Cagliari, Italy

On the southernmost tip of the Italian island of Sardinia, lies the ancient city of Cagliari. The port city spans a long bay between the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and rolling fertile fields of the island. Cagliari is best known for its architecture, from its 13th century “old city,” known as the Castello, to its 1930s Art Deco piazzas. While the city lacks the playboy millionaire image of Sardinia’s northern “Emerald Coast,” Cagliari appears to on its way towards establishing a more modern lifestyle, with an influx of capital invested in building contemporary-styled museums and transportation.

Cagliari, Sardinia, ItalyAlthough some evidence of pre-historic inhabitants have been found near Cagliari, the first civilization to occupy the port were Phoenician mariners. The seafaring Canaanites named their colony Karalis around the 7th century B.C., and made the port one of a number of Phoenician city-states scattered throughout the Mediterranean Sea. The island fell to Romein 238 B.C. Remnants of the early Roman rule remain, including an amphitheatre, still used today, cut into the limestone deposits from which much of the city was built. Just outside the city lie an ancient necropolis, replete with tombs and temple ruins.After the fall of the Roman Empire, the entire island fell first under the control of the Vandals, then the Byzantines. When Pisa began to vie with Genoa during the 13th century for control over strategically located Sardinia, the city was rebuilt and fortified. Much of the fortifications still surround Castello, including two striking towers built from white limestone, known as Pancras Tower and the Elephant Tower. The narrow cobblestone streets and medieval palazzi and churches make Castello Cagliari’s prominent tourist destination.

Castello lies upon a hill, providing panoramic views of the city and harbor. It is of this area that author D.H. Lawrence wrote after he visited Cagliari in 1921, describing a city “rising rather bare and proud, remote as if back in history, like a town in a monkish, illuminated missal.” The Pisan Cathedral was restored during the 1930s to more accurately reflect the windowless, arched style of the 13th century original. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria includes a wooden statuette of Mary that legend says found its way to the cloister after being abandoned at sea.

In 2004, Sardinian-born Renato Soru, a billionaire who founded the Cagliari-based internet company Tiscali, became President of the Sardinia Region, and immediately began to work towards adding a modern element to Cagliari, hiring famed architect Zaha Hadid to design the Nuragic and Contemporary Art Museum, a structure with futuristic lines meant to resemble a crashing wave.

Cagliari is a popular weekend destination for locals and tourists, enlivened by the University of Cagliari’s college community. The city is home to Sardinia’s opera house, the Teatro Lirico. Cagliari-Elmas Airport, located near Cagliari, offers direct flight to the United States and Europe.


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