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The most romantic places in Cagliari


Cagliari has made many travellers and intellectuals fall in love with it, who from time to time over the years, even for just a few days, have found themselves discovering it, recounting it and finally loving it.

In her beautiful essay 'Cagliari la città dell'amore' (Cagliari the city of love), Luce Spano recounts the amazement of the young Grazia Deledda in observing the courtship that took place under the balconies of the houses in the Villanova and Marina districts. This amorous ritual, codified and socially shared to the point of becoming, over time, an integral part of the very life of the city, was defined by Francesco Alziator with a well-defined term that is still used today: 'su fastiggiu'; a term that may come from the Catalan 'festejar' meaning 'to party', 'to court'.

Lifeblood capable of expanding and animating the narrow streets of working-class neighbourhoods, courtship was renewed according to a precise pattern: the woman at the window or balcony and the man below admiring her. A few words, fleeting glances, but an understanding capable of overcoming even for a few moments that barrier and bringing people together in the name of love. And this was often hindered by social differences, economic status, age and marriage vows arranged by families.

And then love was synthesised in moments of happiness consumed in silence, at a distance, but with the complicity of a city guardian of secret dreams.

Love also inspired the masterpiece of the 'lover of Cagliari' Cenza Thermes, who dedicated numerous essays to her city, the most famous of which is 'Cagliari my love'.

The Basilica of Bonaria seen from the small port of 'Su Siccu'. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

Even today, strolling through the squares of the Villanova district, the shady gardens, the impervious, sun-drenched streets of Castello, the bastions and the walls, or losing one's gaze on the horizon amidst marvellous, multicoloured panoramas, brings us to the same suggestions that undoubtedly inspired Valery, Lawrence, Grazia Deledda, Francesco Alziator, Cenza Thermes and many others. And for those who know Cagliari, it is a well-known fact that it is a romantic city in many respects, not only for couples, but also for anyone who wants to discover its unique and hidden corners or simply allow themselves the luxury of pausing to admire it. From hills to panoramic terraces, from historic squares to the waterfront, the choice is wide and does not disappoint anyone.

So what are these romantic places, suitable for those who have found love or those who are still looking for it?

The "Ichnusa Wharf" promenade - "Su Siccu"

Su Siccu' walk. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

Walking along the stretch between the 'Molo Ichnusa' and the small harbour of 'Su Siccu' is an extraordinary and exciting experience. The wind ruffling your hair, the imperceptible sound of the waves breaking on the rocks, the smell of the saltiness and an exclusive view of the small port of 'Su Siccu', the Basilica of Bonaria and the palatial Via Roma.

It is hard to believe that until 1919 this enchanting place was a marshy, unhealthy and malodorous area. The very name of the place - 'Su Siccu' - alludes to the reclamation work that rehabilitated it, removing the stagnant water and turning it into dry land.

The Poetto beach and the Marina Piccola marina

Poetto beach with the Sella del Diavolo promontory. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

The quintessential Cagliari beach, crowded in summer, it is the ideal place for a moonlit or sunset stroll. Lulled by the light salty breeze and accompanied by background music from the kiosks along the seafront, one experiences a magical and special atmosphere. However, in Cagliari, fortunately, it is also possible to enjoy the beauty of the sea in other seasons. Spring and autumn provide mild evenings, thanks to the clouds that drift between the sky and the waves, creating multi-coloured light shows. And to end on a high note, the small port of Marina Piccola, overlooked by the imposing and majestic silhouette of the Sella del Diavolo (Devil's Saddle), is the perfect place to stroll hand in hand.

Marina Piccola marina. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

On beautiful sunny autumn mornings or warm spring afternoons, the Marina Piccola harbour offers an evocative view, particularly at sunset, and is also home to some excellent restaurants and eateries.

The belvedere of Colle Sant'Elia

Panorama of the Golfo degli Angeli from the Belvedere of Colle Sant'Elia. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

Besides being undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Cagliari, the belvedere of Colle Sant' Elia is also one of the most romantic in the city. From the top of the hill there is a breathtaking view of the Poetto beach, the Saline di Molentargius and the Golfo degli Angeli; with a bit of luck, it is possible to come across the flight of pink flamingos, which have now become a symbol of the city of Cagliari.

