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As Sardinia’s capital city, Cagliari packs in centuries of history, charming local culture and an emerald-coloured coastline. Its honey-hued old town is the perfect backdrop for a daytime stroll, while the seafront is where the city comes to life in the evenings. It may be 600km from the mainland but Cagliari feels quintessentially Italian with its pretty palazzis, domed rooftops and relaxed café scene.
Hostels in Cagliari are often housed in the city’s historic buildings and palaces, with original features like Juliet balconies, exposed stone walls and shutter widows. Cagliari hostels range from boutique-style pads to homely family-run hostels. Stay in a 16th-century building with an atmospheric courtyard eating area or in a classic Italian villa furnished with antiques close to Poetto Beach. You’ll usually have free Wi-Fi and free breakfasts, while some hostels even have a swimming pool, gardens or a fitness studio.
Cagliari is made up of four districts, each with its own character. The Castello district is where you’ll find the old town with its maze of cobbled streets and rustic town houses. The more modern, residential Stampace district is the perfect place for a coffee stop thanks to its al-fresco cafés. The Marina area is popular in the evenings and is home to many restaurants and bars. A short walk from the Marina is the Villanova district. Another historical part of the city, this area has a small-village vibe with colourful houses and a few boutiques.
For the best views over the city and out to sea, climb the 14th-century Torre dell’Elefante or 'Tower of the Elephant' – so named for the miniature statue that decorates the southern wall. Lose yourself in the streets of the old town and search for Via Stretta. This tiny alleyway is festooned with flowers and plant pots by the residents and feels like a mini jungle in the heart of the city. For some impressive history, take a short walk from the centre to see the Roman Amphitheatre. It may be nearly 2,000 years old but this theatre carved out of rock still puts on shows today.
Flights come into Cagliari Elmas Airport from most major cities in Italy and across Europe. From here you can rent a car or hop on the train to the city centre, which takes about 5 minutes. There’s also a bus service from the airport which runs into town. Other bus lines can take you around the city and its surrounding areas, such as the number 7 which travels to the Castello area.