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One Beautiful View of Cagliari: the Charming Roman Amphitheatre

Cagliari's Roman Amphitheatre blends in seamlessly with the city and its panorama. In a short walk along one of the most beautiful and breathtaking streets, one has the opportunity to walk around history, both ancient and recent. It is very easy to get to but unfortunately cannot be visited inside. For a small fee, it is possible to cross the fence to get a closer look.

Within the city of Cagliari, one of the most significant and symbolic works of the Roman Empire in Sardinia, the amphitheatre, survives. It is always fascinating, when one comes across these kinds of ruins, to try to imagine them as they must have looked at their peak. Although the passage of time
has been merciless in some ways, it manages to convey a deep fascination to the beholder.

This place was once the centre of an ancient settlement, which, although not one of the poles of the empire, still represents an indelible mark left by a great people with
a history stretching back thousands of years, who have managed to hand down the traces of their existence to the present day.

However, the Amphitheatre is not only this for Cagliari. It is a structure that has been able to continue living and integrating with people from all historical eras. For only a quarter of its life, the building fulfilled the function for which it was designed, changing role as the centuries passed. It began as an amphitheatre, later became a quarry, then a house, a venue for performances and finally, an archaeological site to be redeveloped.

Cagliari Amphitheatre Dusk
A view at dusk over the Roman amphitheatre in Cagliari towards the harbour.

Visiting The Roman Amphitheatre in Cagliari

Opening Hours

From 1 October 2022 to 21 March 2023:
Tuesday to Sunday: 10h00 – 17h00. Last entry at 16h30.

From 1 April 2023 to 31 September 2023:
Tuesday to Sunday: 09h00 – 19h00. Last entry at 18h30.

The amphitheatre is closed on Mondays.

Ticket Prices

  • Adults 26 & over: €3.00
  • Seniors 65 & over: €2.00


There are currently no facilities at the site.

How to Get to the Roman Amphitheatre in Cagliari?

The Roman Amphitheatre is located on one of the most beautiful and scenic streets in Cagliari. For those who decide to visit it, although finding it is not at all complicated, I would still recommend two routes: one is the one that leads from Via Is Mirrionis to Viale Buon Cammino. The other is the one from Via Ubaldo Badas, leading to the ancient medieval area of Castello, where Porta San Pancrazio and Porta Cristina are located, both of which lead to Viale Buon Cammino (reachable by CTM line 8 from Piazza Matteotti).

As for the first route, after a short climb from Piazza d’Armi, a beautiful view stands out on the right, allowing you to admire Cagliari in all its beauty, in a mixture of sky, sea and city. Once you reach Viale Buon Cammino, all you have to do is continue straight ahead, until the silhouette of the amphitheatre appears in front of you, embedded in the ancient valley of Palabanda.

Passing through Porta San Pancrazio, on the other hand, is quite evocative because you will pass under the arches that give access to the medieval area of Castello, (another highly recommended walk if you are in the area) where the tower of the same name and the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari are located, to name a few. Once you pass Porta Cristina, the view will be as good if not better than the view from the opposite side, with a small square to the left, allowing you to enjoy a wonderful panorama.

The walk from both entrances, before reaching the  Amphitheatre, is one of the best that Cagliari has to offer, especially during the day, when the sun bouncing off the roofs of the houses below makes the colours of the sky and sea more vivid and spectacular. If you feel like it, why not stop for a coffee at one of the kiosks, under the trees and pines, on either side of the road?

A little extra stop on this short walk, extending the route by a few metres, is Via Belvedere, exactly at the junction where the petrol station is located. From here you can admire the beautiful panorama of the opposite side of the city, facing inland, a point that eludes many because it tends to remain hidden.

The entrance to the site is located on Viale Sant’Ignazio da Laconi, on the left, taking the descent from Viale Buon Cammino. After passing through a gate, there is a small building with a ticket office on the right. It can also be perfectly admired from the outside, simply by walking around it, although we will always have to deal with an annoying fence that will obstruct our view. If, on the other hand, you decide to pay the ticket, which costs very little anyway (3 Euros), you can walk along a walkway that allows you to see the whole thing from a closer distance. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to visit the site inside, as the structures have not been fully secured. The hope, however, is that it will be fully opened to the public next year.

Accessibility at the Amphitheatre

The Amphitheatre area can be reached by CTM line 8, starting from Piazza Matteotti. It is equipped to transport wheelchair users and those with walking difficulties. Unfortunately, there is a difference in height between the stop and the access to the site, which makes the ascent challenging. Once you get to the entrance, however, there will be no architectural impediments, so you can get a closer look along a wheelchair accessible walkway.
A walkway allows visitors to get a closer look into the rock-cut amphitheatre.
An accessible walkway allows visitors to get a safer view of the amphitheatre.

What do We Know & What is There to See?

This amphitheatre, built between the end of the 1st AD and the beginning of the 2nd AD, was carved into the rock on the southern slopes of the Buon Cammino hill. To compare its size, in its heyday it occupied almost twice the area of today, and was about a quarter of the size of the Colosseum. The area, at the time of its construction, was peripheral to the Roman settlement, as it had to be easily reached by a large number of spectators and ensure the safety of the city during the transport of the animals, with an external route that did not create any inconvenience for traffic.

During the planning phase, it was also considered to solve one of the problems that plagued the city, that of water scarcity. The amphitheatre has a funnel shape of the tiers of seats, to which various systems of gutters were connected, directing rainwater into large cisterns located nearby. One of these is located in the Orto dei Cappuccini, in the western vicinity of the area.

