alongside the left side of the parish church of Sant’Anna, in the heart of the Stampace district, just beyond the church of Santa Restituta.

The church stands on an ancient building that should date back to around 430 AD. The building was enlarged and modified in 1538, when it was entrusted to the newly born Confraternity of Sant’Efisio, and later in the eighteenth century, when the Oratory was built, consecrated in 1726, as evidenced by a plaque walled to the wall of an entrance. side of the building. The Oratory, covered by a barrel vault, would have been built by the Piedmontese architect Antonio Felice De Vincenti, who at that time was engaged in Cagliari in the renovation of the former Jesuit College of Santa Croce. At the end of the eighteenth century there were new interventions that gave the building its current appearance, typical of the architectural style of the eighteenth-century Piedmontese baroque.

The church has a single nave covered by a barrel vault, on which the side chapels and the raised presbytery are connected. The nave is marked by decorative elements of a classical taste, such as pilasters and entablatures, while square windows are placed at the vault shutter, which together with those of the octagonal drum of the dome on the presbytery, illuminate the interior. The facade is simple, characterized by three orders of Ionic style pilasters, with the wooden door in the center, framed by a frame and surmounted by a curved tympanum, which corresponds, in the upper order, to the choir window. The terminal of the “carabiniere’s hat” facade is an element present in various churches in Sardinia since the 16th century, in this case enriched with scrolls and other decorations typical of the Piedmontese style of the 18th century. The bell tower, with a square section, dates back to the 16th century renovation of the building.

The small church is now in Baroque style: it was in fact rebuilt at the end of the eighteenth century on a sixteenth-century building, in turn built on a thirteenth-century church.

The sacred building has a nave with three chapels on each side. The presbytery rises a few steps from the floor of the classroom and is closed by a marble balustrade; on the back wall stands the imposing high altar, in polychrome marble, where, in a niche within a wooden reliquary, the relics of the martyr Efisio are kept.

In the second chapel on the right, there is the seventeenth-century statue of the saint, which is carried in procession up to Nora, during the festival in May.


Poetto Beach

Poetto Beach is an immense and beautiful city beach, eight kilometers of coastline between Cagliari and Quartu Sant’Elena.

Until the early twentieth century, the people of Cagliari preferred the western part of the Gulf of Angels, then gradually appreciated the white dunes, the first factories, kiosks and a summer colony were built, finally the famous colourful huts (completely removed in the 1986). Over time, they have populated it more and more, until it became known as the ‘beach of a hundred thousand’. Today, Poetto is the undisputed ‘sea’ of the Cagliari hinterland, one of the largest city beaches in Europe, as well as the most beautiful and popular on the island, a favourite destination for visitors to the capital, in summer and on any sunny day in the rest. of the year: obligatory stop even for a coffee or an aperitif accompanied by the sea breeze.

A few kilometers from the center and the port of Cagliari, the beach extends from the secluded and relaxing Margine Rosso, on the coast of Quartu Sant’Elena, to the Sella del Diavolo, which increases its charm by dominating Marina Piccola from above: inevitable the walk in the marina. The name of the coast probably derives from the Spanish tower at the top, called ‘of the poet’, even if the most likely hypothesis is the derivation from the Spanish puerto (port). You can climb to the seventeenth-century tower along the promontory from Calamosca, with a one-hour walk, beautiful at night. On the opposite coast of the ‘Sella’ hide the delightful and sheltered beaches of Calamosca and Cala Fighera.

Poetto Beach is wide in all its extension, the water is clear and the sandy bottom is low for tens of meters, ideal for children to play. The shore is an irresistible attraction for long walks. The lido is an excellent beach break for wave surfing and kite surfing, of which it hosts world-class events, as well as a nightlife theater, one of the main places of summer nightlife in the vast area: live music and dance lessons, clubs and discos.

The extension of the beach is equally divided between the almost four kilometers of the coast of Quartu and the four of the Cagliari part, divided into ‘stops’, which derive from tram stops, replaced in more recent times by buses. The ‘first stop’ has a very shallow backdrop, the ‘second’ and ‘third’ are home to the historic establishments of D’Aquila and Lido, the ‘fourth’ houses those of law enforcement, from the ‘fifth’, where the tower stands Spanish, until the end there is an expanse of ‘free’ sand.


