Friday, 8 June 2012


We arrive in Cagliari and at first it seems like just another big commercial port, but as we round the breakwater the old town appears high up on a hillside overlooking the harbour, with its cathedral dome atop elegant facades in terracotta and pale pink. Huge clouds of smoke are billowing from the ferry terminal, but no-one seems unduly concerned, after all it is two in the afternoon and its lunchtime in Sardinia.

The marina we choose is family owned and has an air of dilapidated, friendly chaos. There are loose planks held down by large nails which protrude menacingly from the pontoon, the marina 'Reception' is a tented arrangement balanced on the dock where an old man with a white flowing beard sits behind piles of books and presides quietly over his crumbling empire. His sons wander around doing the bare minimum to prevent the marina from being condemned, patching up burnt out shore power points, one of which has no fewer than 12 boats attached to three sockets by means of adaptors plugged into adaptors which finally plug into the hugely overloaded power sockets . In any other European country health and safety officials would have closed him down and deprived us of this wonderful, friendly and quirky haven. Unlike many UK marinas this one is fully inhabited with yachts full of people, enjoying and living on their boats with pot plants, dogs, cats in all the national stereotypes which we have grown to recognise.

We hire a car from the marina for seven euros an hour, with no paperwork, just a bunch of keys to a clapped out old Fiat Panda which has a bag of rubbish lying on the back seat. We spend the first 10 minutes trying to engage first gear, but eventually we get the knack and rattle our way to the supermarket for provisions. After lunch we are tourists again and we unfold our bicycles from the lazarette and cycle along a dusty track for a mile into the main harbour of Cagliari. After locking the bikes to a lamp post we walk down the Via di Roma, a wide boulevard with huge covered pavements of a bygone era which remind me of Chowringee, one of the main streets in Calcutta. Every few yards narrow alley ways branch off to our right, leading up to the summit of the old town. As DH Lawrence writes in his book Sea and Sardinia 'Cagliari is very steep'.

We stop for Gelati. It is getting noticeably hotter now, then onwards up the steep cobbled streets, interspersed with flights of steps to ascend the steeper sections of the climb. There is graffiti everywhere, washing hanging from lines on balconies, it is the perfect staging for La Boheme. Eventually we summit the heights of the city and visit the cathedral, which is disappointing, with altars everywhere and 3D picture of Pope John, but not the soaring ceilings that we have come to expect from this very catholic country.

We follow Fatty's guide book and see the tower of the elephant, the main point of entry into the fortress, with a huge portcullis and perfectly symmetrical sheer walls which taper up into the sky. Below, there is a literary festival and as we sit in the shade with early evening drinks, the paparazzi are out in force because Gianni Vitallo, the famous Italian philosopher is sitting next to us and he is to give a lecture to the crowds who have assembled noisily outside.

As he begins his talk in Italian, we descend the heights of the city into Piazza Vianni, where the young of Cagliari meet and watch each other. The boys are all identical in huge glasses, tight T shirts and oiled quiffs, and the girls wear tight jeans with heels like stilts and white shirts adorned with Italian bling. We find a restaurant from the guide book in a windy street and soon it fills with noisy, happy laughter, and elegant middle aged men and women dressed in stylish crumpled linen and always with small dogs which cower under the tables.

We drink cold Vermentino and eat sea bass with small crunchy roasted potatoes and baked aubergines. The bike ride back to the marina is a race with Fatty coming a very poor second. We weave our way by foot along the pontoons, avoiding death traps at every turn, and then we are back on Juno, happy to be home and ready for whatever tomorrow brings.


  1. Wonderful! - the real Sardinia. Thinking of you and wishing we were there - when are you moving on to Sicily I wonder? x

  2. Hi Suelo
    In fact we sailed from Sardinia to Sicily last night and arrived this morning in Trapani which is a lovely friendly place. Also noticeably hotter.
    Hope all well with you.