View over a city
Monday walks,  Sardinia

Exploring Cagliari’s Castello district

We were staying on the fringes of the district, in a small apartment halfway up one of those hills. From here it was a short steep climb to the Porta dei Leoni, the Lion Gate.

Carving of a lion's head on a stone wall
The Porta dei Leoni

A few steps further up the hill brought us to the Umberto I terrace, a large open space above the Bastion San Remy. The latter was constructed at the start of the twentieth century, built into the city’s medieval walls, and is something of an emblem for the city. The terrace affords sweeping views over Marina, the traditional home of merchants and fishermen, and the newer part of the city, Villanova.

Large city square with lampposts and palm trees
On the Umberto 1 terrace
Panorama over a city with the sea beyond
View from the Bastion Saint Remy
Chiesa della Speranza

From here we followed one of Castello’s typical narrow lanes to the cathedral higher up the hill. Before going inside we spotted a small Orthodox church next door, the Chiesa della Speranza. So we popped in there to be welcomed by the priest who was tidying up the bookshop. The icons were lovely though hard to photograph in the low light.

In the Chiesa della Speranza

The church was originally built, probably in the 16th century, as a noble chapel of the Aymerich family, the Marquises of Laconi, who lived in a nearby palace (destroyed in the bombings of 1943). Since 2011 it has been granted to the Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Moscow for temporary use by Cagliari’s large immigrant community from Russian-speaking countries.

The cathedral

Next we went into the cathedral, which is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. This was originally built in the 13th century but you wouldn’t know it! The interior owes much to its Baroque renovations during the 17th and 18th centuries, while the façade (inspired by Pisa’s cathedral) was added as recently as the 1930s.

Inside we found the central nave taped off but there was plenty to see in the various side chapels. There was a lot of polychrome marble, which I confess doesn’t often appeal to me. One rather over-the-top example was the Mausoleum of Martin I of Sicily (who died during the conquest of Sardinia in the early 15th century) in the North Transept, and another the statue of Lucifer of Cagliari, who died in AD 370. But I liked the ceiling and some of the other statues as well as a silver tabernacle manufactured in Palermo in 1610.

We went down into the crypt which proved to be my favourite part. It is home to the Sanctuary of the Martyrs, with 179 niches containing relics of martyrs of Cagliari. These were found during excavations in the 17th century near the Basilica of San Saturnino (a ruined church we were to see a few days later).

In the Santuario dei Martiri

Palazzzo di Citta

Next to the cathedral we went into the former Palazzzo di Citta, now used as an art gallery. There was an exhibition by a Sardinian artist, L Cano. I found myself most drawn to her later work as many of the earlier pieces were in more sombre colours and were portraits, not usually my favourite subjects for art. But these later ones were vibrant and full of life.

Works by L Cano

Below the cathedral is the pretty Piazza Carlo Alberto with a statue of Saint Francis. We stopped for a drink in a café there and took some photos in the square as well as of a nearby shop packed with all sorts of interesting old costumes, ornaments and more!

In and around the Piazza Carlo Alberto

We then continued our explorations of Castello’s streets, of course taking lots of photos as we did so.

On the streets of Castello

Santa Croce

Eventually we came to the Via Santa Croce where there are views west over the city and port. It was very windy up here, as it’s exposed to the sea air of course. My feature photo was also taken here.

Panorama over a city
View from the Bastione di Santa Croce

Nearby is the Basilica di Santa Croce which we looked in briefly.

Basilica di Santa Croce

We passed some pretty houses and a bar with an old Gelateria sign, but they weren’t serving ices unfortunately.

On the Via Santa Croce

At the foot of this road is the Torre dell’Elefante, one of the ancient city gates, which I showed you in a postcard from Cagliari. So having entered Castello via a lion, we left it via an elephant!

Small stone elephant on a wall
The Torre dell’Elefante

From here we descended from Castello’s heights down the Scalette di Santa Chiara. These brought us eventually to the Piazza Yenne where we were able to satisfy our gelato craving in the excellent Kremet Gelateria. And that’s enough, as the sign indicates, to make anyone smile!

By the Scalette di Santa Chiara

Sign on a wall advertising ice cream
Sign in Kremet Gelateria

I know Jo doesn’t mind a few hills so I hope she will have enjoyed this Monday Walk.