This is interesting because it began as a quarry that supplied materials for the construction of the amphitheatre, and only later became a cistern, which could hold a million litres of water. It is connected to the arena by a tunnel, which can still be travelled through today, carved entirely into the rock. It was later used as a carceres, a place where condemned prisoners were kept before execution.

The structure could accommodate approximately 8,000 people. The main entrance, which must have been a little over 20 metres, was entirely built. Today nothing remains of this part, which was the most affected by the reuse of materials in the medieval period. What we see today, only the cuts in the rock of the tiers, can be defined as a part of the skeleton of the amphitheatre, but originally everything was covered with decorative elements. Unfortunately, not much has survived to this day that can show us the interior and exterior decoration of the building. We have to imagine it covered in coloured marble, embellished with statues and columns, topped by capitals, with a play of light and shadow given by the reflection of the sun’s rays on the walls.

Many areas within the rock bar, especially in the south-west part of the structure, have collapsed or silted up. The pit that is visible in the centre of the arena, almost dividing it in 2, was part of the underground rooms. They were hidden in ancient times under a wooden floor on which sand was placed, which had the function of absorbing the blood spilled during the spectacles. The term arena, in fact, derives from the Latin harena, i.e. the layer of sand lying in the stage space. This area, flanked by 2 other smaller pits, was used to contain the machinery needed to change the sets during the performances.

The other part that jumps out at you, is the cleft that opens up inside the rocky counter, separating the cavea, eroded more and more over time by the various atmospheric agents. This was nothing more than a secondary entrance, consisting of a blind chamber some twenty metres long, which ended its course inside the hill. The gallery, which is still visible, holds traces of some cells on the sides of the walls, which were probably used to keep animals. From here, the so-called gladiatorial pomp, the procession of gladiators that opened the spectacle, also made its entrance.

Archaeology Travel Tip

If you are staying in Cagliari for a few days, get yourself a Combined Ticket. It costs 15 € (12 € if you are a resident) and includes a visit to the City Museums, Siamese Art Museum, Municipal Gallery, Public Gardens and City Palace, (excluding temporary exhibitions to be paid for separately for an additional 4 €) and the Cultural Heritage (Elephant Tower, Tigellio’s Villa, Crypt of Santa Restituta, Viper Cave, Roman Amphitheatre, Covered Walk and Gallery of the Spur).

The combination ticket is valid for 2 weeks.

Cagliari Amphitheatre Walkway Evening
Another view of the walkway that allows visitors to get into the amphitheatre while renovations are ongoing.

The More Recent History of Cagliari's Amphitheatre

Towards the end of the empire, with the advent of Christianity and a gradual change in the interests of the population, the structure lost its original function and slowly fell into disuse. We have no certain information about its re-use in the period immediately following the fall of Roman society.

We know, however, that during the Middle Ages, following the Pisan, Catalan-Aragonese and Spanish occupations, the building was heavily spoliated of all its materials, reused partly for the fortifications of Castello hill, and partly for other structures. There are records of its use as a materials quarry as late as 1840. Later, the site was purchased by the Municipality of Cagliari in order to investigate it through various excavation campaigns, one of the most important of which was carried out by Doro Levi, an Italian archaeologist, who succeeded in restoring some areas in 1937.

The recent history of the site is one of the most fascinating, giving it even more value and enriching it. Around 1950, one of the most important Italian photographers of the 20th century, Federico Patellani, managed to capture life inside the amphitheatre of Cagliari in some beautiful shots. The photos are symbolic of the degradation and precarious situation following the Second World War. They bear witness to the presence of families who, following the destruction of their homes, had chosen the amphitheatre as their home. They represent the continuous integration between the amphitheatre and the people living there. Perhaps it was a shelter for all the people who needed it, not only in the post-war period, but in various periods of history.

In the 1980s, however, its function changed, being converted into a venue for concerts, with the stage placed towards the cavea, while in the early 2000s, the cavea was covered with a wooden and steel structure to accommodate and expand the seating, in order to organise new shows. This was to be dismantled after 10 years, in order to revalorise the site as a historical monument, which is still undergoing restoration work to secure certain areas inside.

A brief mention should also be made of its temporary function as a home for a feline colony, while waiting for the bulk of the facility to be available not only to our furry feline friends, but also to those of us who are looking forward to making the most of this little city treasure.

Cagliari’s amphitheatre is not only an important symbol of Roman culture in Sardinia, but also an important part of the city’s culture. It is a monument that has much to tell the most curious and those who are willing to listen. It is absolutely recommended if you come to Cagliari even if only passing through, because it can be admired from the outside even if only for a short walk.

Cagliari Amphitheatre Aerial Plan
An aerial plan of the amphitheatre showing the rock-hewn cavea and arena. © Servizio Lavori Pubblici

Add the Roman Amphitheatre in Cagliari to Your Itinerary & Lists

Roman Amphitheatre, Cagliari

One of the best examples in Sardinia where an archaeological ruin merges with the modern city. It was built between the end of the 1st  and the beginning of the 2nd century AD, becoming part of the city landscape from that time on. Throughout its history it had many roles: it was the site of gladiatorial battles, a quarry, a family shelter and a concert arena. It is undoubtedly a symbolic place of the city of Cagliari, which can be admired from the streets that surround it. By paying a small ticket, it is possible to get closer to better observe it, but unfortunately, neither walking in the arena nor visiting its inner areas is allowed.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Gianluca Pitzeri

Born and raised in Sardinia, from an early age I dreamt of discovering ancient ruins. Currently I am completing a Master’s degree in Archaeology and Art at the University of Cagliari, Sardinia. What particularly interests me now is the potential digital technologies can make to enhancing visitor experience at archaeological sites. Read More

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