Cagliari is a place to live well.
That just might start with eating well.
And we did on a recent trip to this city on the idyllic Mediterranean island of Sardinia.
Well, first of all, you should know that the people of Cagliari are Sardinian before they are Italian. Sardinia is an autonomous region of Italy, and Cagliari is the largest city on the island.
Cagliari's heritage is shaped by its role as an important trade port, as well as periods of rule by Phoenicians, Spain, the Austrian Habsburgs, the House of Savoy and on and on. A large influx of people fleeing the mainland during the rule of Mussolini and the Fascists from the 1920s to 1940s also greatly influenced the Cagliari you see today.
It seems that Sardinians now live a contented -- and long -- lives. Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea behind Sicily, was the first place in the world to be discovered and designated a Blue Zone, which is an area where people have been observed to live longer than normal lives. The average age of a Sardinian is 85 for women and 80 for men. Sardinians also have the highest rate of 100-year-olds among their population (tied with the Ryukyuan people of Okinawa, Japan). The sunshine, sea breezes and fresh seafood will do that, I'm told.
Speaking of that food that goes into the healthful diet of a Sardinian, we took the opportunity to seek out the secret life-extending foods if only to enjoy for one spectacular meal while we were visiting. Located on the south coast of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea, Cagliari owns a welcoming marina that is attractive to travelers visiting on sailing yachts and cruise ships alike.
We arrived on the new Viking Sky and took a tour of the main market, Mercato San Benedetto, on a weekday morning and witnessed the thriving commerce in action. This experience fills the senses. The colors of the foods and the buzzing activity as people shop for family meals and vendors quickly fill orders while engaging in friendly Italian chatter is a wonderful show.
While the fresh-caught seafood offerings were indeed abundant at the market -- octopus, mussels, tuna, oysters, etc. -- vendors also gave us much to choose from among fruits, veggies, pork, beef and breads. We have visited several markets all over the world, and the Cagliari marketplace was a standout because of its size, variety of foods and especially the vendors themselves. The friendly shopkeepers, most who only spoke a bit of English, offer endearing smiles and proudly show off their products for any camera-toting tourists who might be mixed in with the crowds of residents doing their daily shopping. (The market is not at all touristy.)
Our shopping haul . . .
Chefs cooked the main courses on stove tops right at the head of the table and did well to explain each course. We dined on excellently prepared oysters, shrimp, crab, steak and tuna. Well fed and happy, we pushed away from the table feeling like true Sardinians, if only for a day.
Thanks for reading, and always travel happy!