Nest in Cagliari, Sardinia this spring

Urban flamingos and a gay scene make the historic seaside city of Cagliari, capital of the Italian island, pretty in pink

Nest in Cagliari, Sardinia this spring
05 April 2012

Flamingos, flamingos everywhere. When you land in Cagliari you find these exotic tropical birds crowded onto one of the biggest Europe’s lagoons, the Laguna di Santa Gilla, next to the airport.

Spring is the perfect time to be here; when thousands of chicks, called ‘pulle’, are just few weeks old. And now Cagliari, the small, cosmopolitan ‘capital’ of Sardinia, is pinker than ever. And not only because of the flamingos, it is also the most gay-friendly city of Sardinia, the ‘Caribbean’ island between Spain and Italy.

Cagliari is surprising: culture, history, sea. But, even in spring or summer, the city is void of the hoards of tourists that you’d think might be there.

If you want to see the flamingos close up, the biggest European community of this African bird is in the ponds close to Cagliari. So visit Molentargius Lake, just behind Poetto Beach – a clean and gorgeous city beach (something which is usually really hard to find in Europe).

A path has been created by the Cagliari council, which has founded a new regional park, named ‘Parco di Molentargius-Terramaini’. So, now, Molentargius is open to everyone, after having been used as a saltpan for centuries.

DH Lawrence also loved this city. He saw a very different Cagliari. ‘Sardinia is like freedom itself,’ he used to say. This is still true, but now the capital is not ‘nothing finished, nothing definitive’, as the writer said.

Instead it is a vibrant city, where, almost all year round, people go to the beach for rollerblading, running or just drinking a coffee. And where clubs, pubs and bars constitute a harbor for tourists and locals. The Sardinian capital hosts a gay club – Go Fish – and some gay bars, such as Rainbow and, in summer, Fico d’India and Chiringuito. Two gay beaches can also be found nearby: Cala Mosca and Mari Pintau.

One of my favorite things to do is to have a mint tea on the beach, on a Saturday evening – the sunset makes me feel quiet but also anxious for the night. What will be your fate this evening in this island ‘without a fate’, as Lawrence wrote?

The city’s ‘quartieri’ (boroughs) have simple names: Marina, Castello, Quartiere del Sole, San Benedetto, and so on. Under the stars, you can drink a local beer at micro-brewery Birrificio di Cagliari. Drinking here gives you a free history lesson on Cagliari’s city centre. Beers on offer take the name of historical neighbourhoods, Casteddu (the Castel), Biddanoa (new town), Marina (Marina) and Stampaxi.

When you are almost drunk, head off to the Bastione, an old terrace over the Golfo degli Angeli, the gulf of Cagliari, and next to the cathedral and to the Savoia’s palace (the Reign of Italy was born in Sardinia). Here young people gather in the evenings to sing and play the guitar. And, under the stars, it’s perfect.

Next morning, when you wake up, have milk and pane carasau for breakfast. This is a traditional flatbread, thin and crisp, usually in the form of a dish half a meter wide. It is the traditional Sardinian Flatbread and eaten almost everyday. Now, with a lot of carbs in your body, you will be ready for a new day.

The Marina is the district of artisan shops and pedestrian streets. Here you will find shops selling the Sardinian carnival masks – anthropomorphous and zoomorphic masks evoke mysterious local rituals and remind you of the strong relationship between men and animals. In other areas of the island, in spring, there are burlesque carnivals or horse riding exhibitions.

With thousands of plants, the Orto Botanico is certainly a definite must-see. It is one of the most famous botanical gardens in Italy and contains some 2,000 species of Mediterranean origin but with a good collection of succulents and tropical plants as well.

Walking through the garden, you can discover a secret if you look in the right place: in a corner, under a wood of palms, there’s a Roman cistern and natural cave. The Romans loved this island – Sardinia was the perfect place for their holidays. Nothing has changed today and millions from the ‘Continente’ still land here every year.

But, after culture and history, nature is the predominant character in Cagliari. I love the flamingos and, despite having lived in the city for 10 years, I still find myself returning to see them again when I visit.

But there is even more to see – a short journey will take you to the Stagno del Giunco, near Villasimius, a coastal village in the South-East of Sardinia. The road is a mule track, but the seascape is magnificent. Cala Regina, Mari Pintau, Solanas, Kala e’ Moru, Baia Azzurra… wonderful sandy beaches adorn the coast like pearls. And, finally, Villasimius, where hundreds of pink flamingos are waiting for me.

Here the scenario is superb: a pond, then a beach, then a promontory with a medieval tower. And there’s even a Caribbean-like sea. Here you can experience an African dream. In fact, seeing a scene like that, it feels strange to be in Europe, not in Africa. And despite what you can see all around you, you are on an ancestral island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, where old ladies in the mountains wear black headscarves, where the shepherds still produce a fragrant cheese, and where you can see Phoenician, Byzantine, Roman, Arab and Spanish faces.

And where you can also find a cosmopolitan pink flamingo.

Useful facts:

Try staying at T-Hotel, doubles from €120 ($156) or Hotel Regina Margherita, where doubles also start at €120. And a lot of bed and breakfast solutions are available in Cagliari.

Eat at Trattoria Ristorante Lapola or Da Lillicu or perhaps Trattoria Ci Pensa Cannas. The best area for other restaurants is around the Marina, close to the harbour.

Gay-friendly Hertz and other car hire companies have an outlet at the airport.



No thumbnail available

Longtime activist Cyndi Lauper warns people that HIV still needs to be prevented

'It is an arduous journey for people taking the drugs'
No thumbnail available

Watch: Hunger Games star mocks gay sitcoms on SNL

Don't worry, this has nothing to do with Too Many Cooks
No thumbnail available

US golfer, who believes being gay is a sin, wins Masters

Florida athlete Bubba Watson voiced his support for a reporter who called Jason Collins' coming out as an 'open rebellion to God'
No thumbnail available

Billie Piper to play lesbian in upcoming BBC drama

Doctor Who actress will play a teacher having a fling with a 16-year-old student 
No thumbnail available

Moms respond to homophobic group by inviting them on picnic

Homophobic hate group 'We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore' targets innocent lesbian bloggers - who extend a warm welcome to their new website readers
No thumbnail available

‘Sochi will be a wonderful games,’ says IOC would-be chief

Despite assurances from Russian government that gays will be punished, presidential candidate for the International Olympic Committee Ng Ser Miang has expressed his approval about the upcoming games
No thumbnail available

Discharged gay troops put record straight

US gay armed forces personnel kicked out under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell get benefits and employment help
No thumbnail available

Ghana Christian group slams pro-gay gender minister

Anti-gay Christian group blasts appointment of Nana Oye Lister as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection over gay rights support
No thumbnail available

Lesbian couple's wheelchair son launches campaign

Disabled teen wants to be first Prime Minister with cerebral palsy after setting up campaign site.
No thumbnail available

George Clooney says gay marriage 'final leg' of civil rights movement

Actor believes it won't be long until full LGBT equality is achieved