De Candia Palace rises in the initial stretch of via dei Genovesi, in the heart of Cagliari, a few steps away from the Bastione of Saint Remy. It was probably built around mid nineteenth century, on top of a modest, pre-existing building.
This area became available only after Castello quarter started spreading southwards, during the 16th century. Earlier, the Pisan castle wall stood here, linking the Lion tower (today incorporated into the west side of Boyl Palace) to the Elephant tower. The back façade of De Candia Palace was built over the old castle wall, exploiting the drop in height level. A superficial layer of calcareous rock is visible at the base of the palace façade.
Via dei Genovesi is about 9 metres higher than via Università and such conformation of the ground gives to the windows on the back of De Candia Palace a sight free from other buildings. The roof of the adjoining and below building made possible to create one of the largest level terraces in Castello.
The main façade on via dei Genovesi street, in neoclassic style, is attributed in some texts to the architect Gaetano Cima. The palace was actually built during Cima's most professionally active years. Also the overall design and some of the details recall his other works. Nevertheless there is no mention of Palazzo De Candia in Cima's always very detailed papers. This fact gives credit to the hypothesis that the actual author was the engineer Carlo De Candia, who had studied and had graduated from Turin Polytechnic in the same years in which Cima attended it too.
The building has four floors. The cellar - at a lower level compared to via dei Genovesi - has a balcony window facing via Università. Both cellar and ground floor have features suited to the basic functions they were intended for - mainly storage or working rooms.
The hall leading to the upper floors gets the light from a large, stained glass window and is enhanced by period furniture and mirrors, with a small nineteenth century fountain. Along the staircase, cast iron and brass railings.
The first floor was from the beginning the most important level of the building, as suggested by the size of the large halls and by the dimensions of the French windows, all with balcony. It undoubtedly was the piano nobile, where the social life of the proprietary family took place, and it has been preserved intact. Both the walls and the ceilings show frescos and murals. A portion of the 1870 papier peinte has been saved too.
In one of the letters written to his mother and today kept in the Civic art gallery, Mario De Candia mentions that wall paper, which he had bought in France and sent to Cagliari: «The paper is very cheerful: satin background with leaves and flowers of exquisite taste, and for this one there is a similar curtain».
The great tenor exiled away from Italy purchased and renovated the palace in 1846. From Paris he sent the money for the purchase, together with detailed instructions for the deed of sale. Over the years he continued to send to Cagliari furniture, jewelry, books purchased all around Europe - all for a house where he would never have a chance to live.
In his Guide to Cagliari and its surroundings (1856), Giovanni Spano mentions De Candia Palace and its furnishings, among the most elegant ones in the city.
The current marble and tile flooring dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the inner double doors have exceptional trimmings: fine wood paneling and 19th century porcelain handles. The main hall with a fresco cross vault has a marble fireplace dating back to mid 1800.
In this palace Mario's mother, Donna Caterina Grixoni widow De Candia, lived with her sons. Don Stefano De Candia - the last heir, married to Maria Cristina Aymerich - sold the building to the lawyer Francesco Muntoni. His nephews, well known professionals in Cagliari, lived here until the Fifties. Later the palace was lent to a religious order.
In 1968 the building was purchased by Benedetta Imeroni Inserra, who lived in it with her family. For many years Palazzo De Candia's halls were open to the public for the traditional sa ratantira parade and became a meeting place at Carnival time in Cagliari.