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Cagliari for foreigneirs


A Long Story

It s impossible to say that Cagliari was founded by any particular nation or that its origin is tied to any one civilization. Favored by the shape of its coastline, the Gulf of Cagliari became the entry point for the Phoenicians who began to build settlements on the promontory of S.Elia and near the S.Gilla lagoon in the 8th century B.C. These temporary, sporadically inhabited settlements lacked the urban structure provided later by the Carthaginians, when Cagliari began to take on the semblance of a city.
Numerous artifacts date from the Punic era and evidence various activities, of particular interest are religious artifacts such as the small terra-cotta votive figures from S.Gilla and the necropolis (tombs) of Tuvixeddu in the S.Avendrace district. The preference for building on level, low-lying land and lower hill slopes leads us believe that Castello did not function as actual acropolis during the Carthaginian dominion.
The transfer of Sardinia from Carthaginian to Roman rule (238 B.C.) marked a profound change in the shape of the city. The Romans continued to use most of the existing Carthaginian construction and added other important works such as the amphitheater and the Tigellio Villa, in the homonymous street. The Marina district was transformed into a fortified military encampment (castrum). During the Roman period, Cagliari became a true city with a regular water supply, pedestrian walkways, town squares, paved roads, warehouses for salt and grain, and new necropolises. The Romans imitated the Cartaginian plan for the city s development and avoided building on the steeper hills. Expansion continued the coast, with little penetration inland.
Today s capital, which at the time had twenty thousand inhabitants, was reconfirmed as the gateway to Sardinia with the diffusion of Christianity, which along the trade routes from northern Africa. The spread of the new religion continued during Vandal and Byzantine domination, as well as during the repeated and ferocious Arab raids in 1015-16.
In time, Byzantine rule lost hold on the area and power passed from the hands of the Byzantine magistrates to the local rulers (Giudicato), who formally and legally declared independence from mainland Byzantine rule. For defensive purposes, the Cagliari Giudicato did not choose the city as government seat, which was transferred outside Cagliari and, in particular, to S.Igia, near the marsh of same name.
The decline of the city in this period was serious and extensive.
The strategic advantage of fortifying the Cagliari hills was first understood by Pisa, which had won control of city from Genoa in 1258. The Pisan victors radically transformed Cagliari, modeling the administrative and judicial systems after their own.
The greatest change was the construction of a wall around the hill, isolating the Castello district from the rest of the city. Castello became the center of public offices and the dwelling place of Pisan citizens. The wall was the main defense for the bustling Pisan trade activity. The districts of Marina, Stampace, and Villanova were later surrounded by walls to better defend the port. Pisan dominance was soon threatened by the temporal politics of Pope Boniface VIII, who granted Sardinia and Corsica to Giacomo II of Aragon in 1297. In response, Pisa reinforced Castello s walls by constructing two defensive towers-Torre di S.Pancrazio in 1305 and Torre dell Elefante in 1307, designed by the Sardinian architect Giovanni Capula.
Pisan concern was not unfounded. Aragon prepared to attack the city in 1323, positioning a fleet in the Gulf of Palmas as a starting point for their siege. In 1324, the treaty stipulated between Pisa and Aragon put an end to Pisan rule in Sardinia and marked the beginning of Iberian domination.Three years later, approval of the Coeterum sanctioned the suspension of Pisan law.
The new legislation privileged Catalans, Majorcans, and Aragonese, who were called to fill all public positions. Pietro IV of Aragon introduced a parliament modeled after Barcelona s, uniting representatives of three classes, the Stamenti: military (knights and nobles), ecclesiastic (bishops and high prelates), and royal (city representatives). However, the Stamenti had no real governing power. At first, the constitution of the Coeterum was not applied in a discriminatory fashion. However, as conflict grew between Aragon and Arborea, restrictions became ever more severe, banishing Sardinians from Castello. Nightly, beginning in 1328, a harsh trumpet blast announced the hated order for all Sardinians to leave the walled city.
A noteworthy aspect of the Catalan’Aragon period in Cagliari was the formation of trade guilds. Various neighborhoods flourished. The Jewish community built its synagogue. The neighborhoods of Stampace and Villanova were guided by their own mayors and councilmen.
One of the darkest chapters in Sardinia s history began in 1479 when Ferdinand the Catholic succeeded Giovanni of Aragon under united Castilian and Aragonese rule.
While Spanish domination lasted, the various social clasas heretofore excluded from participation in government continued their struggle against royal power to win appointments to public office.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Succession in 1702, opposing factions in favor of the two pretenders formed in Cagliari. The English navy threatened Cagliari by sea, and, in August 1708, an English and Dutch unit bombarded the city. The English regiment occupied the city and met with no resistance.
The Treaty of Utrecht granted Sardinia to Austria, which governed until 1717, when Cardinal Alberoni, a Spanish minister, sent a war fleet to Sardinia. The new Spanish conquest lasted until August 2, 1718, when the Treaty of London gave Sardinia to Vittorio Amadeo of Savoy.