Salina di Cagliari

The Salina di Cagliari is located near Poetto Beach and extends over part of the territory of the municipality of Cagliari and the municipality of Quartu Sant’Elena. The salt pans are now part of the Molentargius regional park.

The history of the extraction of sea salt in Cagliari seems to date back to about 3000 years ago, at the time of the Phoenician allocations. In more recent times, the extraction of salt was subject to a government monopoly first with the Spanish domination, then with the Savoy domination.

The extraction activity in the past employed workers recruited from the population, but at the turn of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Savoy state employed the condemned to forced labor, mainly from the Piedmontese prisons and the old Cagliari prison of San Bartholomew. In the 1930s, technology drastically changed the extraction technique with the preparation of the system formed by the evaporating tanks, the salt tanks, the lifting and channeling systems.

In 1984, the activity of the State saltworks ceased for hygienic-sanitary reasons due to the overflow of polluted waters from the Bellarosa minor into the Bellarosa major. The salt plants and tanks remain of the Saline as evidence of an ancient activity and the water circulation and regulation system is still active to maintain a particular ecosystem created in part by man

The city of salt or salt village was built in the early decades of the twentieth century and is today considered an industrial archeology site. The complex includes the buildings where the managers lived, the employees’ homes, a church, a theater, laboratories and workshops where the extraction and processing of salt took place.

Salina di Cagliari is a place in balance between man and the environment, between bodies of water and vestiges of ancient salt pans: for the approximately 400 thousand citizens of the vast area of ​​Cagliari, it is an oasis of leisure a few steps from home, for pink flamingos, the its most famous inhabitants, is the perfect home. You will admire them, without disturbing them in Molentargius, for two and a half centuries the richest Sardinian basin for the extraction of sea salt – an activity interrupted in 1985 – as the name itself testifies, deriving from molenti (donkey), an ancient means of transporting precious loaded with salt.

Already included in 1977 by the Ramsar convention among the wetlands of international importance, the area became a regional park in 1999 to protect and enhance one of the main staging and nesting sites for water birds in Europe.

The Molentargius-Saline occupies 1600 hectares in the extreme southern reaches of the Campidano, overlooking the Gulf of Angels and bordered by the urbanization of Cagliari, Quartu Sant’Elena, Quartucciu and Selargius, and the promenade of the beautiful Poetto. You will perceive its uniqueness from the peaks of Monte Urpinu and Sella del Diavolo.

Bastion of Saint Remy

The bastion of Saint Remy is one of the most important fortifications in Cagliari, located in the Castello district. The name derives from the first Piedmontese viceroy, Filippo-Guglielmo Pallavicini, baron of Saint Remy. At the end of the 19th century it was monumentally transformed into a staircase, topped by the Arc de Triomphe, which gives access to a covered walkway and a large panoramic terrace.

It was built at the end of the nineteenth century on the ancient walls of the city, dating back to the beginning of the fourteenth century, connecting the three southern ramparts of the Mint, Santa Caterina and dello Sperone, to join the Castello district with those below Villanova and Marina.

The covered promenade and the Umberto I terrace, the latter built on the old Sperone bastion, were designed in 1896 by the engineer Giuseppe Costa and Fulgenzio Setti. The building is built in neoclassical style, with Corinthian columns, using Pietra Forte, a white and yellow limestone present in abundance in the surrounding area. It was inaugurated in 1901. The double ramp staircase, with which you enter from Piazza Costituzione, stops in the covered walkway, and ends under the Arc de Triomphe, on the Umberto I terrace. On February 17, 1943, the staircase and l ‘Triumphal Arch were severely damaged by the B-17 American bombs during the Second World War, but after the latter were faithfully rebuilt.

From the Umberto I terrace you enter, through a short staircase, the bastion of Santa Caterina, where there was an old Dominican convent, destroyed by fire in 1800. It is said that in the austere rooms of the convent a conspiracy was prepared to kill the viceroy Camarassa in 1668, the most sensational episode of blood in the history of the city during the Spanish government.

During the Second World War it was used as a refuge for displaced people whose houses were destroyed by bombs. In 1948, it hosted the first trade fair of Sardinia. After many years of neglect, it was restored and re-evaluated as a cultural space reserved in particular for artistic exhibitions.