Casteddu – Castello – Cagliari
Cagliari can offer you everything you would expect from a vacation in Sardinia, history, art, culture, tradition, urban style, wine selection, great food and beautiful beaches. In this article I will give you some tips about wineries to visit in the area, things to do in Cagliari and Restaurants & bars where to enjoy some traditional (but not only) food.
When to visit: Cagliari is beautiful all year long, of course choosing the right timing depends more on what you expect from this trip. If you would like to enjoy the beach side of the journey I suggest to use shoulders months, when it is less crowded, like May, June, beginning of July and September, even October. If you would like to have more cultural kind of vacation consider that the weather is mild and beautiful all year long and less popular months are also cheaper. If you would like to have a mainly wine oriented vacation, still each season offers different perspective, I would only avoid the hottest periods, like July-August, but a side from that, really each month is different and likely the same good option.
Serdiana Wine Region
Serdiana is a tiny little village 18km north from Cagliari city. With a population of just around 2.600 residents, Serdiana is the second most planted area of the whole Sardinia, in terms of hectares of vineyards, after Alghero. It counts 829 hectares, where they grow mainly native grape varieties such as Cannonau, Monica, Vermentino, Nuragus and Bovale.
The tradition of wine making in Sardinia is extremely ancient and goes far back in times and, especially here in this area, extremely deep-rooted. In the past few decades a wide combination of factors made this small area one of the most popular in Sardinia for wine lovers.
For these reasons, if you are planning your vacations in the south of Sardinia you cannot absolutely miss a visit in Serdiana, stopping by for some wine tours and tastings at their wineries. Hospitality here is pretty well organised especially thanks to Argiolas, the biggest and pioneer winery of the area, which I will be introducing later in the article.
The most diffuse grape varieties are Cannonau and Vermentino, followed by Bovale, Nuragus, Malvasia, Nasco, Moscato and Monica. The territory is under the big DOCs, Vermentino di Sardegna and Cannonau di Sardegna but you can also find some Isola dei Nuraghi IGT. The predominant style uses to age the wines in oak, especially reds, sometimes big and sometimes small barriques, which I have to say are now diffuse all around the region. Reds are pretty full body wines in this area but trends are going much into less extraction and less concentration in order to have more pleasant drinkability and more acidity to be able to consume them younger. While white wines are mainly young and fresh wines, aged in stainless steel tanks and made for a prompt consumption. There is also a big tradition here of sweet wines, made from Moscato, Nasco and sometimes Malvasia, mainly from dried grapes, so Passito.
Below a selection of wineries that I suggest to visit in order to have a better idea of the viticulture in Serdiana area.
Well, what can be said about Argiolas that havent been said already. They basically made the history of Sardinian wines abroad, collaborating with very important wine makers personalities in the ‘90s and exporting not only their wines but also the name of Sardinian wines around the world. Visiting them is a must to understand the recent blooming of Sardinian wines. The production is around 2.5 million bottles with around 230 hectares of vineyards around the island located in different areas. You probably heard about their famous Turriga wine which is one of the most expensive wines in the whole region and which was created together with the famous wine maker Giacomo Tachis. They have parcels of vineyards throughout the region and so they produce wines from different areas and with different denominations. Their hospitality is pretty well organized and they also have an internal wine shop.
I love Audarya winery and I often talk about their wines. They are managed by a new generation of very talented and passionate guys running the family business since 2014. Nicoletta, Salvatore and Beatrice are some of the most wonderful people you can meet in the area. Love their creative labels and their superb welcoming.
They produce the classic wines from the area like Vermentino, Cannonau, Bovale and a brand new Malvasia which is super interesting. Their Bovale, Nuracada is their top-notch red wine and I also suggest you to try their Rosato from Cannonau which is one of my favorite at all. If you enjoy sweet wines than, you should ask them to taste their Bisai, the moscato based desert wine which pairs perfectly with our traditional almond cookies.
Antonella is one of my recent discoveries in Serdiana, I know what you are thinking, after 30 years how you can still have something to discover in such a small place?! Well that’s the unexpected interesting thing about Serdiana, wine movement is still pretty vivid and in a continuous wind of change. I went to visit her last summer and it has been a beautiful experience. She makes one of my favourite Cannonau, compact and elegant with an extremely pleasant mouth-feel, and also I am of course pretty proud of her being a women in wine in the south of Sardinia.
She also took over the family business, (same as the guys of Audarya), as here, like in every other part of the Region each family traditionally used to have its own vineyard to make wine for the house, and so she started her own vision. The vision of an organic and sustainable wine making, which is not yet so popular in Sardinia, I have to sadly admit, but I trust my fellow townspeople, that it will be soon the majority of wine making in Sardinia. She also experimented with some Vermentino aged with skin contact in amphora jars which I really suggest you to try.
I honestly did not visited them yet, but I enjoyed very much their Vermentino: Stellato Nature, when I had it at dinner in a restaurant in Cagliari. This wine part of a recent experiment on natural farming in a selected parcel of their vineyards. The wine ferments with natural yeasts and stays on his lees for 3 months in stainless steel contenitors. A must try wine, which has a very different personality than any other Vermentino in the area.
When In Cagliari
When in the city I suggest to walk around the streets of the city center where you will be able to admire the Hispanic architecture of most of the buildings and some breathtaking views. The most popular and fascinating neighborhoods are the one of Castello, Villanova, Quartiere Marina and Stampace.
