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Cagliari La dolce vita a Cagliari vista da London

Sardinia’s capital is enjoying its year in the sun. Cagliari is Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2015, and new British Airways flights from Gatwick this summer put it within easier reach from London — opening up options for a weekend break or a short visit as part of a longer trip to the island. At its core is the rocky bluff known as Castello, full of narrow lanes that echo with history. The roots of Cagliari stretch back 25 centuries, to the first of many waves of invaders from Carthage in North Africa. The Carthaginians were displaced by the Romans around 50BC, followed by the Vandals, Byzantines, Pisans, Catalans and Spanish before Italian control was established. Accordingly, the city is full of fragments of the past, overlaid by an indulgent layer of la dolce vita. “Lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere” — that was how a notable British visitor to Sardinia,D H Lawrence, described the island nearly a century ago. He said it was “left outside of time and history”. But in 2015, some classic places to eat, drink and stay have been enriched by imaginative start-ups.

Rooftop escape : Some excellent B&Bs have sprung up in recent years, of which the pick of the bunch is the Marina di Castello at Via Roma 75 (+39 3358125881)  ; You take a rickety old lift to the third floor of a 1925 building, press the doorbell marked “Sabrina” (the name of the friendly owner) and enter a splendidly re-invented residence. The four spacious rooms are simply but stylishly furnished, and have access to a rooftop terrace high above the street noise and with a fine view of the harbour. Late on a summer afternoon you can watch the flamingos fly from the lagoon east of the city. The high-season (April-October) rate is €110 for a double, including breakfast on the roof.