Cagliari Sardinian: Casteddu;[a] Latin: Caralis) is an Italian municipality and the capital of the island of Sardinia, an autonomous region of Italy. Cagliari's Sardinian name Casteddu literally means castle. It has nearly 150,000 inhabitants, while its metropolitan area (including Cagliari and 15 other municipalities) has more than 422,000 inhabitants. Cagliari is the 26th largest city in Italy and the largest city on the island of Sardinia.
An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has seen the rule of several civilizations. Under the buildings of the modern city there is a continuous stratification attesting to human settlement over the course of some five thousand years, from the Neolithic to today. Historical sites include the prehistoric domus de janas, very damaged by cave activity, a large Carthaginian era necropolis, a Roman era amphitheater, a Byzantine basilica, three Pisan-era towers, and a strong system of fortification that made the town the core of Spanish Habsburg imperial power in the western Mediterranean sea. Its natural resources have always been its sheltered harbor, the often powerfully fortified hill of Monti Castru, the modern Casteddu, the salt from its lagoons, and, from the hinterland, wheat from the Campidano plain and silver and other ores from the Iglesiente mines.
Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy). Today the city is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic centre, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments. It is also Sardinia's economic and industrial hub, having one of the biggest ports in the Mediterranean sea, an international airport, and the 106th highest income level in Italy (among 8,092 comuni), comparable to that of several northern Italian cities.
Considerable remains of the ancient city of Karalis are still visible, including those of the Tuvixeddu necropolis, the Roman amphitheatre, traditionally called Is centu scalas ("One hundred steps"), and of an aqueduct used to provide generally scarce water. Still visible are also some ancient cisterns of vast extent, the ruins of a small circular temple, and numerous sepulchres on a hill outside the modern town that appear to have formed the necropolis of the ancient city. The amphitheatre stages open-air operas and concerts during the summer.
San Saturnino Basilica, 5th century
The Palaeo-Christian Basilica of San Saturnino, dedicated to a martyr killed under Diocletian's reign, Saturninus of Cagliari, patron saint of the city, was built in the 5th century. Of the original building the dome and the central part remain, to which two arms (one with a nave and two aisles) were added later. A Palaeo-Christian crypt is also under the church of San Lucifero (1660), dedicated to Saint Lucifer, a bishop of the city. The church has a Baroque façade with ancient columns and sculpted parts, some of which came from the nearby necropolis.
Eastern walls of Castello
The old medieval town (called Castello in Italian, Casteddu de susu in Sardinian, "the upper castle") lies on top of a hill with a view of the Gulf of Cagliari (also known as Angels' Gulf). Most of its city walls are intact and include two early 14th-century white limestone towers, the Torre di San Pancrazio and the Torre dell'Elefante, typical examples of Pisan military architecture. The local white limestone was also used to build the walls of the city and many other buildings, besides the towers. D. H. Lawrence, in his memoir of a voyage to Sardinia, Sea and Sardinia, that he undertook in January 1921, described the effect of warm Mediterranean sunlight on the white limestone city and compared Cagliari to a "white Jerusalem".
The Cathedral (left) and the old city hall (right)
The cathedral was restored in the 1930s, returning the former Baroque façade into a Medieval Pisan-style façade more akin to the original appearance of the church in the 13th century. The bell tower is original. The interior has a nave and two aisles, with a pulpit (1159–1162) sculpted for the Cathedral of Pisa but later donated to Cagliari. The crypt houses the remains of martyrs found in the Basilica of San Saturno (see below). Near the cathedral is the palace of the provincial government. Before 1900 it was the island's governor's palace.
Collegiata di Sant'Anna
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria (from which the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, gets its name) was built by the Catalans in 1324–1329 when they were besieging the Pisans in Castello. It has a small Gothic portal in the façade and the interior houses a wooden statue of the Madonna, which, after having been thrown off a Spanish ship, landed at the foot of Bonaria hill. Bonaria hill is also the location of the Monumental Cemetery of Bonaria.
The Chiesa della Purissima is a Catalan Gothic church built in the 16th century in the Castello distinct.
The other early districts of the town (Marina, Stampace and Villanova) retain much of their original character. In Stampace the Torre dello Sperone, another tower built by the Pisans in the late 13th-century, is located, as well as two important monumental churches: the Collegiata di Sant'Anna and the Chiesa di San Michele, both built in the 18th century in a baroque style. Many more churches, both old and modern, can be found throughout the city.
The Promenade Deck and the Terrazza Umberto I were designed in 1896 by the engineers Joseph Costa and Fulgenzio Setti. The entire building was built of white and yellow limestone in a classical style with Corinthian columns. It was opened in 1901. A staircase with two flights provides access from Constitution Square. It is interrupted by a covered walkway and ends beneath the Arc de Triomphe, in the Terrazza Umberto I. In 1943, during World War II, the staircase and the Arch of Triumph were severely damaged by aerial bombardment, but after the conflict they were faithfully reconstructed.
From the Terrazza Umberto I the Bastion of Santa Caterina can be accessed via a short flight of steps. Here there was once an old Dominican convent, destroyed by fire in 1800. According to tradition, the conspiracy to kill the Viceroy Camarassa in 1666 was set up in the surroundings of the monastery.
The Promenade Deck was inaugurated in 1902. At first it was used as a banqueting hall, then during the First World War as an infirmary. In the 1930s, during the period of sanctions, it was an exhibition of autarky. During World War II it served as a shelter for displaced people whose homes had been destroyed by bombs. In 1948 it hosted the first Trade Fair of Sardinia. After many years of decay, the Promenade was restored and re-evaluated as a cultural space reserved especially for art exhibitions.
The modern districts built in the late 19th and early 20th century contain examples of Art Deco architecture, as well as controversial examples of Fascist neoclassicism architecture, such as the Court of Justice (Palazzo di Giustizia) in Republic Square. The Court of Justice is near the biggest city park, Monte Urpinu, with its pine trees, artificial lakes, and a vast area with a hill. The Orto Botanico dell'Università di Cagliari, the city's botanical garden, is also of interest.