The city s situation appeared static. Although its fortified walls had been reinforced, they had not resisted the enemy. There was a serious housing shortage. New floors had to be added onto the antique dwellings in Castello, because all available space was filled by representatives of political, administrative, and military power.
The most characteristic feature of the Piedmontese period was the involvement of military architects in civil construction. Amadeo Felice De Vincenti was the first to bridge the gap between military and civil architecture. The enlargement of the Jesuit College of S.Croce in 1735, changes in the Viceregal Palace, the project for the Basilica of Bonaria, the plan for the renovation of the salt works, organization of the dockyards and the eastern pier, are examples of the military responding positively to the new needs of the civilian population.
Another “engineer in uniform” exemplifying this new spirit was Saverio Belgrano di Famolasco, who designed the complex made up of the university, seminary, and theater on the Bastione (rampart) del Balice.
An important contribution was also made by Giuseppe Viana, a student of De Vincenti, who substituted his master s Baroque style with the more severe lines of Classicism in the church of Sant Anna. Nor did the Piedmontese neglect the city s fortifications. The unbroken line of bastioned walls reached their maximum development during this period.
From 1720 to 1847, and again in 1861 with the Proclamation of Italian Unity, Cagliari experienced various political events of greater importance than any occurring during the Spanish period. The events of the French Revolution found sympathizers among intellectuals, but the Church spread anti-French sentiment among the masses and portrayed the events of 89 as ungodly. Thus, when a revolutionary French fleet under the command of Admiral Truguet appeared on February 28, 1793, and the troops landed at Quartu, they were met by Sardinian militiamen commanded by Girolamo Pitzolo. A bloody battle took place on the S.Bartolomeo plain, in which the French troops were scattered and forced take to their ships.
The Stamenti took advantage of this victory to petition the king to approve a request based on five points. Primary among them was the age old Sardinian problem of obtaining positions in government. Again no solution was found.
Inspired by the Stamenti, an anti-Piedmontese uprising took place. On May 7, 1794, the Piedmontese were conducted to the port, forced to board a ship, and expelled from the island.
Although Turin swiftly responded by sending a new Viceroy, Marguis Vivalda, the consequences of the revolt were serious.Girolamo Putzolo, acclaimed in triumph by the rebels upon his return from Turin, was named Quartermaster General by the king of Savoy in an attempt to satisfy the long-standing demand for Sardinian political equality. He soon fell out of favor with the Stamenti and was killed by demonstrators as he was being taken to prison.
After the Napoleonic Wars, three representatives of the Stamenti met with Carlo Emanuele IV, king of Sardinia, at Leghorn. The sovereian had surrendered to the French on December 8, 1798. The three spokesmen invited to leave Turin and move to Cagliari, where he arrived with his family on March 3, 1799.
A year later, the exiled king returned to the mainland with the hope of being reinstated in Piedmont. He conceded full power over the island to Carlo Felice and abdicated in favor of his brother Vittorio Emanuele, duke of Aosta. In the following years, and especially in 1812, the city suffered greatly from famine and established a hospice for the poor.
On May 20, 1814, following the Treaty of Fountainbleau, the Savoy monarch returned to Turin, turning over the regency to his wife Maria Teresa. A year later it passed to Carlo Felice, duke of Genevese (who became king of Piedmont on March 12, 1821 after the abdication of his brother Vittorio Emanuele I).
In 1847, Cagliari s General Council petitioned King Carlo Alberto that the Sardinian people “ be included in the italian union” and “ given the same rights as mainland subjects”. Demonstrations were held in favor of this “perfect union” and in Genoa, the king signed the unifying act that sanctioned the following: the end of customs levies, extension to Sardinia of mainland civil and penal legal codes, the abolition of the positions of Viceroy and the Royal Secretary of State and War.
On December 30, 1860, a royal decree removed Cagliari from the list of military strongholds. This opened the debate over the elimination of the bastioned walls. The final decision condemned those of Marina, Stampace, and Villanova, but saved the walls of Castello. Cagliari became the first city in Italy to have two urban plans, drawn up by the architect Gaetano Cima.
The end of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century were dominated by the figure of Mayor Ottone Bacaredda, who promoted many public works that changed the face of the city.
The fascist years in Cagliari were not different than those in other cities. The headquarters of political parties opposing fascism were occupied and resolute opponents were persecuted. Some, like Emilio Lussu, were forced into exile.
However, the fascist period was not completely negative. Due to the efforts of an enlightened chief magistrate who served as mayor, the lawyer Enrico Endrich, Cagliari was spared the piccone risanatore (“healing pickax”, a term used by Fascists to describe their policy of urban renewal) that altered historic urban centers in the rest of Italy.
Cagliari s port and the Elmas airstrip were strategically important for the Mediterranean naval and battles of WW II. The city suffered under heavy aerial bombing which took a tragic toll in terms of human life and destruction of property. In recognition of its sacrifice, the martyred city was awarded the gold medal for military valor on May,19, 1950. Rebuilt, the ever-growing city of Cagliari has been the capital of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia since 1949.

