When imagining a trip to Italy I thought of Roman remains, delicious pizza and bustling late night dining. Did a budget city break to the coastal city of Cagliari deliver?
Italy has always been somewhere I have imagined myself to travel as part of a loved up couple. Having managed to secure an eligible young gentleman for long enough to initiate a mini-break I started to look at my options and my bank account to suss out how this dream could be achieved. My bank account dictated that a modest budget of just £200 would need to be stuck to.
The flights to Cagliari were very cheap at around £70 return. From the airport there is a two euro airport bus to the central bus station of the city. So far, so good, travel costs would be concluded at just £74 plus the train to and from Central London - let's say £20 for this – so a total of £94 per person.
This turned out to be just a short walk to the bottom of the old town and around fifteen minutes from the apartment I had booked. I had done a quick search for accommodation in Cagliari and had found La Piazzetta for just 60 euro per night. Although more expensive than a hostel I decided it would be worth it to keep my Italian dream weekend as romantic and dorm free as possible.
However, from walking around Cagliari one decent looking hostel did catch my eye, Cagliari Hostel Marina. This is both central to the old part of the city and the Marina area.
La Piazzetta apartment was a fantastic find. It had an open plan bedroom/ diner and a separate toilet and shower-room. Included in the price were breakfast and stocks of a few other basics, such as pasta and rice. The apartment is at the bottom of the building, which meant that even in the midday sun it stayed very cool and sheltered. The heavy wooden front doors also virtually block out any outside noise and made me feel like I may be living in a miniature castle. This made the apartment perfect for long lies-in. With transport and accommodation the budget had now reached £154 per person.
Within easy walking distance of La Piazzetta and the other accommodation option I highlighted you will find the main tourist attractions Cagliari has to offer. Cagliari – or the tourist part of Cagliari - can be simply split in to three distinct areas: the old town (the Castello), the Marina and the area with Roman ruins (Stampace). We had just one and a half days to explore the city.
The Castello was probably my favourite area to explore. With Byzantine and Roman architecture side by side, simply walking around the old town made for an interesting day out. You can climb many of the main towers left marking the gates of the old town walls for a nominal fee. There are also a number of museums focused on architecture and history, which cost around 10 euro to visit each.
Having spent our first afternoon exploring the Castello the second full day was spent looking around the Stampace area. There is a fantastic coliseum in this area, which has been turned in to a visitor centre come music venue. From what we were told both opera and pop are welcomed on to the stage at the coliseum during the winter months.
The town’s botanical gardens are at the foot of the coliseum and host a few Roman remains of their own (http://www.sardegnaturismo.it/index.php?xsl=108&s=6356&v=2&c=3209&c1=2123&t=1). The botanical gardens seemed like a bargain at just four euro each. However, the grounds were a little run down with little lush vegetation. The area outside the gardens is also a little daunting with layers of anti-government graffiti across roman remains and slightly odd characters walking around.
After a good days sightseeing, there are plenty of bars and restaurants both in the old town and around the Marina area to frequent.
There is a fantastic network of back streets near the Marina area with a wide array of restaurants to suit any budget. The food on offer ranges from fresh seafood, meat and of course pizza and pasta. Myself and Michael went to L'Oca Bianca ( http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/place?hl=en&rlz=1I7RNTN_en&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=L'oca+Bianca+cagliari&fb=1&gl=uk&hq=L'oca+Bianca&hnear=cagliari&cid=5426058254235725877) which we had seen widely praised in many guides. It really did live up to the praise, with beautifully flavoured and generously sized pizzas on offer (see pictures for pizza size).
Two of the busiest bars in the town were De Candia (http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/travel/12sardinia.html), and Caffe Degli Spiritu, both situated at the Bastione San Remy, a square situated high up in the old town with views to the new city and to the harbour areas that Cagliari winds around. Both the bars have large couches and communal beds to laze back on and take in the late ambient music.
The bar that was the real highlight for me was Mojito Di Damu Pietro (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/place?hl=en&rlz=1I7RNTN_en&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=mojito+cagliari&fb=1&gl=uk&hq=mojito&hnear=cagliari&cid=977188771544960472). Mojito is a charming little bar, hidden in a tiny corner at the bottom of one of the sets of steps leading to the old town. Having ordered just one drink we were presented with five small plates of snacks ranging from ham sandwiches to roasted nuts. The bar had a great atmosphere and gradually spilled further and further on to the adjacent street as the evening wore on. This definitely ticked the bustling night-life box.
The weekend had been an all-round success. Cagliari had fulfilled the total of my Italian wish list. It may not be Rome, but with a weekend and £200 to spare a successful mini-break can be achieved.