I visited Cagliari in April 2024


  • Annie Berger

    I never realized that you’d come across an Orthodox church, Sarah, in Italy because of the large Russian- speaking community in Sardinia.

    I enjoyed your references to Sicily as we hope to visit there this fall as part of a longer trip.

    I hope you finally got your ice at the cute gelateria that was open!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      We did four nights / three days: one for the bulk of the city sights (more of those to come on Monday), one for the tour out to the nuraghi and one when we spent the middle part of the day having lunch and a walk at the beach (just a bus ride away) and mopped up some remaining city sights either side of that. Even then we didn’t get to everything in the city – we ran out of time for the Roman amphitheatre and necropolis, for instance, and the archaeology museum. If you don’t factor in the nuraghi (i.e. if going on to tour more of the island) you could manage to see most of the highlights in two days but could probably easily fill three! If you decide to go, message me if you’d like details of the very well-located small apartment we stayed in – highly recommended 🙂

  • wetanddustyroads

    It is amazing how you can take beautiful views, lovely churches, interesting little shops and narrow streets together in one post … and then portray Cagliari as such a beautiful city.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 😊 Cagliari is a bit edgy compared to some Italian cities and doesn’t have the big draws of Rome, say, or Florence, but I enjoy exploring these smaller Italian cities and there is plenty to find that is interesting, beautiful or both!

  • rkrontheroad

    As usual, you’ve done a great job of finding interesting details on your walk. I haven’t been to Cagliari, but you’ve given me a good idea of the feel of it.

  • Teresa

    I enjoyed the walk with you, Sarah. Looking at your photos from different angles, it made it seem that I was really there walking with you.

  • Tanja

    What an interesting town to explore. I remembered your elephant post, or was it from another place?I haven’t been to Sardinia but it seems it to be a very beautiful island

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Tanja 🙂 Yes, this is the same elephant – I shared it in one of my virtual ‘postcards’ while we were there. We really liked what we saw of Sardinia, and I’ll have more to show you in some future posts 🙂

  • restlessjo

    Glad Mari found you again, Sarah. She’s a rather wonderful lady. Your photos are very lovely and it’s a beautiful place, tinged with a bit of sadness for me. It was a favourite place of a blogging friend who’s no longer with us. It’s good to be able to see some of what undoubtedly attracted him there. Thanks for sharing.

  • Travel with a Pen

    Oh to be in Italy, eating gelato and wandering about old churches and basilicas! I don’t think I’ve heard much about Cagliari, so I’m glad to read this post and your experience!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      So glad you liked this post and it transported you to Italy 😀 I do recommend Cagliari if you like a smaller city, less crowded than the big name ones in that country.

  • Mari Nicholson

    Such stunning photos. I’ve always loved the way you see things and the sometimes quirky photos you post, but you get better with every post. Just managed to catch up with this one via the link from Jo’s Brittany post as yours don’t come through to me any more. Now that I’m on here I shall check back on your recent posts and have an enjoyable day reading the sort of travel pieces I like. It was the 70’s when I visited Cagliari and it doesn’t seem to have changed much, except for the fact that it looks more prosperous and cleaner, and I really, really enjoyed revisiting the town in your company and seeing it through your eyes. Mari

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Mari 😊 I’m glad you found your way here. I have the same problem with a few bloggers I follow in theory but never see notifications from in practice, and it’s all too easy to forget about them 🙁 Not everywhere in Cagliari looked as prosperous and clean as this area, btw. And there was a lot of restoration work going on in some of the streets so not always easy to photograph.


    Sardinia is so lovely, isn’t it, with the Catalan influence as well as the Italian feel. Although I have to say, I cannot for the life of me imagine being disappointed that a bar doesn’t sell ice cream 😂. Incidentally, there’s a decent Sardinian restaurant in Broadstairs….which is unfortunately closed on Tuesdays…you will get my drift. I have a real hankering to return to Sardinia some day soon (and friends have just visited Corsica and fallen in love with it), a hankering which your post has seriously strengthened.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      We really loved what we saw of Sardinia and would like to go back one day to explore further north. I think any bar/cafe with a sign like that should be selling ice cream 😆 Thanks for the tip about the restaurant in Broadstairs – I’d spotted that on the map and thought it looked a possible. Maybe we’ll try it on the Monday 🙂

  • Alison

    Looks like a wonderful walk Sarah, both interesting and pretty
    There’s always so much to see in narrow streets like these, it’s very much a start and stop walk!

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