The Hill of St. Michael

Hill of St. Michael. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

The Hill of St. Michael offers a 360-degree view of the city and its surroundings: no other hill offers this opportunity in just a few steps, simply circling the imposing silhouette of the St. Michael castle. Beautiful sunsets can be admired from the top of this hill: by far, the most beautiful in Cagliari.

In addition to the beautiful views, the hill of St. Michael is the ideal place for a walk at sunset or a romantic picnic on the grass in the shade of the trees. There is also a restaurant within walking distance of the castle, congenial for a romantic dinner with a view or to enjoy an aperitif.

The Public Gardens

Public Gardens, with the 19th-century façade of the former Powder Mill. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

The Public Gardens in Cagliari are the ideal place for lovers of beauty. Strolling through these Renaissance and Neoclassical gardens among exotic trees, flower essences and elegant marble sculptures is like taking a plunge into the past.

The small 19th-century "promenade" ends with the classical façade of the former Polveriera building, now home to Cagliari's beautiful Municipal Art Gallery, anticipated by the two basins housing the "Dormienti" sculptures by artist Mimmo Palladino. An evening stroll along the gardens long tree-lined avenue, amidst the scent of lavender and Mediterranean essences, is equivalent to a journey back in time, making us meditate on the absolute need for beauty that each of us, deep down, is led to seek.

The terrace and belvedere of the Bastion of Saint Remy

Umberto I Terrace of the Saint Remy Bastion. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

Offering a panoramic view of the city from the Santa Gilla pond to the Molentargius pond, the Bastion of Saint Remy is considered '"he most beautiful terrace in Cagliari". Since its inception, the "Bastion" - as it has been renamed by the people of Cagliari - has, in the not too distant past, been the place for walks and bourgeois encounters. A space created specifically to stimulate social relations, encourage worldliness and improve the lives of late 19th-century Cagliari residents, eager to find open, airy spaces in which to spend a few hours relaxing.

Panorama from the Saint Remy Bastion. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

Today, it is a fascinating place, from which one can observe the city from above, walk hand in hand, cuddle up on a bench, strum a guitar or read a book.

The Santa Croce bastion

Panorama dal Bastione Santa Croce. Foto di Roberta Carboni.

The stretch of wall that runs along Via Santa Croce provides a beautiful panoramic view of the Stampace district below, the Santa Gilla pond and the port of Via Roma. Built at the end of the 15th century and reinforced during the 16th century as a fortified terrace of the Castello district, it includes a large bastion surrounded by wide walls connecting with the ancient military structures of the Elephant Tower and the former barracks of the Dragoons.

Via Santa Croce. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

Although the evident military function of past centuries has been preserved, today the Bastione Santa Croce has become a fashionable and busy place all year round, thanks to its wide choice of elegant cafés and typical restaurants. The Bastione Santa Croce is certainly appreciated for its panoramic "terrace", a not inconsiderable strong point, by couples seeking a bit of relaxation, but also by those who enjoy the nightlife with clubs that stay open until late at night.

St James' Square

Piazza San Giacomo. Photo by Roberta Carboni.

The Villanova district is the last and most characteristic of Cagliari's four neighbourhoods and has experienced a slower development than the others, retaining, despite everything, that typically popular vocation that has always distinguished it. Today, however, after various renovations, it is one of the liveliest.

The low, multicoloured terraced houses in Piazza San Giacomo or along Via San Domenico, with their unique iron balconies, set at different heights, adorned with flowers, surround pretty little squares and small slarghi, which become the ideal places to carve out moments of peace and tranquillity in the company of a loved one or in perfect contemplative solitude. The Villanova district is also full of delightful cafés and small restaurants overlooking the squares and slarghi, providing the ideal atmosphere for a romantic dinner.

I entrust the conclusion of this article to the words of Cenza Thermes, who makes us realise how any place, if experienced in a deep and intimate way, can become romantic:

"A city is not only seen with the eyes, or only with the mind; a city is also seen with the imagination and with the heart".

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Bibliographic references

Cover photo: Antonio Casu

Roberta Carboni has been a tourist guide and art historian for more than 10 years. She lives in Cagliari and is passionate about Sardinia, which she has loved so much, all her life, which is why she has chosen to tell its story through exclusive thematic tours. In this way, she contributes to making the island known not only to those who do not yet know it, but also to the Sardinians themselves. The tours take place both within Cagliari, i.e. in the historic centre and other parts of the city, and in the surroundings of the city, going also to the south and centre of Sardinia.

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