Like many places Sardinia has evolved with time, but luckily, not as much as many other european destinations and not enough to have lost it's identity and character. Strolling around the old town in the capital of Cagliari, through little steep and narrow cobbled streets, one can reach the highest point to enjoy, not only the magical sunset over a drink before dinner, but also majestic views over the whole city, including the main port, once a very important stop in the heart of the mediterranean.
Quiet in the mornings but heaving in the evenings, Sardinians prefer their walks once the scorching sun of day has made it's descent into the horizon. Streets are filled with people taking "a passeggiata" (a walk), stopping at the various local bars for aperitifs and catch up with their friends to then move on to a restaurant or making their way home for dinner with the family.
The myriad of bars and restaurants which line the streets is an experience not to be missed. Proud of their land and produce, you will find many businesses offering typical Sardinian products, from full meals to delicious sharing platters to be accompanied by the many local wines and beers you will find difficulty choosing from.
A must stop for a degustation of cold meats, cheeses, wines and local beers is INU Wine Bar located a few steps away from Cagliari's port. The staff will make you feel at home the minute you enter the door. Their selections and knowledge of the produce they serve and the fantastic location of this popular haunt, makes this a must during your time in Cagliari.
Sa Domu Sarda offers a traditional culinary experience, a wonderful menu with a great variety of local dishes encompassing the best flavours of the island. Is Mallorredus alla Campidanese, a pasta dish flavoured with a wild boar and fennel ragù, is a must as it is possibly the best version of the dish I have had the pleasure of eating!
For a light bite whilst strolling along the streets, why not stop at one of the many Pizza al Taglio shops, the popular Italian version of fast food. Here you can buy a rectangular pizza, folded in half, wrapped in paper and eaten on the go. A big hit with adults and children alike!
Food and drink is only a small part of what is on offer though. Lovely architecture, gardens, piazzas, churches, traditional and particular local jewellery, murals, endless festivals which span from religious ceremonies to medieval games, a never ending beach a short drive from the city centre as well as archeological sites, agriturismo and nuraghi village ruins, it is a wonderful destination to enjoy with friends and loved ones.
On my latest trip, I had the pleasure of witnessing one the the biggest festivals of the island, Sant'Efisio, in honour of the Patron Saint of Cagliari. The story goes that in 1656 the people from Cagliari prayed to Sant'Efisio that he would defeat the wave of plague, brought over by some catalan sailors in 1652, that killed roughly 10,000 people on the island with Cagliari being the most affected with half of the city's population succumbing to the disease. They vowed that, should Sant'Efisio defeat the plague, a procession would be held every year in his honour. That September, heavy rainfall cleared out the plague and 1657 marks the beginning of this tradition in which, the longest religious procession of the mediterranean, walked over 65 Km in 4 days, takes place in a display of foods, costumes and music representing all corners of the island. The first of May was chosen as the month represents the reinvigorating time of nature, the spring harvest.
I also took the time to drive up to Barumini, 45 minutes drive north from the capital. Easily reached and comfortably done on a day trip, is one of the most beautiful and renowned Nuraghi Villages, now a Unesco Heritage site in the Marmilla region. Spend an hour here to have the guided tour and discover a fascinating past, take a walk through these rock buildings which used to house Sardinian people around 1400a.c. and finish off with lunch or dinner at Il Cavallino della Jara, a 2 minutes walk from the site, which offers traditional dishes including the wonderful Suckling pig, spit roasted piglet, cooked to perfection!
Direct flights from London and a 10 minute taxi ride from Cagliari airport to the city centre make this an ideal weekend away with less than 4 hours travel time and with around 220 days of sunshine a year, it is an easy choice for a quick sunny getaway May through to October.
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