Cagliari is Sardinia’s most important port city, with a striking historic center and an ideal location along the southern coast for exploring the island’s highlights by land or sea. Here are a few ways to enjoy both inland treasures and gorgeous coastline over three days, from neolithic ruins to pristine natural reserves.
Day 1: The Historic Port City
Cagliari has been Sardinia’s most important port city for centuries, and its old town is testimony to its long and captivating history. Explore highlights, such as the medieval Castello citadel and the ornate Cathedral of Santa Maria and Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria, with a guided walking tour, or zip through the city streets on wheels in a Fiat 500 automobile, on a tuk-tuk, or Segway.
After exploring Cagliari’s historic quarter, head outside the city to the coast and admire the resident flamingos and other wildlife at the serene Molentargius wetlands, or stake out a deck chair on Poetto beach to watch locals sunbathe and frolic in the waves. For a delicious end to your day, try a hands-on cooking class and learn how to prepare classic island dishes, or sit down for dinner with a local family to enjoy traditional recipes prepared in their home kitchen.
Day 2: Island Highlights by Land
Sardinia’s singular culture remains different from mainland Italy, and each individual city and town on this island also is distinct from its neighbors. Take a closer look at this patchwork of histories, languages, and cuisines on a day trip to the medieval port city of Alghero and the Riviera del Corallo on Sardinia’s opposite coast, or by joining an excursion to the tiny inland villages in the Barbagia Mountains to spend the day with a local family.
Archaeology enthusiasts can head to the town of Barumini to visit the center and nearby Su Nuraxi archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the Bronze Age. Gourmands can opt for a Sardinian food and wine tour that stops at wineries in the countryside surrounding Cagliari to imbibe in the best local labels and sample traditional delicacies like artisan cheeses and cured meats.
Day 3: Coastal Beauty
You’ve explored Sardinia’s inland heart, so today skirt its spectacular coastline. Adventure lovers can hop in a 4x4 to take on the most rugged and isolated stretches of coast as part of a guided day trip; alternatively, join a more sedate guided excursion to the island’s best beaches via air-conditioned minivan.
For sports enthusiasts who want to get away from the beach crowds, an active day of hiking and kayaking along the coast near Cagliari is ideal. And, if you just want to relax, set sail on a hop-on-hop-off mini-cruise on the Gulf of Orosei, stopping to swim or explore the coast at your leisure.