I wanted beautiful beaches and clear water, great architecture and a town ideal for evening walks, and, of course, great food and wine. Alghero, the picturesque walled town on the west coast of the Italian island of Sardinia fit the bill perfectly.
I’ve been spoiled by Italy. This country is full of beautiful beach destinations, where you can also enjoy stunning art and architecture. But Sardinia is a bit of an exception to that rule. Sardinia has absolutely beautiful coasts and coves and sparkling, blue Mediterranean waters. But I’m rather indifferent to the island towns here, and to the concentration of luxurious villas.
But I do love Alghero, definitely the prettiest town on the island. The area has been settled since prehistoric times and its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea led to a small city being built around a fortified port in the 12th century. The Doria family from Genova ruled over it for centuries.
In 1353, Alghero was captured by the forces of Crown of Aragon. The indigenous population was expelled and Catalan colonists arrived, this is evidenced today by the Catalan dialect still spoken among some of the population, and all the street signs in Alghero are in Italian and Catalan.
The Spanish Habsburgs were the next to arrive, until 1720, when Alghero reverted to the House of Savoy, in Turin, eventually becoming part of unified Italy.
The town has impressive fortifications and Alghero’s ramparts are a wonderful place to go for a stroll, to eat dinner at the many restaurants with tables overlooking the sea and to watch the spectacular sunsets.
The 16th century Palazzo Machin is an excellent example of Catalan-Gothic, as is the Duomo, with its bell tower offering views over the city. The 14th century San Francesco church is worth a visit. We stayed in the simple, but comfortable San Francesco Hotel, housed in the former monastery of the church. Breakfast is served in its beautiful cloister each morning.
There are plenty of places to eat well in Alghero. We loved Mirador, along the ramparts, for seafood and sunset views. We also enjoyed classic Sardinian food at La saletta, on Viale Kennedy, at the edge of the old town. The maialino, pork served in the traditional Sardinian way, is their specialty and, if you save space for dessert, the seadas, with its salty pecorino cheese and sweet honey, is sinfully delicious.
Alghero has wonderful beaches surrounding it. the large Lido is just on the edge of the town, but if you continue walking or biking and pass the Alghero hospital, you will arrive at the pretty Maria Pia Beach, with its pine forest and cicadas, dazzling white sand, clear blue waters and views to Alghero in the distance.
Further afield are the beautiful Bombarde beach and the Lazzaretto beach. We didn’t stay there, but there’s a beautiful hotel, the Hotel dei Pini, just on part of the Bombarde beach that looks like an idyllic place to stay.
These can be reached by car or by public transport – frequent buses that leave from the bus stops at the Public Garden, on Via Catalogna (2.50 euro, round-trip).
If you’re flying, the Alghero-Fertilia airport is only 11 kilometers from town. Nevertheless, taxis, like in all of Italy, are wildly overpriced (about 23 euro), but the excellent public buses bring you right to the Public Gardens (via Cagliari) at regular intervals for 1 euro.
Enjoy your time in Alghero. It makes a great stop on a longer Sardinian visit, or a vacation destination of its own for a relaxing beach and culture get-away.