The Castello neighborhood is the first area to visit in Cagliari. It is the city s ancient fortification. The historic neighborhood is still partially enclosed by the bastioned walls. Two medieval towers in white stone stand along the bastion enclosure along with two city gates that escaped demolition during the 19th century. The Castello itinerary begins at the S.Pancrazio (s Avanzada) entrance or from the Porta Leoni, and follows the intricate web of Spanish –influenced streets.
Monuments – The itinerary starts with the district s churches- first, the Cathedral, and the 16th century of the Purissima in via Lamarmora. The churches of Santa Maria del Sacro Monte di Pieta, Santa Croce and that of San Giuseppe are in the tower part of the neighborhood. Some of them are closed for restoration work.
Once its political, religious and administrative center, the city s more noble buildings are located in Castello. Near the Cathedral are the former City Hall, the Viceregal Palace, and the Archbishop s Palace. Father away are the Seziate, the Arsenal, today transformed into the Cittadella dei Musei (Citadel of Museums), and moving down, the Belgrano Palace, home to the city s University. Many other private residences bear witness to an aristocracy that was tenaciously attached to the places of its history.
Museums – Castello houses the most important artistic treasures of the city, in two museum sites. The Cittadella dei Musei is home to four separate collections. National Archaeological Museum this rich collection of objects and other artifacts contains many high quality pieces. The succession of the island s ancient cultures is reconstructed through the exhibition of ceramics and pre-nuragic statuettes, copper ingots, nuragic bronzes and ceramics, inscriptions, Phoenician tomb furnishings and ceramics, inscribed headstones (one of the world s most important collections), and splendid Punic jewelry. Rich ceramics, terra-cotta, glass objects, statues, Roman sarcophagi, and gold jewelry dating from the High Medieval period, as well as artifacts from the Tuvixeddu and Pula necropolises (objects produced by the Phoenicians, or imported from Greece, Iyaly, and Spain) are particularly interesting.
National Art Gallery- This museum contains a small section of contemporary art and sculpture as well as oils, coats-of-arms, religious objects, and paintings. The altarpieces are the most interesting part of the collection. They offer a panorama of the best Sardinian painting beginning with the initial Catalan-Valencian influence through the local Cavaro atelier and related “Stampace school”.
Siamese Museum- This collection includes Asian coins, ivories, silver, porcelains, and weapons dating from the 11th to 19th centuries.
Anatomical Wax Collection – The 23 anatomical models from the 19th century were executed by the famous Florentine wax model maker Clemente Susini. In Palazzo Belgrano in Via Universita are-
Print Gallery – This collection includes series of 19th century photomechanical reproductions and etchings by 20th century Sardinian artists.
The Piloni Collection – Along with paintings, prints, and etchings of views of Cagliari and Sardinia. The collection includes examples of the island s rich tradition in tapestry weaving and making.
Shopping and points of interest – Castello streets abound with small workshops and restoration laboratories. Some crafts, including ceramics, papier mache, wrought iron, and leather, reinterpret the most consolidated traditions. Furniture and antigues are given new life by professionals. A small antiques market, held on the second Sunday of every month in Piazza Carlo Alberto, is near weekly flea market on the Bastione di S.Remy.
Eating and drinking- Numerous private clubs have opened where one can eat and drink for a moderate sum as well as hear live music.
Culture- Local crafts people and shop owners have been working for the neighborhood s revival. Some outdoor performances are held during the summer. The ISOLA (Istituto Sardo Artigianato-Institute for Sardinian Handicrafts) gallery, located in Via Santa Croce, is dedicated to the exposition of the island s traditional handicrafts. The Man Ray Gallery, in Via Lamarmora, organizes temporary exhibits and discussion groups with the artists.
Promenades and open spaces- Castello is a quaint neighborhood with humble, yet singular, architecture. It is worth a leisurely walk through the shadowed alleys, which are punctuated by unexpected panoramas from the Bastioni di S.Remy, Balice, or Santa Croce.



