Looking up at a carving of a bull's head above a gate
Architecture,  History,  Monday walks,  Sardinia

Further explorations in Cagliari: Villanova and La Marina

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

I have previously taken you for walks in the Castello and Stampace districts of Cagliari. There are two other central districts that remain to be discovered, and as we spent less time in these I am combining them in a single Monday Walk.


We spent just part of a morning exploring the streets of Villanova. This is, as the name suggests, a rather newer part of town, although still with its own history to discover. Perhaps unsurprisingly it lacks the charming narrow streets of hilly Castello and Stampace, but it isn’t devoid of sights.

A short walk east of our rental apartment in Castello we came across a memorial to the fallen of the First World War. It sits opposite a building housing an arts centre but looking very much as if it were once a meat market. I couldn’t find any information about the building but I rather liked it so have included a photo above.

A little further on was the church of San Lucifero. Sunday Mass had just finished so we were able to go inside for a look around. I was struck by the modern bronze doors with some dramatic reliefs. Inside it had an elegant appearance, seemingly a bit newer than the build date in the mid 17th century. Lovely old tiles, originally in the crypt, adorn the steps to the altar.

A short distance further we came to the ruins of another church, San Saturnio, bombed during WW2. We watched a tortoiseshell cat catch and torment a small lizard! But the gate was locked, and we couldn’t explore properly nor get any good photos of the ruins.

From here we turned towards the water, following a long straight road beside the cemetery. It could have been dull but was enlivened by a sighting of some parakeets with white faces, which I later found out were Monk Parakeets. I was interested to find that Cagliari’s naturalised species is different from our Ring-necked London birds.

Green parrot in a tree
Monk Parakeet

There were lots of tributes to a footballer, Gigi Riva, attached to a fence. Riva was a one club player, a hero to the fans of Cagliari, as the fence plainly demonstrates. He also played 42 times for his country, scoring 35 goals. He died in January of this year and is clearly still missed and mourned by fans.

Nostra Signora di Bonario

At the end of this road we reached the church of Nostra Signora di Bonario, high on a hill overlooking the port. Unfortunately a mass was in progress so we could only look from the back of the church. But we were able to visit the sanctuary to one side of the main basilica. It contains a statue of the Madonna credited with saving the life of a ship’s crew.

Read the full story here: https://bonaria.eu/simulacro/

From near here we caught a bus to spend some time by another beach, Poetta, but that will make a pleasant walk for another Monday perhaps. So let’s skip that and finish with the district we explored a little on our return from the beach.

La Marina

La Marina was, as the name suggests, the fishermen’s quarter, lying between Castello and the sea. Like its neighbour it has its fair share of picturesque lanes and old houses, but at the waterfront it has some much grander buildings, among them the impressive Palazzo Civico. The carved heads wearing blindfolds that ornament it are based on an early version of the Sardinian flag. Today the flag shows four men with cloth strips across their foreheads, not their eyes.

Behind this, away from the water, is a maze of narrower streets filled with restaurants, shops, a few galleries, some homes and of courses churches. Washing hung above our heads, in typical Italian fashion, and locals leaned over their balconies to chat to neighbours or passing friends.

We finished our afternoon with a lovely wander here. And we returned later that evening for an excellent dinner in one of the restaurants we had spotted. A great way to round off our stay in this appealing city!

I visited Cagliari in April 2024


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