Architecture and museums: the two towers that rise at the entrance of the old Castle are two medieval towers: dell’Elefante and San Pancrazio, the impressive staircases of Saint Remy and of Nostra Signora di Bonaria cathedral, in the last one there used to make fashion shows and charming set up for weddings. You can see the original Anfiteatro Romano, the necropolis of Tuvixeddu, the biggest necropoli from the Phoenicians in the whole Mediterranean region and the Orto Botanico, the huge gardens, a green oasis in the heart of the city center. For those who are seeking of naturalistic activities, Cagliari is also famous for its salt pans, the whole area named Molentargius, it’s home for many wild birds and pink flamingos. Excursions, by foot, by bike or even by small ferries over the canals are organized to watch them and to discover the history of the salt pans.
MUSEUMS: Galleria comunale d’arte, an art collection inside an elegant noble building, inside the communal gardens, a place where art and nature express themselves together. The itinerary can follow with a walk around the fortified area of Castello, reachable through the magnificent old door of San Pancrazio, ancient location of the Royal Arsenal, to arrive at the citadel of museums, the biggest museum complex of the whole region which comprehend: the archeological museum, the museum of Siamese art, the waxwork museum, the ethnographic museum and the pinacoteca nazionale.
VIEW POINT: Cagliari is one of the most beautiful cities in the world perched on an hoffshore that looks the entire gulf. You have plenty of view points in the city where to admire the view over the Gulf. One of those points is the Bastione di Saint Remy, the old fort in the heart of the city centre; Monte Urpinu, the urban park which benefits of a privileged view over the city skyline and La Paillotte, a small isolated bay in Sant’Elia neighborhood, where you can actually go to spend the day at the beach club or in alternative just for an apertivo or even dinner from where you will be able to admire the spectacular view.
The area around Cagliari is studded with amazing beaches, you are one hour equally distant from Villasimius (east coast) and Pula (west coast). But if you would like to experience the “summer life” like a true Cagliaritan*, you have to spend at least one day at Il Poetto beach, possibly at the first or second beach club that you meet when arriving at the Lungomare (le Palmette is the most popular). There you can rent an SUP and explore the coast below the Sella del Diavolo cape, where the incredible crystal clear waters of the small bay will take your heart forever.
Villasimius: I have two favorite beaches in Villasimius area, Porto Giunco, white finest sand shore and crystal blue water and the second is Punta Molentis, which is accessible only for a limited number of people so you have to call the beach club to reserve your place in advance, but believe me, it absolutely worth.
Tip: when in Villasimius try to visit Meigamma winery or try their wines, it is a very small production of some of my favorites natural wines from South Sardinia.
Pula: Tueredda, Caraibic sandy beach and Su Giudeu beach where there is a very nice beach club called Arveskida.
Tip: if you are traveling from Cagliari and back, the drive is around one hour and considering the most enjoyable part of the day at the beach is the sunset you won’t have to depart from the beach too early. So my suggestion is to stop to have dinner at Mirage restaurant on the way back, in this way you will skip the traffic when departing after dinner and you will not risk to arrive too late in the city, as many restaurants close at 10pm.
Food – traditions and Restaurant suggestions
Sardinia is a perfect match of meat-based food and seafood. That is because the proximity of the sea of course, but until modern times fish was too expensive for families living in the countryside, in the villages nearby Cagliari. Farming was the main occupancy for the majority of the population so people were used to grow their food and have animals, such as chickens, cows, pigs, goats, sheep. Traditional recipes are: Malloreddus (gnocchi pasta) with sausage ragù, Fregola – made with semolina (the coarse part of the grain leftover from milling durum wheat) and water, and pre-toasted for nuttiness – that can be served with meat sauce or seafood, Culurgiones – potato filled ravioli, served with tomato sauce or simply with butter and sage – roasted Maialetto (milky pig), roasted lamb and Sebadas, a cheese based desert served with honey or sugar topping. Cheese is a huge thing in the whole island, every kind of cheese that you can taste here is delicious. Also in Sardinia you will find many different type of breads, different shapes, different base and different flavors too, it is something that really blows my mind, their bread is amazing! Another must-try in Cagliari is the monumental Pizzetta Sfoglia, that you can find in every bar or bakery shop and people use to eat it as a snack, for breakfast, those who don’t prefer sweets in the morning, or anytime during the day, also as an aperitivo. Tip: enjoy some Ichnusa beer with a Pizzetta sfoglia at the beach to feel like the absolute perfect Cagliaritano medio.
Pic from Canva, traditional Sardinian dress
In order for you to have some of the best food experience in Cagliari, I have selected for you a list of my favorite restaurants in town.
Da Pomata, with the famous Chef Luigi Pomata
Antico caffè, open all day, bar and restaurant, retrò style
Antica Cagliari, traditional food in a casual location
Lo scoglio, amazing location by the water
Sabores, cheese and cold cut boards with natural wines selection
Maiori, brand new, inside the Palazzo Doglio luxury hotel, best Pizza
Oyster and Ristorante Italia, wine bar on the ground floor, restaurant on top floor, personally my favorite wine selection in town
Framento, number one pizzeria
Rimani, traditional trattoria
Niu, modern style restaurant and cocktail bar
Toyo, best sushi in town
Corso 12, beautiful bistro with special attention to fresh ingredients
Il Corsaro, Michelin star
Libarium Nostrum, restaurant and cocktail bar with the best view over the city and the Cagliari gulf
Wine selection at Oyster bar and some dishes from Pomata restaurant