The Marina neighborhood is characterized by contrast. The silence of the streets near the port (a web of hills and stairs that open to splendid views of the Santa Gilla lagoon and the Capoterra mountains) dissolves in the noise of the city s busiest streets, Largo Carlo Felice and Via Manno. A visit to this area begins with the old sa Costa (via Manno), the commercial fulcrum of the city and axis dividing the streets leading down to the port from those going up towards the bastions.

Monuments – In the past, the Marina area home to many religious buildings, some long since destroyed. The remaining churches provide a fascinating glimpse of the past. In the alleys leading down to the port, the churches of S.Antonio Abate and Santa Rosalia are Baroque in style, while San Sepulcro and Sant Eulalia are Gothic-Catalan in design. Sant Agostino, with its monumental interior, is one of the rare examples of Renaissance ecclesiastical architecture on the island. At the foot of the hill, facing the anchored ships, the long “Liberty Style”(turn-of-the-century Italian Art Nouveau) row of buildings in Via Roma is interrupted by the Regional Council Hall, by the church of San Francesco da Paola, and by the City Hall Building. This last was built at the turn of the century and was faithfully reproduced after its destruction during WWII. Piazza Yenne (which really belongs to the Stampace neighborhood) and the bronze statue of the Savoy sovereign are reached after climbing Largo Carlo Felice.
Shopping and points of interest- Among the established and newer shops, there are also antiques shops with interesting collectors items, crafts shops, and restoration workshops. Via Roma and Via Manno a different character, befitting more important purchases.

Eating and drinking- The Marina neighborhood is a gourmet s delight. Speciality shops are located in Via Sardegna, while family type “trattorie”, most of which offer fish, and moderately priced or more refined restaurants are located in Via Regina Margherita, Via Sardegna, Via Torino and Via Principe Amadeo. In the streets, the aroma of roasting coffee beans mingles with the perfume of tobacco from the Manifattura and with the inviting odor of the fishmongers shops.

Culture – In the spaces connected to the church of Sant Eulalia, a small alternative theater presents theatrical performances and film projections, in the summer months, they set up an open air cinema. Behind the church, a amall museum exhibits objects and furnishings dating from 15th-17th centuries. Sardinia s oldest cultural organization, Amici del Libro(Friends of the Book), is housed in the City Hall Building in Largo Carlo Felice 2. Founded in 1944, the organization sponsors lectures, debates, and conferences.

