Botanical Garden of Cagliari: rare plants and evidence of the Roman era
The Botanical Garden of Cagliari is the green lung of the city and home to about 2000 plant species from the Mediterranean plus succulent and tropical plants from all over the world.
“In the grass, under the trees, in the grey pots of the niches, white, gold and purple brushstrokes were visible; over its head, the trees were pink and white, and everywhere there were beating wings, fluted sounds, hums, sweet fragrances”. Taken from the book The Secret Garden, these words by the British playwright and writer Frances Hodgson Burnett, seem to describe one of the most evocative places in Southern Sardinia: the enchanting Botanical Garden of Cagliari, one of the most important in Italy.
The botanical garden of Cagliari belongs to the Department of Life and Environment Sciences of the University of Cagliari. It’s in Via Sant’Ignazio da Laconi, in Stampace, one of the historical districts of Cagliari, and occupies the lower section of the Palabanda Valley where the entrance and the Gymnospermae are, which widens from the highest portion, home of the Roccaglie of Biodiversity.
The large green city area contains thousands of rare plant species from all over the world and is in an archaeological site connecting the Roman Amphitheatre, the Garden of the Capuchins and the so-called Villa of Tigellio, where the remains of some Roman Domus and thermal baths are.
In the Botanical Garden, there are also three bottle tanks from Roman times kept in good condition, of which one can visit some tanks, probably of Roman origin, and a more recent well.
The garden has an extension of 5 hectares and borders the Roman Amphitheater along the northeast side in the upper part of the valley, with the University Department of Economics and Commerce to the north, with Viale S. Ignazio da Laconi along the north and west sides and with the Civil Hospital along the east and south-east side.
Orto Botanico di Cagliari: a short history of the birth of an enchanted garden
The first attempt to build a botanical garden in the ancient city of Casteddu dates back to the plan made between 1752 and 1769 in a district east of the Sardinian capital, Su Campu de Su Rei (Il campo del Re), in the current district of Villanova, which then subsequently long maintained the name of Sa Butanica (botany).
The first project made use of the labour force of the convicts from the penal servitude of S. Bartolomeo, but was interrupted in 1763 because of the excessive expenses deemed by the government, leading to the abandonment of the project after an inspection that considered the land “sandy, incapable of any product, absolutely inept for the purpose”.
In 1820, in the valley of Palabanda, the land between the Roman Amphitheatre and the villa of Tigellio is where the present Botanical Garden stands today. The land of Palabanda has a long and intricate history that begins in the sixteenth century when it was donated to the famous doctor Porcell da Filippo II, in recognition of his services in Spain. Later, the land became the property of the Jesuit Order, which probably used it as horticultural and garden crops, before becoming part, in 1778, of the Royal Patrimony.
Ten years later, Stefano Barberis was granted permission to set up a mulberry nursery including a factory for the breeding of silkworms that continued its activity until 1793 when Barberis, originally from Brá (Cuneo) had to abandon it when the Piedmontese were expulsed from the island. A few years later, the property passed to Avv. Salvatore Cadeddu who planted three hectares of vineyard and used the still existing building. In this house, of which no trace remains today, the conspiracy of Palabanda was organized and discovered, which had the aim of overthrowing the throne of Vittorio Emanuele I. L’Avv. Cadeddu was considered one of the promoters of the conspiracy and was captured and hanged in the nearby Piazza d’Armi.
The land of Palabanda was considered a “bad area” and was abandoned and used as a public dump until 1851 when the University, thanks to the interest of Prof. Meloni Baille, negotiated its purchase for it to house the Botanical Garden of Cagliari.
After the ministerial approval, the project was given to the architect Gaetano Cima and work began under the guidance of the well-known botanist Patrizio Gennari, assisted by Giovanni Battista Canepa, a former gardener at the Botanical Garden of Genoa.
The Botanical Garden was inaugurated by Gennari on the 15th of November 1866 and around 1874, it already had 193 different plants on the market. In the early years of the twentieth century, the scientific institution reached its full development, counting 400 acclimatised plants, “from the West Indies and Southern America (116), Boreal America (64), Southern Africa and Madagascar (66), Boreal Africa, Arabia and the Atlantic Islands (30), East Indies, China and Japan (92), Australia, Malaja and Oceania Islands (62)”.
During World War II the garden, which was home to a cavalry battalion, in early 1943 was bombed. The library and the herbarium, previously transferred to a deconsecrated church in Ghilarza in the province of Oristano, were saved. After the conflict, it took many years of hard work to restore the functionality of the institution.
In more recent times, between the mid-90s and 2005, the Botanical Garden of Cagliari has experienced a season of renewal, during which numerous structures were added, restored, rebuilt ex Novo or made accessible: Orto dei semplici, Serra Martinoli, Dome and entrance to the Gennari Cave, Pampanini Fountain, Roman Quarry, Serra d’Amato, Biodiversity Conservation Centre, Roccaglie Della Biodiversità, Botanical Museum.
Do you want to immerse yourself in the evocative atmosphere of the Botanical Garden of Cagliari and have a holiday full of charm and elegance? Book your stay at Palazzo Doglio in Cagliari