Before you head for the white sands of Sardinia’s beach-blessed coastline, pause in its overlooked capital and enjoy its culture and distinctive Italian island cuisine. The best place to view Cagliari’s elegant Mediterranean-backed sprawl is from the hilltop Castello district, set around the city’s massive medieval ramparts. Castello’s cobbled streets are the best place to find a hotel for the night, too.
Close by, and near the city’s excellent archaeological museum and impressive Roman amphitheatre, B&B Ferone 1947 has three immaculate rooms, with plush Egyptian cotton sheets, elegant earthy colours and free WiFi.
A short, panoramic, walk away lies one of Cagliari’s most atmospheric restaurants, Su Tzilleri ‘e Su Doge (Via San Croce, 3; 00 39 327 154 2216). Come here for farmhouse décor and casalinga-style Sardinian cooking: octopus stews rich with summer tomatoes, and feather-light, handmade culurjones de patate (Sardinian ravioli with beef ragu).
Post dinner drinks? Head next door for a glass of (slightly effervescent) local vermentino at lively Caffè Libarium, whose terrace has cracking views over city and sea.
Take one of Castello’s little glass elevators down the hillside to the Marina neighbourhood for an exemplary blood orange gelato at Stefino (Via Giovanni Maria Dettori). Or try Dulcis, a boutique deli, for traditional Sardinian treats, such as bite-sized pardulas (cakes with ricotta and lemon), aperitivi and beautifully-crafted mini panini.
For proper dining in this happening district, Prinicipi di Dan serves simple, ancient Sardinian specialities. Try local, salumi, smoked cheeses and fish served on wooden talleri (cutting boards), plus an excellent selection of cannonau (the local name for the grenache grape), including the lambrusco-style baloi brut, served chilled; distinctive, summery and utterly satisfying. Just like Cagliari itself.
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