Promenades and open spaces – All open spaces are near the city s port. In front of the train station near the Stampace neighborhood, stands a garden with two enormous Ficus magnolioides and large shade palms. Canary palms line Via Roma s traffic median. The porticos acrossthe street provide shade for pedestrians heading for Piazza Amendola. The city s original dockyards have recently been transformed into a garden area whose new planting mixes with the older monumental trees, their trunks bearing the wounds of the last World War.

Best viewed from the Bastione di Santa Croce above, the Stampace neighborhood looks like a sea of low and modest houses marked by time. The higer part of the area, which is also the older and more interesting part, is located directly below the overlook with narrow streets climbing towards the hill. Separated by Via Azuni, the lower part of Stampace descends to the sea.

Monuments- The predominantly residential area is punctuated by other types of architecture, such as church of S.Anna, with its large entrance stairway, S.Michele, a church that is richly Baroque in its architecture and decoration, or the S.Giovanni di Dio Hospital. The smaller churches, S.Restituta and S.Efisio, contrasting the monumentality of the former buildings, are imbued with tales of persecution and martyrdom. Such 19th century constructions as the Carlo Alberto Military Barracks, the prison, and, further along, the small early medieval church of Ss.Lorenzo e Pancrazio are located in Viale Buoncammino. The area is home of the island s most important archaeological sites. The Amphitheater (2nd century A.D.) and the aristocratic Tigellio Villa
bear withness to Roman expansion into the western part of the city. Near the S.Avendrace neighborhood, this presence is confirmed by the Tuvixeddu necropolis with its Phoenician-Punic origins ( a cemetery later utilized by Romans), and the monumental Grotta della Vipera (Serpent s Cave), a 1st century tomb.

Museums – In Via Porcell, The University s Department of Anthropological Sciences houses the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, with traditional Sardinian costumes and objects.

Shopping and points of interest – All kinds of lace items fill the shelves in a shop that is almost one hundred years old in Piazza Yenne, while the best Sardinian pastries appear in nearby shop windows. At the foot of the S.Chiara steps, there is a small market and, facing that, a very well stocked wine store. A jeweler noted for his made-to-order items, shops selling used clothing, frames, and small collectibles are located in Via Azuni. Larger antiques (furniture, jewels, and objects) can be found in Corso Vittorio Emanuele. A century-old hat store in Via Sassari still maintains its original furnishings and accessories.

Eating and drinking- A refined restaurant is located in Via Sassari, Lalique and Galle glass decoration adds to its luxurious atmospere. A private club in the same street exhibits antique shoes. “Trattorie”, pizzerias, and bars are located throughout the area.

Culture- The Roman Amphitheater is often used during the summer for outdoor opera and dance performances. The tiny Teatro dell Arco, near the arch at the foot of the hill leading to the Hospital, hosts contemporary theatrical performances and acting workshops. The neighborhood s religious vocation emerges during the most spectacular manifestation on the island, the May 1st Procession. Rooted in the legendary story of the flagellation and death of Saint Efisio, the parade starts in front of the church of the same name in the heart of Stampace.

Promenades and open spaces – Viale Buoncammino, boundary between Stampace and Castello, is one of Cagliari s loveliest promenades. Its terraces overlook the expanse of city and surrounding countryside. With its rare collection of trees, the Botanical Gardens makes a pleasant stop during a visit to this area.

Most important fist on the sity of Cagliari «Sant Efisio» —

1 st May

The festival of St.Efisio is the most important single event on the city s calendar. For 352 years, 1 st May has seen a procession of carriages, horsemen, and devoted piligrims escorting the Martyr Saint Efisio from Cagliari to Nora, place of his martyrdom. This event annually attracts an extraordinary number of people, and is a fine balance between faith and devotion, folklore and tradition. Anyone who sees it will agree that it is a truly remarkable experience and engenders a deep emotional response. Celebrations last a full month but the apex of this festival is the May 1st procession.


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