Viewing Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, from the sea at the start of his Sardinian sojourn in 1921, D.H. Lawrence compared it to Jerusalem: “strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy”, and the city still makes a striking impression today. Crowned by its historic nucleus squeezed within a protective ring of Pisan fortifications, its setting is enhanced by the calm lagoons (stagni) on either side of the city, a habitat for cranes, cormorants and flamingos. In the centre, the evening promenades along Via Manno are the smartest you’ll see in Sardinia, dropping down to the noisier Piazza Yenne and Largo Carlo Felice, around which most of the shops, restaurants, banks and hotels are located. At the bottom of the town, the arcades of portside Via Roma shelter more shops and bars.
Cagliari’s main attractions are the archeological museum with its captivating collection of Nuraghic statuettes, the city walls with their two Pisan towers looking down over the port, and the cathedral – all within easy distance of each other. There is also a sprinkling of Roman remains, including an impressive amphitheatre.
Almost all the sights you'll want to see in Cagliari are within the old Castello quarter, on the hill overlooking the port. Traditionally, this was the seat of the administration, aristocracy and highest ecclesiastical offices. The most evocative entry is from the monumental, late nineteenth-century Bastione di Saint Remy rising up from Piazza Costituzione. At the top of the grandiose flight of steps inside, you can enjoy Cagliari’s best views over the port and the lagoons beyond – sunset is a good time to be here, and there are some chic bars at the top for whiling away an evening. Note that the Bastione is closed for renovation work until 2017.
It's just a 15min bus ride (#PF, #PQ and Poetto Express) from Cagliari's Piazza Matteotti to the marina at the western end of Poetto, where a fine sandy beach extends some 6km, dotted with bars and public showers. Some sections are lidos charging a standard daily rate for entry, with deckchairs and parasols available for rent, along with pedalos and windsurfing equipment.
Top image: Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy © Sean Pavone/Shutterstock