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Cagliari, or "castle" in Sardinian dialect, is the capital of the Italian island of Sardinia. Although most of the present town was built after the 12th century, Cagliari, like the rest of the island, was first settled by Phoenicians, who called the town Kàralis or ‘city of rock,’ and then by the Carthaginians. The Romans also left their mark by constructing a fine amphitheatre and some villas, but it was not until the 12th century that Cagliari saw a settled period again, first under the Pisans, followed by the Aragonese, and eventually by the Dukes of Savoy, who styled themselves as Kings of Sardinia. Modern Cagliari reflects all of these influences. Around the most ancient part of the city, the Marina and Stampace districts are dotted with refined buildings from the XIX century. Via Roma - parallel to the boardwalk - houses a large array of shops, while the side streets Largo Carlo Felice and Via Regina Margherita offer the perfect frame for a walk to the castle. Castello District is the largest heritage left by the Pisans and the Aragonese. The road to reach it can be challenging (lifts are available), but its beauty and the amazing view that you will enjoy over Santa Gilla Lagoon and the lakes is worth the effort.
Cagliari has much to offer, from exceptional natural beauty unique to Sardinia to historic spots, testaments to a lively and spirited past, during which various cultures met and collided for centuries. Among all the experiences offered by the city and its environs, here are five not to be missed.
Under the arcades of Via Roma, in Largo Cargo Felice and Yenne Square you will find the historical cafès of the city with their adorable outdoor tables. Here espresso and cappuccino accompanied by small puff pastries are a real ceremony. Below Saint Remy Bastion, two pedestrian streets host mostly fashionable shops, which make them perfect for a walk and for a shopping afternoon: Via Manno and via Garibaldi. Lastly, Castello is the ancient district perched on top of the hill, from which your gaze will reach the lagoon and lakes, taking your breath away. Here, the aristocracy and rulers of the city used to live throughout Cagliari's history. Indeed, even today the coat of arms is visible on the edifice's front doors. In Castello many places deserve a visit, so take you time to appreciate them all.
Despite the fact that Sardinia is surrounded by the sea, the best known local dish is porceddu - roasted suckling pig. This does not mean that seafood is not part of the regional tradition, however. On the contrary, along the coast you can enjoy daily fresh barbecued fish, such as striped bream, sea bass, red and grey mullet. Sardinians are very proud of their culinary tradition, so leave Italian and international food for later and appreciate the unique flavours of local cuisine, including (but not limited to) the delicious bread "cifraxu" and regional cheeses.
The hot Sardinian sun and warm breeze call for visitors to try a good Italian ice-cream, a cold coffee or some Sardinian pastries accompanied by refreshing juices. On the seaside promenade and in the city centre you will find cafés and bars aplenty, all that's left is to take your pick.
Most bars in Cagliari are located in the ancient districts around the harbour and Castello. In general, the relaxed atmosphere of the city is mirrored by its bars, in particular under the elegant arcades of Via Roma. If after a couple of drinks you want to discover the clubs of the city, head to Marina, Stampace or Castello, and do not miss Poetto Beach with its seaside beach bars.
Cagliari has excellent shopping opportunities mainly concentrated in the Marina district, and especially on the arcade Via Roma, where you will find the main department store, La Rinascente. Other malls are Upim in Piazza Della Repubblica and Standa, a few kilometres from the city centre. The French supermarket Auchan invaded Cagliari in its two commercial centres: in Via San Simone 60 - Località Santa Gilla - and Via Dolianova, 35. If you are shopping for souvenirs, or local handicrafts such as baskets and gold filigree jewellery, there are several shops catering to these needs in the port area (or try the ISOLA shop at Via Bacaredda 176). For regional specialities, try the indoor food market of San Benedetto, on the ss125 in the direction of Quartu S.Elena. Sunday is a good day for markets, with the flea markets near St. Remy Bastion and in Piazza Trento. Furthermore, antiquities markets take place on the first Sunday of the month in Piazza del Carmine and in Piazza Carlo Alberto on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. But if bargains on used items don’t appeal to you, try the large market at St Elia Stadium, also on Sundays, where new goods at bargain prices can be found.
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