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Sardinia Italy most charming island

by on March 24, 2008

cagliari.jpgI feel adventurous somehow, stepping out of Cagliari’s large and well maintained Elmas Airport. The Italians are a terrifically friendly, as also handsome, lot that carry themselves with great pomp and flair. So far, I haven’t seen anyone not return a smile. But before I can test assumptions my host and I are whisked away by her cousin in his jaguar. I settle into the back seat, trying to take in the baffling new cityscape of the capital of one of Italy’s most charming islands, Sardinia. They told me that Sardinia is the oldest settlement in the Mediterranean Sea with an 1800km coastline that is home to Europe’s top seaside and aquatic sports destinations.

After a quick check in at the The Hotel Mediterraneo, we went to cagliari-poetto-beach.jpgPoetto beach which is famous for its sunset. The beach makes a perfect place to socialize and enjoy the seafood. With evening lights all around the beach water it was time to head back to the hotel again. When we were driving back through the city’s central district I saw the mammoth structure that towers over the city, it’s called II Bastione and the under the orange glow of street lamps, it looked much larger.

cagliari-walk.jpgNext morning, Cagliari’s, is not just a blast from the past. It’s a modern, well load out city out with its centre divided into four parts: Castello, Marina, Stampace and Villanova. It is also pedestrian’s paradise. You can start in the morning and walk down half the city by evening. The piazzas are neatly arranged, and if you are armed with a map it’s next to impossible to get lost, even if all the public boards and signage are in Italian. While strolling down the Cagliari’s fish market and African, Chinese and Indian shops I landed in heaven, name the brand and it’s here from Max Mara’s flagship store to Ruggeri’s shops in Via Alghero and Piazza S Benedetto that sell all top designer footwear and jewellery from Bvlagri, Tiffany and Cartier. I spend my whole day here, I wander down Via Roma in Marina, whose shaded cafes and boutique filled pavements overlooking the sea bring back memories of South Mumbai’s Colaba district.

Its no later than our second day in Cagliari, we walk up the cobbled steps of the Marina’s side alleys, with the wonderful smell of fresh fish wafting in from the port.
cagliari-al-ports.jpgOur lunch destination is AL Porto. It is a up market, with a lovely sea blue entrance and no fuss interiors. The restaurant is buzzing with large families leisurely going through what I assume are four course meals. After tm done drooling over the bright rowboat that houses the day’s aperitifs, I choose something that tastes distinctly like fish pakoras, and squids fried in olive oil, which are positively addictive. I devour the bread breakfast until our main course arrive: ravioli with squid ink and spigola alla vernaccia ( sea bass coated with flour, suited in olive oil, dressed with olives and sprinkled with some spice) Dessert is Freddo al mirto. Mirto is the ubiquitous berry found in Sardinia and North Africa widely used to make a digestive drink.

Sardinian cuisine is simple, almost prehistoric, compared to the more sophisticated food of Naples and Sicily, which uses more animal fat and butter. Cagliari is proving to be hugely comfortable experience, thanks to my affable Italian friend. We take off on a mini break to Villasimus, a popular beach village on the outskirts of Cagliari, for a weekend of descendent relaxing. Mornings are spent lounging around, evenings in elaborate dining rituals. After we were free we swim and then we shop tradional Sardinian ceramics, carpets, baskets interesting jewellery and shawls.

We walk up the winding roads to the Castello neighborhood, braving 4pm weather. Sardinia’s shockingly strong winds make your face feel like sandpaper, a disparity in its otherwise moderate Mediterranean climate. cagliari-castelli.jpgCastelli, the city’s ancient fortication is still partially enclosed by bastioned walls. Two medieval towers in limestone stand along the bastion enclosure along with two city gates that escaped demolition during the 19th century.

We crossed the city gates at the cagliari-la-porta-dei-leoni.jpgPorta dei Leoni and proceed to Piazza Indipendenza. Behind us looms the Cittadella dei Musei, built on old Spanish goals. Furthering our exploration to the east, we go down via Lamarmora to gawk at ateliers and eerie WW II reminders bomb made craters sulking up at the sky. We head back towards the gates, stopping for a while at the University building, which stores rare medieval codes. In the midst of this equally artistic and violent past, modern day Cagliari plays along to its own unique tune. The city is pulsating with life and activity.

cagliari-sardinia-statue.jpgInterestingly, Sardinia is one of 5 Italian regions held by special statutes. It enjoys autonomy in various parts and is somewhat removed from the mainland. Perhaps that uniqueness reflects in their way of life. Cagliari is neither a big city nor a quaint little town.

One Comment
  1. I am glad Cagliari made such a good impression to you. As you say, Sardinia is a Charming place but not for everyone. I am glad you are among those who catched the real charecter of this place and did not try to compare it with any other tourist destination in the world, as many by mistake try to do 🙂

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