Villanova is one of Cagliari’s four historic districts, the newest one. It’s a pretty, peaceful neighborhood ideal for a relaxing walk and for taking incredible pictures. Some streets of the district are always decorated and filled with plants and flowers, giving Villanova a unique vibe. This particular love for greenery comes from the fact that Villanova was originally the farmers’ neighborhood, and the people have somehow kept the tradition alive.
But the district is also famous for its lively shopping streets and for some historic buildings: whatever you are looking to get from a walk in Villanova, you won’t be disappointed. Curious to find out more? Continue reading – I love this area thoroughly and regularly hang out there!
A Short History Of Villanova, Cagliari
Villanova was already inhabited during the Roman age: it was a rural area, where farmers used to live and tend to their fields; but it really grew big starting from the 13th century, with the Pisans. During those years, several families from the Campidano plain decided to move to Villanova to have more opportunities to sell their crops.
Later, the district also became the artisans’ area: they had their homes there and used to move to Marina or Castello during the day, to take care of their business.
The following centuries, up to the modern age, didn’t bring anything new to the neighborhood. Villanova was bombed during WWII and several of the most ancient buildings – including the defensive walls – have been lost.
What To See And Do In Villanova
Piazza Garibaldi is one of the main squares in Cagliari – a very important element of Villanova – and is filled with bars, historical buildings (such as the Riva school – dedicated to the last fallen soldier of WWI – and Palazzo Zedda, a uniquely colored building from the 20th century) and decorated with the flower pots typical of the district. An excellent place for sipping a coffee, having a walk, and relaxing.
Incidentally, this is where I attended school – right in the heart of town. I have so many great memories!
Head over to my post The Nicest Squares In Cagliari.
San Giacomo Church
The main church of Villanova, located on the homonymous square, San Giacomo Church was first mentioned in a paper from 1346 and is an excellent example – the first – of Gothic-Catalan architecture in Sardinia. Due to its long history, the church is decorated with artworks and artifacts from several ages and is an absolute must-visit in the district.
Check out my post The Prettiest Churches In Cagliari.
San Domenico church and monastery
San Domenico church and monastery, despite having been almost completely erased by the bombings in WWII, still keep their original charm. The church has been rebuilt and is now a modern building with unique architectonic features, while the monastery – or better, its courtyard, is still open to the public and hosts events throughout the years, as well as being an essential part of the Holy Week Rites in Cagliari.
San Saturnino Cathedral
San Saturnino is the most ancient Church in Cagliari and is dedicated to its main patron Saint. Built for the first time in the 5th century AD, it has been demolished and renewed several times according to the fashion of the era. What’s left of the original building isn’t much, but it’s still worth a visit, and so is the necropolis around it – which has been excavated since the 1600s, hoping to find the Saint’s relics (he was martyrized here).
The area is open to visits every day except on Sundays, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
See Cagliari’s old Antico Caffé
An honorable mention among the bars in Cagliari goes to the Antico Caffè, which was founded in 1838 and has been a meeting place for literates and scholars from all around the world, following the fashion of the times. Here you can still feel the old vibe of a place where cultures met and incredible conversations took place… all of this while enjoying a coffee or a drink.
Check out my post Where To Stop For A Coffee In Cagliari.
The EXMA is the most important art center in Cagliari. It takes its name from the building it’s located in, which is an old slaughterhouse (in Italian, ex mattatoio, shortened: ex-ma). Among the many temporary exhibitions, the main stable attraction in EXMA is a collection of about 650 prints from several contemporary artists, called the “Nicola Valle Collection”.
The EXMA is open from Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:00 to 7:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:00 to 8:00 pm. Admission for exhibits is €5 and must be booked in advance.
Polveriera (Galleria Comunale d’Arte)
Like the old slaughterhouse, the ancient armory building has been converted into an art gallery. Here you will find some collections of modern art, which have been donated throughout the years, and an incredible library, which is also a collection of old and precious tomes. The building itself- built in the 1700s – is incredible and will surely earn its spot in your camera roll.
The gallery is open as follows: September to May, Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; July and August Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Admission is €6.
Go on a shopping spree
What more do you need to know? If you are looking for fancy boutiques and pretty bars, you should find your way to Via Garibaldi and Via Sulis. Here you can spend money to your heart’s content, sip a coffee in a unique location, and take a thousand pictures of the flowers and plants decorating the Via Sulis. If you want to take a rest from exploring the city, the latter option is a real blessing!
Read my post Where To Go For A Walk In Cagliari.
Grab a drink
You will probably get tired of wandering around the streets and get thirsty or crave a snack. Villanova has got you covered! My recommendations are the American Bar Biffi, a cocktail bar with a 1920s vibe – which is only open in the evenings; Florio, which offers several bio, locally farmed, and gluten-free options and is a favorite of locals; and Lima Lima, where to enjoy a nice beer and grab a bite.
Head over to my post The Best Nightlife In Cagliari.
Where to eat in Villanova
Villanova has a selection of excellent restaurants. Contrary to Stampace, where most are located along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, restaurants here are scattered throughout the narrow alleys of the historic neighborhood.
Make sure to read my post The Best Restaurants In Cagliari.
If you are looking for a good wine bar where to try some local food and enjoy a good glass of wine, this is the right place for you. You can have a satisfying meal, and the prices are pretty fair. The atmosphere is very easy going. I recommend the pork milanese.
Babeuf is a very unique place, furnished like a library or a literary café, where you can have a meal and enjoy some peaceful time. They offer vegetarian and vegan options, and their prices vary from €7 to €20 per dish. They also host events after dinner and serve delicious desserts! It’s one of my favorite wine bars in town!
A bar-restaurant where they serve excellent drinks and Italian as well as international staples, it’s an institution in town. The ideal place for a relaxing, delicious dinner after a long day of wandering in Cagliari. Prices vary from €15 to €30 for a meal, depending on what you are having.
Sarti del Gusto
Awarded a Michelin star – expect it to be pricier – Sarti del Gusto is the best place to treat yourself in Villanova. The food is delicious, the place is modern and neat. Several options, such as vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free, are available, so to leave every customer satisfied. It’s open for brunch too.
Cat Café di Chry and Micibo
Do you like cats? Do you want to enjoy a drink or a fast snack surrounded by them? A cat cafè might be what you are looking for. You can choose between two options: Cat Café di Chry, in the upper Villanova district, where you can play and cuddle with five super lovely cats; or Micibo, in lower Villanova, where the cats to pet are NINE!
It will surely erase the stress from your body. Both places take extra care of their resident animals and have delicious cakes and sandwiches.
Where to sleep in Villanova
There are some good places to stay in Villanova, most just small guest houses and bed and breakfast, or self-catering apartments. It’s so centrally located that you won’t need a car to move around. Find my selection below.
For more places to stay in Cagliari, read this post.
If you are the type who likes to bring “home” also on holiday, renting an apartment might be the best option. This one features everything you might need during your stay – from a washing machine to free Wi-Fi and toiletries – and is in an excellent location.
This Bed and Breakfast features free wifi, a luggage storage space and neat, bright rooms. All of this at a walking distance from the main attractions. The buffet breakfast is particularly appreciated by the guests.
This nice apartment is located in the heart of Villanova, walking distance from all the main attractions. The room is spacious and there is a fully equipped kitchen too.