The Province of Cagliari is situated in the southern part of Sardinia, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on the south and on the east. It is bounded by the Provinces of Nuoro, Ogliastra and Oristano on the north, and by the Provinces of Carbonia-Iglesias and Medio Campidano on the west.
It expands over 1,764 square miles (19% of Sardinian territory) and comprises 71 municipalities, including the City of Cagliari, capital of both the Province and the entire Region of Sardinia.
Like the rest of the island, the Province of Cagliari is of rather heteregoneous terrain: the variety of rocks is remarkable, as are the minerals, the highlands, the caves and the coasts.
The Molentargius-Saline Regional Natural Park, in the inner part of the province, is a rare example of an ecosystem in highly anthropized areas. It is one of the most important places in Europe for the extraordinary number of birds that shelter here. One-hundred-seventy-seven among 330 of Sardinia's birds species live in the Molentargius Basin - more than a quarter of all European bird species. At certain times of the year, these can exceed 20,000 specimens. Among these: flamingos, herons and little egrets.
The park borders with one of Italy’s most ample beaches, the Poetto, extending over almost five miles, and Cagliari's main beach. Next to the Capital is the Sette Fratelli – Monte Generis Regional Park, one of the largest parks on the island and a natural environment for the Sardinian deer. The Sella del Diavolo’s Promontory is also here - its name derives from the legend that Lucifer carved the profile of his saddle on the rock after being expelled from Paradise.
The eastern part of the Province is made up of the subregion of Sarabus-Gerrei, subjected to considerable drainage works at the beginning of the 20th Century in order to eliminate malaria: it is a wild zone, yet still abundant with characteristic villages.
Cagliari, city rich in art and history, is located on the same-named gulf, and is both Provincial and Regional Capital. Visit the fortified quarter of the Castello that overlooks the city and its monuments of rare beauty: the Medieval Rampart of Saint Remy, the Elephant and Saint Pancras Towers, and Saint Mary’s Cathedral, situated in the beautiful Piazza Palazzo that is also site of the Palazzo Regio.
The Cittadella dei Musei also deserves a visit. Formed by a wide central court, it is surrounded by buildings housing the city's best artistic and historical collections: the National Archaeology Museum, the world's most important for its Nuragic Civilization, as well as a fascinating Phoenician-Punic collection; a National Painting Gallery; Stefano Cardu Siamese Museum of Art; and the Clemente Susini Waxworks Collection.
Also outside the Castello Quarter, Cagliari is crawling with intriguing sites and sights, such as the Amphitheatre and the Roman Villa of Tigellio; the Necropolis of Tuvixeddu, hundreds of tombs dating between the 6th Century B.C. and the 1st A.D.; the Grotta della Vipera (Viper’s Cave) and the Basilica of San Saturnino, important testimony to the High Middle Ages, founded 5th-6th Centuries.
It is worth visiting the neighborhood of Stampace, Marina and Villanova as well. The first was the neighborhood of bourgeois and merchants, the second of fishermen and sailors, and the third of shepherds and peasants.
Besides the city of Cagliari, it is also worth visiting the Ethnographic Museum in Quartu Sant’Elena, containing more than 5,000 finds from the 13th to 20th Centuries that narrate the rites and traditions of Sardinian agricultural and pastoral society.
In the west of the Province, noteworthy are the Church of San Giuliano in Selargius, built between the 12th and 13th Centuries; and the Tomba dei Giganti Is Concas (Tomb of the Giants Is Concas) and the Archaeological Park of Cuccuru Nuraxi in Settimo San Pietro - it hosts a partly-destroyed Nuragic complex containing a sacred well. Moreover, the Archaeological Park of Cuccuru Nuraxi, situated in a small peninsula in the town of Pula, where the finds include remains of typical Roman buildings and evidence of a very original mosaic. As a mosaic, it is one of Sardinia's best-known, and is characterized by the almost exclusive use of white, black and ochre tiles.
For water lovers, the Province of Cagliari is the perfect vacation spot, thanks to its beautiful beaches: besides the aforementioned Poetto Beach, it is worth remembering, among others Tueredda and Porto Piscinni Beaches, as well as those around Villasimius, Costa Rei and Santa Margherita di Pula, all well-known and well-equipped tourist resorts.
Moreover, the coastal area around Villasimius has also became a protected marine area, in order to preserve the integrity of the beaches and of seabed life. Here it is possible to trek and scuba dive: perhaps take an excursion to the Promontory of Capo Carbonara.
The Province of Cagliari is not just about beaches, though: the environmental variety equals lots excursion possibilities, whether by foot or by bike. Meanwhile the area around the Molentargius Basin is a true paradise for photography and birdwatching enthusiasts.
Visitors can go horseback riding throughout the province, while windsurfing is rather popular along the coast. And some tourist resorts feature excellent golf courses.
As with the rest of the island, many events and folkloric ceremonies take place year-round, including the famous Sagra di Sant'Efisio: a huge procession in traditional costume attracting people to Cagliari every May Day.
Finally, the villages of Serrabus are custodians of one of the most ancient Sardinian traditions: that of the launedda players. The launedda is a three-piped musical instrument of archaic origins, used to accompany the many festivals and religious ceremonies in the area.
As on the rest of the island, the Province of Cagliari boasts its ever-present "land" starters consisting of cold cuts and local salami, accompanied by the classic pecorino cheese and pane frattau (carasau bread seasoned with tomato, olive oil and parmigiano).
Along the coast, seafood appetizers of crab, shrimp and lobster salads are a favorite. Typical of the area of Cagliari is the burrida prepared with dogfish and seasoned with nuts, olives and mushrooms. Among the first courses we mention the malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi) with sausage and tomato sauce, the mazzamurru or soup of stale bread; and sa fregula, small balls of pasta made by hand and toasted in the oven.
Among the second courses, dishes with rural origins are very popular, including roast or stewed lamb (seasoned with a sauce made of crushed dried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil); and roast pork (su porceddu); in addition to goat and game. Another typical dish is the cordula con piselli (cordula with peas) - intestines of lamb fried in olive oil with garlic and parsley, and then baked in a pot with the peas.
Among the specialties of Cagliari, try the clams and mussels a schiscionera (cooked in a pan with garlic, olive oil and parsley and sprinkled bread crumbs), the bottarga (eggs of mullet or grey mullet, salted and matured and served in thin slices seasoned with olive oil), lobster a la campidanese (boiled and seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice), and su scabbecciu (fish preserved in fried oil, vinegar and garlic).
Among the desserts, you can taste the pardulas (better known as formaggelle) made of cheese and ricotta; the bianchittus consisting in part of egg whites and sugar; the Pan'e Saba (made with flour, raisins, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds and cinnamon) and amaretti.
The most popular wines in the Province of Cagliari are Nuragus, Malvasia, Cannonau, and Campidano, while the Mastino is a typical liqueur.