Cagliari and Costa Rei
Meet the pink flamingos in the south of Sardinia
Once in Cagliari, if you took the ferry you will land directly at the harbour near Via Roma, which is the main centre of town. If you took a flight, catch the train to the city centre (Piazza Matteotti)– it takes no longer than 7 minutes. You can the reach Via Roma and start a walk that will take you through the picturesque neighborhood of La Marina, and then eventually lead you to the Bastione di S. Remy. It is a bastion, a fort built at the end of the 19th century on the old walls of the city (dating the beginning of the 14th century), in order to link the neighborhoods of La Marina and Villanova with the one of Castello, above. Walking up the stairs of the Bastione, take a look at the spectacular view over the Golfo degli Angeli. Right in front of you, you will see the Sella del Diavolo, a cape at the south of the city that separates the beaches of Poetto and Calamosca.
The legend says that demons, headed by Lucifer, were impressed by the beauty of the gulf and attempted to conquer it. However, God sent its army, under the lead of arcangel Michael, in order to fight Lucifer. In the battle, Lucifer was unsaddled and lost his saddle which landed on the water and turned into stone, thus giving the cape its saddle shape. Another legend says that Lucifer, during the fight, fell on the cape giving it its shape. Right next to the Sella del Diavolo there is Sant’Elia Stadium, historic stadium of Cagliari Football Club and currently being renovated. On the left, you can see Molentargius pond which is a colony for pink flamingos. If you want to take a closer look from above, go to Monte Urpinu. Otherwise, take a walk in the Parco di Molentargius to see them up close.
Going up some more stairs from the Bastione, you can enter the neighborhood of Castello, and see the Cathedral and the Palazzo Vice Regio, till you reach the San Pancrazio Tower, built during the Pisan domination of Sardinia. You can go up the tower, but beware you may get dizzy as they are steep and the strong mistral that often blows in the city may make you feel unsteady. However, the view from up there is spectactular. You can then visit the nearby archeological museum and, exiting Castello, go towards the Roman anfitheater, of imperial times, which could host up to 10000 spectactors and were the main shows were those of gladiators. Going back towards Castello, walk along the Ghetto degli Ebrei admiring the view of the roofs of Stampace and walking under the Elephants’ Tower.
Other sites of interest include the Basilica di Bonaria, the lighthouse of Sant’Elia (which you can reach through a free hike offering an incredible view over the Poetto beach), the necropolis of Tuvixeddu and the Castle of San Michele. From Cagliari you can also organise several day trips. One could be that to the Castle of Siniscola. If you are interested in a unique archeological site (something that can be only found in Sardinia) visit the nuraxis village of Barumini, which is a UNESCO site. Another site to visit is the archeological site of Nora, nearby Pula. Other day trips could be to the beautiful beaches of Santa Margherita, Chia, Tuerredda and Cala Cipolla. If you would like a wine tasting experience, go to Serdiana and ask for a wine tour of Cantine Argiolas. In Serdiana you can also visit the Romanic 11th century church of Santa Maria di Sibiola, fully immersed in the countryside.
Where to sleep, eat and have a drink in Cagliari
For a relaxing walk and an aperitif right before sunset, walk along the Poetto beach. It is easily reached by bus and there are many kiosks and bars where you can have a drink and enjoy the cool breeze coming from the sea. If you can afford a taxi, go to La Paillote, at the top of Calamosca beach: it is a beautiful lounge bar with a view over a tiny beach and the harbour of Cagliari. Cagliari offers restaurants and accommodation for all budgets and taste. Fussy travellers can opt for the modern and comfortable T Hotel, which also has a good restaurant and is right in front of the beautiful Parco della Musica. For something in between, there are many bed and breakfast in the city centre. If you are on a budget, opt for Hostel Marina, beds in dorm of 4 to 6 beds are €22 per night, it is right in the heart of the city and near all attractions, restaurants and bars. For an excellent pizza (and pasta, meat and desserts!) go to L’Oca Bianca in the city centre (Marina neighborhood) and not far from the Hostel Marina. Nearby, La Stella Marina di Montecristo in via Sardegna 140 offers an excellent seafood menu for no more than € 22 per person – including appetizers, pasta, seafood, fruit, dessert and wine and spirits. It is very popular among the locals, and Gigi Riva (former player of Cagliari who led the team to win its only championship) elected it as his second home in town. If you can, book in advance. In the streets of the city centre you can also find many kebab places, pizzerias, and ice cream parlours. Nightlife in Cagliari is lively – but locals tend to go out no earlier than 10 pm. The heart of the movida is around Largo Carlo Felice (again, not far from Hostel Marina). If you want to breath some more fresh air, head to Libarium, in Castello, which has a great terrace and view of the city; or Caffè degli Spiriti or De Candia in the Bastione. A cocktail normally costs between € 7 and 9, wine and beer are cheaper (around 4 or 5 euros).
Costa Rei and its surrounding
Costa Rei is the perfect place to relax and spend a few days being a total beach-bum and it is quite easy to reach from Cagliari. You just need to hop on an ARST bus from Cagliari main bus station in Piazza Matteotti to Costa Rei. Should you have your own car, you just need to drive towards Strada Statale 554 and then follow the directions to Muravera to reach Strada Statale 125, then take the exit “Costa Rei”. Driving should take no longer than one hour. The bus ride is longer as it goes along the coast, but those 2 hours trip will fly away while you enjoy the amazing view over the many small beaches of the gulf.
Costa Rei is a summer destination, mostly geared towards families with children. Despite offering little in terms of fun and nightlife (just a few bars – for more action head to the nearby Villasimius), it is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a few days at the beach. The long, white, sandy beach and the cristal clear water of Costa Rei are free to access, and will allow you, if you want to splurge, to try all sorts of water sports – including water skiing. Just ask at any of the kiosks you find at the beach; they can also organise boat trips to the nearby Isola dei Cavoli and the various other beaches in the area (prices should be not over €40). If you have your own car, it will definitely be easier to reach the various beaches nearby, that all deserved to be visited: Cala Pira with its Spanish tower, Cala Sinzias, the tiny Monte Turnu and the further Punta Molentis and Porto Giunco (nearer Villasimius). If you don’t have a car but would still like to visit these beaches, ask Butterfly Service to organise transportation, activities and even just to rent bikes. Most people who go to Costa Rei either opt for an all-inclusive village or rent a flat – which has the advantage of having a kitchen to prepare your own meals. The average price of a one bedroom flat, with bathroom, kitchen and an extra bed (geared for up to 4 persons) is around 100 euro per day. There are many local agencies that can provide information – you can find them all by doing a simple google search. The cheapest option is that of camping sites where you can pitch your tent or rent a bungalow. Among them, Camping Capo Ferrato and Camping Le Dune. As any resort town, Costa Rei offers many restaurants for around all budgets. Chaplin, near the beach, is specialised in seafood and is among the cheapest. You can have a good pizza at Escargot, which has a great terrace overlooking the sea. Sa Cardiga e Su Pisci is the priciest and most reknown restaurant in the area. I Menhirs, near the village of Olia Speciosa, offers a traditional Sardinian menu with organic and locally grown produce, with appetizers, freshly made pasta and meat dishes, dessert and drinks for around 30 euro.
by Claudia Tavani