An Interview to Vincenzo Amat di San Filippo

Good morning Vincenzo. First of all, I’d like to thank you for accepting to be interviewed. I know you were born in Alghero, but you have always lived in Cagliari, more precisely in the district of Castello.

Vincenzo Amat di San Filippo - Photo by Giuseppe Ungari

Yes, I have lived in this historical area of Cagliari since I was a little child. A few years ago I used to live in front of the Cathedral, but now my home is near the Tower of St. Pancrazio, they are both beautiful places, anyway.

What has the fact of living in this area represented for you?

I think I have lived all my life in a particularly evocative place and I would find it difficult to move to another part of the city. This quarter, that people from Sardinia call Castedd’è susu (the upper castle), is full of important monuments and interesting glimpses to see. Living here is invaluable and people experiment so many nice feeling walking along these streets.

Talking about places, what are your favourite ones?

I haven’t got a favourite place, really. The things I love in Castello district are its lanes, the little roads you can pass through in the historical center. Maybe the one I prefer is via Stretta, a tiny lane people usually choose to walk along on purpose, hardly ever by chance.

And what about the places a tourist can’t absolutely miss?

If you visit Castello District, you can’t miss going up the Tower of St. Pancrazio; it is the highest site in town and you can enjoy a beautiful sight from there. I also suggest to go up the Tower of the Elephant where the view is even wider as it takes four sides at a glance. You should see the Cathedral, too, the most important Church in Cagliari and, of course, you can’t miss a walk in the alleyways.

Has the District of Castello changed in the last years? And if it has, how is it different?

It has undoubtedly. There have been big changes since I was a kid. In the past it was the area of aristocracy. In 1822 there were about 330 nobles, but now there only about 30  left. When I was a child poor people lived on the ground floor of shabby looking houses, but it isn’t like that nowadays. In the 1970s about five thousand people lived in Castello, but at present there are less than 1,500.

What noun or nouns would associate to your quarter if you wanted to define it?

I would define it as the place of spirit.

Let’s talk about the most important monuments and the ones you think a tourist should not miss. What would you say if I told you “Duomo”, cathedral?

I would say it is the heart of Castello, not only because of its central and strategic position, but also because it is the place where the inhabitants of  this quarter meet for the Mass and where they celebrate the most deeply felt religious ceremonies.

What if I told you “Tower of St. Pancrazio”?

I would think of a top, as it is the highest place in the area, one that dominates all the rest. The tower of St. Pancrazio is a well known symbol of Castello.

And what about the Tower of the Elephant?

The Tower of the Elephant is the image you most frequently recall when you think of this city, it is its identification tag. Once it was a prison, that is after the murder of the viceroy in 1668. The marquese of Cea, one of the supposed guilty people, was kept there and later beheaded. Then his head was put up the tower where it was left for 17 years.

What does Viceroy’s Palace suggest to you?

It represents civil, legislative and judiciary power. At present it is the seat of  Prefecture. Some of its rooms are open to the public and can be visited.

And the Basilica of Santa Croce?

It is a symbol of integration. This church was built on an ancient synagogue, that’s why it makes me think of integration, it’s a kind of approach path of two different religions.

La cittadella dei Musei?

It is an important place not only in for the district, but also for the city and the whole region. Precious objects are kept there, and they tell the story of the people of Sardinia and of their region. Not everybody knows that the Citadel is open during lunch time, too.

What can you tell me about the Bastion  of St. Remy?

It overhangs the city. Maybe it is the place which has undergone more changes in the course of time. In the past it was a rampart, one of the most important monuments in the district, nowadays it is a promenade and a meeting place.

As Castello is also hung out in the evening, what public places, pubs or cafès would you advise to visit?

There are plenty, but my favourite one is called Caffè dell’arte (it is situated at n.3 Via del Fossario). It is in a nice spot, past a long arch and I like having a drink there, just an aperitif or a cup of coffee.

Un luogo dove dormire, invece?

Sia il bed & breakfast “El buen retiro” (Via Lamarmora 138, tel. 070.658153, 331.3866710, www.elbuenretiro.com), sia l’affittacamere “Kastrum” (Via Nicolò Canelles,78 tel. 348.0012280, 070.662304www.kastrum.eu) sono posti che consiglio.

Secondo te perché un turista dovrebbe visitare Castello?

Perché è il cuore della città. Senza conoscere Castello non si può Conoscere bene Cagliari. Senza Cagliari si ha difficoltà a capire la Sardegna e senza la Sardegna tutta l’Italia.