The Fortino di Sant’Ignazio is one of my favorite spots in Cagliari and I never miss a chance to visit. Popular among locals who enjoy sunset from there, this place is virtually unknown to tourists – but I am about to unveil its secrets for you!
When visiting Cagliari, most people just stick to the most famous attractions. The four historical districts (Marina, Stampace, Castello, and Villanova) indeed have the highest concentration of historical landmarks, beautiful churches, art galleries and more. From the Roman ruins and botanical garden to the pretty promenade alongside the tourist harbor to the likewise breathtaking panoramic view from St. Remy’s bastion – Cagliari will make you fall in love.
However, there are quite a few hidden gems in Cagliari, well worth your time. One of these is my beloved Fortino di Sant’Ignazio: its real name would be Forte di Sant’Elia because it’s built on the homonymous hill, but you won’t likely find anyone calling it like that.
Curious to discover what all the fuss about this place is, and how you can visit and enjoy too? Continue reading!
The History Of The Fortino Di Sant’Ignazio
Sant’Elia hill was inhabited since very early times – from prehistoric times and throughout the Nuragic, Punic, and Roman eras. During the middle ages, it became a safe place for hermits and monks of various orders, who were however shooed away after some centuries.
During the French Revolution, some French troops tried to conquer Cagliari and, thanks to the hill’s extremely good position, the Savoy – who were ruling Sardinia at the time – decided that their army would need a fort up there. This was a great vantage point after all. The building works started in 1792 but were never completed – the war ended before the construction was actually over.
The fort’s project was then modified, the final product became smaller than originally planned, and the army used the place only for about ten years. After that, the Fortino di Sant’Ignazio was used as a shelter and hospital for patients with infectious diseases – it was isolated from the city and therefore safe.
The fort was once again used as a military building during WWII, but it’s now in ruins. Despite there not being much left except the external walls, the hill is still a hot spot for locals and tourists: the view from there is stunning, especially during sunset.
What To See
Once you get to the main parking lot from where you can walk to the Fort, it won’t take you long to realize that there’s more to see than just that: the area is packed with interesting sights!
The first thing you’ll spot from the terrace by the tiny parking lot is the beautiful view over Calamosca Beach and the massif of Sant’Elia. You will also notice many cats running about – there is a sanctuary and indeed those cats are protected and there are volunteers that regularly visit to take care of their every need.
The most notable sight is a lighthouse, which is actually a military area and is still in use. That’s why you can’t fly your drone there. A short trail that goes behind the lighthouse will take you to another viewpoint from where you can admire a Spanish Watchtower – one of the many found in Sardinia. This one was actually restored – though not everyone thinks it was a good idea.
Walking towards the fort, you will see some more ruins. These are actually trenches and tunnels that were used during the war – though inside one of the buildings there are beautiful mosaics, so it’s pretty obvious they date back to much earlier.
Once you get to the fort, the views are impressive. Some people climb all the way to the roof of the fort for views and I won’t deny that I have done it myself in the past. However, I don’t recommend it. The building is much in ruins and it may well crumble under your feet, causing you to fall and injure yourself!
How To Get To The Fortino Di Sant’Ignazio
There are two access points.
Fortino di Sant’Ignazio is accessible from Calamosca and is a pleasant, simple hike. Many go there to catch the sunset after a day spent at the beach, while some bike there to catch some fresh air and do a bit of sport.
The path to go from Calamosca Beach to the top of Sant’Elia hill is easy to find and to walk on, and there are other military buildings scattered around, so keep an eye out for additional sightings! From Calamosca, make your way back to Cagliari. Drive slowly and keep your eyes open for a narrow road on your left (or on your right, if you are coming from Cagliari) going uphill. That’s the one you have to follow to reach the top where you can park your car (but there is limited parking, so you may have to park along the road). From there, it’s an easy hike on a well marked trail to the fort.
If you are traveling by bus, CTM bus line number 5 will bring you to Calamosca from downtown Cagliari.
Another way of getting to the Fortino di Sant’Ignazio is via a trail that starts in the parking lot outside of the Lazzaretto (a fantastic art gallery located in a gorgeous building at the very end of Cagliari’s Sant’Elia district) and goes by the Torre del Prezzemolo, one of the many Spanish Watchtowers scattered around Sardinia.
To reach the Lazzaretto from the center of Cagliari, follow the directions to Poetto Beach, then turn right towards Calamosca and Lazzaretto and follow the directions to the Lazzaretto. CTM bus 6 goes all the way to the parking lot of the Lazzaretto.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes: despite it being an easy hike, almost a walk, you should dress comfortably. The road is quite irregular, and there are rocks and pebbles you may trip on. Plus, your feet won’t be happy if you wear uncomfortable shoes for the sake of looking pretty!
Stay hydrated: likewise, don’t underestimate your body’s need for water just because you’ll be doing a simple hike. Especially if you visit in summer or during the warmer hours of the day, be sure to bring plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and energized!
Wear sunscreen: the sun is always pretty strong in Sardinia, and it can damage your skin! If you are planning to hike to Fortino di Sant’Ignazio, put some sunscreen on. You won’t regret it.
Bring your camera: the scenery from Sant’Elia hill is simply breathtaking. You can take tons of different pictures, of the sea, the sunset, the ruins, the city: enough to fill your camera roll!
No drones: this is a military area and flying drones is strictly prohibited.