More than Just Ferns: the Surprising Botanical Gardens of Cagliari

Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Orto Botanico di Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

Ordinarily I would not visit a botanical garden on a trip – especially if I have to pay for entry.  However, we were running out of things to do in Cagliari and it was very hot – even in October – so we thought that we might escape the worst of the midday rays if we were under trees.

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A view of the gardens and the city from the Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Plus I knew that they held a secret.

To start at the beginning, the Botanical Gardens are run by the city’s university.  It opened in 1866, and currently has over 2000 plants, with many Sardinian varieties, alongside more exotic examples from around the world.

The problem with botanical gardens is that most of the year round it appears that you’ve visited in the bad season.  Many plants were all but dead, the greenhouse was shut, and there wasn’t much in the way of… much.  I’m not much of a horticulturist, but Sister-Chickpea is, and so she found it a tad more interesting than me.

There’s really not much to say, and not much to show.  There was also basically no information because they expect you to download an app – really not possible for all travellers, like me, for example.

Ferns everywhere at the Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

The fruits of a Strawberry Tree, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

I was horrified when I found out that the tree below is toxic as there was no warning about that.  Sister-Chickpea was horrified that I know so little about horticulture that I didn’t know this about oleanders.

The seeds of the poisonous Thevetia Peruviana or yellow Oleander, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia. The whole tree is highly toxic although it does have certain medicinal properties.

The seeds of the poisonous Thevetia Peruviana or yellow Oleander, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia. The whole tree is highly toxic although it does have certain medicinal properties.

Little waterfall (and mosquito haven), Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

After getting bitten by multiple mosquitoes we finally found something that made the visit worthwhile.  The ‘secret’ that is hidden behind masses of greenery.  A flimsy sign pointed the way towards a curious opening…

A curious path, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

At the end of the curious path, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

You find yourself inside a network of tunnels.  These were – I think – from the Roman period and were for distributing water.  You can’t explore much, basically because you are totally unsupervised, but it’s good fun anyway, especially if there’s no one else about…

Enjoying waking around the tunnels, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Awesome tunnel network, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Then you get to the cistern.  It was amazing.  It’s shaped like a bell, with a closed up opening at the top, which once brought in the water.  But that wasn’t the amazing part.  It was the incredible echo that followed even the smallest whisper.  We were totally alone and could play with the acoustics – the echo from even a quiet word lasted about eight seconds.  It was strangely magical and became a bizarre highlight of our trip to Cagliari.

Inside the amazing echoing chamber of the Roman cistern, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Inside the amazing echoing chamber of the Roman cistern, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

The rest of the gardens were quickly explored, though the area below, once used as a quarry, made for a nice spot to rest for a moment…

Snake-like tree at the Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Snake-like tree at the Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Roman Cave at the Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Under the shadows of the Roman Cave, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Picturesque spot in the Roman Cave, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

Then another highlight: terrapins!

Adorable terrapin swimming in a small pool in the Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

The pool with terrapins, Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, Sardinia

So In Summary

As I’m sure you’ve realised, I didn’t love the gardens.  They were not the most fascinating place to visit in terms of the plants – unless you really know what you’re looking at – and so the highlight really is the western rim of the gardens, where they have the cave and the cistern.  For keen horticulturists I’m sure it offers a great deal, but for those of you who are like me and just like to walk around somewhere pretty, then I’d say October is not the month for that.  The cistern is definitely worth seeing, but it’s not worth the entry fee on its own, so it depends on your priorities…

Further Information

There is a charge to enter the gardens and there is little information around.

There is a website, but the information is only in Italian: www.sites.unica.it

How to Get There

It’s easy to walk to the Gardens from the train station or the amphitheatre.

The transport website for Cagliari is not very user-friendly for the non-Italian speaker.  So, here’s the city’s official transport website: www.ctmcagliari.it – with some English information on Cagliari buses generally.  Here is a pdf of the bus map.  Now you’ve worked out what route you want to take, pop over here for a list of the bus numbers, so you can see the schedule of your bus.

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