Exploring Castello (and a bit of Stampace)

Community Highlights Europe Exploring Castello (and a bit of Stampace)

The Bastion Saint Remy from the Piazza Constituzione

We woke to blue skies as the weather forecast had promised, although there was still a fresh breeze. We walked up to the Piazza Constituzione and had breakfast sitting outside in the sunshine at the Café San Remy. The coffee was excellent and (unusually in Italy, in our experience) so were the croissants.

The Café San Remy

The Bastion Saint Remy from the Piazza Constituzione

In the Piazza Constituzione

We took a few photos in the area, then popped back to the apartment briefly as Chris needed to send a couple of emails, then set off to explore Castello, the fortified old town of Cagliari. But we'd only gone a few steps when my eye was caught by the displays outside a small shop, Kokkus. Inside I found some lovely bits of jewellery and not expensive, so I just had to buy a bracelet with black onyx which, the shop owner explained, is a sort of amulet for Sardinia.

Across the road, almost opposite our apartment, we found the small church of Madonna della Pietà, simpler inside that is the norm in Italy and very peaceful. The church is attached to the convent of the Capuchin Poor Clares in a complex built in the mid-18th century. In the mid-19th century, following the introduction of laws suppressing religious orders, the nuns left the convent, which became the property of the state. They only returned in 1962. In my photo below you can see the grille on the left of the altar from where the nuns can receive Holy Communion.

In the Chiesa Madonna della Pietà

We then climbed the steps to the square above the Bastion San Remy, to enjoy the views again in the sunshine.

Above the Bastion Saint Remy

Above the Bastion Saint Remy, and the view towards the cathedral

From here we followed one of Castello’s typical narrow lanes to the cathedral. Before going inside we spotted a small Orthodox church next door, the Chiesa della Speranza. So we popped in there to be welcomed by the priest who was tidying up the bookshop. The icons were lovely though hard to photograph in the low light.


In the Chiesa della Speranza, Cagliari

The church was originally built, probably in the 16th century, as a noble chapel of the Aymerich family, the Marquises of Laconi, who lived in a nearby palace (destroyed in the bombings of 1943). Since 2011 it has been granted to the Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Moscow for temporary use by Cagliari’s large immigrant community from Russian-speaking countries.

The cathedral

Next we went into the cathedral, which is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. This was originally built in the 13th century but you wouldn’t know it! The interior owes much to its Baroque renovations during the 17th and 18th centuries, while the façade (inspired by Pisa’s cathedral) was added as recently as the 1930s.

Cathedral façade

On the façade

The façade, and ceiling

Inside we found the central nave taped off but there was plenty to see in the various side chapels. There was a lot of polychrome marble, which I confess doesn’t often appeal to me. One rather over-the-top example was the Mausoleum of Martin I of Sicily (who died during the conquest of Sardinia in the early 15th century) in the North Transept, and another the statue of Lucifer of Cagliari, who died in AD 370. But I liked the ceiling and some of the other statues as well as a silver tabernacle manufactured in Palermo in 1610.

Mausoleum of Martin I of Sicily, and statue of Lucifer of Cagliari

Silver tabernacle, and statue of the Virgin

We went down into the crypt which proved to be my favourite part. It is home to the Sanctuary of the Martyrs, with 179 niches containing relics of martyrs of Cagliari. These were found during excavations in the 17th century near the Basilica of San Saturnino (a ruined church we were to see a few days later).


In the Santuario dei Martiri

Palazzzo di Citta

Next to the cathedral we went into the former Palazzzo di Citta, now used as an art gallery. There was an exhibition by a Sardinian artist, L Cano. I found myself most drawn to her later work as many of the earlier pieces were in more sombre colours and were portraits, not usually my favourite subjects for art.




Works by L Cano

Below the cathedral is the pretty Piazza Carlo Alberto with a statue of Saint Francis. We stopped for a drink in a café there and took some photos in the square as well as of a nearby shop packed with all sorts of interesting old costumes, ornaments and more!



In the Piazza Carlo Alberto

Exploring Castello

We then continued our explorations of Castello's streets, of course taking lots of photos as we did so.





Scenes of Castello

Eventually we came to the Via Santa Croce where there are views west over the city and port. It was very windy up here, as it’s exposed to the sea air of course.


View from the Bastione Santa Croce

Nearby is the Basilica di Santa Croce which we looked in briefly.

In Santa Croce

Bell tower of Santa Croce, and nearby house

We passed some pretty houses and a bar with an old Gelateria sign, but they weren’t serving ices unfortunately.




In the via Santa Croce

At the foot of this road is the Torre dell'Elefante, one of the ancient city gates, named for the small statue of an elephant on one corner. This looked quite new to us although I haven’t seen any references to it being recently restored or replaced. The tower dates originally from 1310 and has heavy wooden gates with large spikes. A wooden staircase ascends to the top but is currently closed, so I didn’t have to decide whether I felt up to climbing it!



The Torre dell'Elefante, Cagliari

We continued to descend from Castello’s heights down the Scalette di Santa Chiara.


On the Scalette di Santa Chiara

These brought us eventually to the Piazza Yenne. Among the several bars and restaurants here is the very well-reviewed Kremet Gelateria so of course we had to try it for ourselves. It fully deserves those great reviews! My choices of pistachio and lemon with basil were both excellent, as were Chris’s dark chocolate and red fruits.

Sign in Kremet Gelateria

Santa Restituta

After we’d finished our gelati we crossed the road to the Stampace part of the city. Here we visited the crypt of Santa Restituta, for which there was a small fee to enter. This crypt, carved out of the rock, was originally a limestone quarry, later used as a place for pagan worship in pre-Christian times. It was believed to have been the site of Saint Restituta's martyrdom in the 5th century and was thus a key site for Cagliari’s early Christians. The Orthodox Christians then took it over (there are still some remnants of their frescoes) until the 13th century, when it was abandoned. It was excavated in the 17th century, when ancient relics were found, including those assumed to be of the martyr Restituta. This lead to a partial restoration of the site and its embellishment with altars and statues.




In the Crypt of Santa Restituta

In WWII the crypt was used as an air-raid shelter, although many died while sheltering here in February 1943. You can still make out the wartime graffiti that covers the walls.

We spent a bit of time exploring Stampace's streets, ending up in front of the church of San Michele. It has an impressive front and dome but was unfortunately closed, I think for restoration.



In Stampace


Chiesa di San Michele

We stopped for a cold drink at a café with seats in the by now hot sun before heading back to the apartment with a detour to Impasto, the restaurant we'd enjoyed last night, to book again for tomorrow. We also went into a great shop, Sardissimo, selling a great range of appealing Sardinian produce, where I bought some herbal tea as a gift for my sister.

In Sardissimo

In the evening we had drinks at the same bar as last night but the nice selection of meats we'd had yesterday never materialised, although we did get crisps and olives as before. We had dinner in White Stone, a bar/restaurant in Piazza Yenne which we'd reserved earlier in the day.

Tagliata in White Stone

We shared a cheese platter to compensate for the missing meats with our aperitivi, then I had the tagliata (excellent but not as warm as I'd have liked) while Chris had ravioli. He also shared my very large portion of potatoes! We were too full for dessert so climbed the steps back up to the apartment to relax for the rest of the evening.

This featured blog entry was written by ToonSarah from the blog Travel with me ....
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By ToonSarah

Posted Thu, May 23, 2024 | Italy | Comments