The Swiss Café & the ghost in Cagliari, Italy

Mara Noveni | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The Swiss Café in Cagliari (Caffè Svizzero) is one of the oldest coffee shops of this beautiful town. It has always been a landmark of Cagliari downtown, a luxury coffee shop that brings us back to the golden days, to live again nostalgic moments of the past.

“This land does not resemble any other place”, said D.H. Lawrence, the English writer, and poet, while writing about Sardinia. And this sentence seems to have been specifically inspired by the Swiss Café. 

Picture © Credits to Gutenberg Readingrooms

If you want to take a step back in time, enter the Swiss cafe, one of the oldest places in Cagliari, in Largo Carlo Felice. Elegant, with large stone vaults, a wooden counter, and original furnishings, it preserves the retro atmosphere of the past.

Picture © Credits to Mara Noveni

Cagliari and Sardinia have a very long history and so many traditions and legends. One of them is closely related to the presence of ghosts inside the Swiss Café. In particular, it seems that seven ghosts have taken possession of this café. One of these ghosts seems well recognizable since it has taken the figure of Mr. Devoto, the original owner of the place, since the early 1900s. It is a man who used to be dressed very elegantly, with a hat and a thin mustache and stand always very close to the coffee machine.

According to the several witnesses of the "apparitions", he does not appear at all as a soul in pain with the desire to frighten people. Instead, he manifests himself as a cheerful and smiling spirit, ready to serve again the customers of his beloved café.

Palazzo Accardo

The Swiss Café is housed in the beautiful Palazzo Accardo, on the corner between Largo Carlo Felice and via Crispi, and was designed by the famous architect Dionigi Scano.

Built between 1899 and 1901, the Palazzo Accardo stands out for the series of arches that form the openings of the ground floor, taken up in line by the windows of the three upper levels, each with rich decorations. Both facades are traversed vertically by banded pillars with Ionic capitals, which become more evident and important in the corner connection. The decorative strip under the protruding frame is particularly rich, made of terracotta with female figures. The link between different materials such as stone, concrete, and terracotta is very interesting.

The crypt of Saint Augustin

The area under the Swiss cafe houses the crypt of Saint Augustin, a small hypogeum chapel, which is accessed, via a spiral staircase, from the entrance hall of the building. This crypt is located in the basement of Palazzo Accardo, where the Augustinian convent once stood. 

Picture © Credits to Mara Noveni

Until recently this wonder was almost unknown even to the inhabitants of Cagliari themselves and has gained importance and visibility only in recent years. The crypt of Saint Augustin is a sacred place in the heart of Cagliari. At the beginning of the fifth century, Sardinia was going through a difficult period, wounded by hunger and famine. This weakness gave rise to the invasions of the vandals and to the intrusion of the Aryan cult into religion. 

Bishop Fulgentius was a man of deep faith and was sent to Sardinia to strengthen the Christian religion. On his journey, he was accompanied by the relics of Saint Augustin, in a sanctuary built for the occasion. According to a local legend, as soon as he arrived at this place, the "miraculous water" began gushing from the floor of the crypt. The remains of Sant'Agostino were later transferred to Pavia in the eighth century, but the spring continued to flow until recently. Due to some renovations, the watercourse of the spring was closed, causing great regret to the devotees of St. Augustin.

While entering the Swiss Café, you are surrounded by old things, and you can immediately breathe the atmosphere of the "early twentieth century." The photos of the ancient owners are beautifully displayed, hanging on the walls, and tell stories of life between coffee and chocolate; stories of business, stories of cheating and love.

Picture © Credits to Devoto Family

The current owner, who does not belong to the family of the original owners, tells of good presences, with which she lives. To shed light on these strange phenomena, some researchers have intervened with sophisticated equipment. They claim to have recorded the voices of ghosts. It seems that one of these spirits could be a priest and another one is a boy named Luigi who, barefoot, is always looking for his shoes.

Historic waiters at the Swiss Café, admit that in the morning they find a couple of objects moved from where they were placed the night before! Sometimes objects disappear and then punctually reappear. In the end... everyone still talks about this strange "manifestation" faced by the locals with calmness and sympathy towards the ghosts.

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