A Beginner’s Guide to Sardinia: Alghero

The Coronavirus lockdown isn’t going to last forever, so why not use your newly found free-time on lockdown to plan your next holiday?

Now, if you’re looking for an Ibiza type holiday with nightclubs and crazy parties, you won’t find it in Sardinia. However, if you’re looking for a complete life changing experience of history, culture, nature, beaches, and amazing food, then look no further – Sardinia has it all.

The Italian island of Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean, but is also a relatively well-kept secret, compared with its neighbour to the south east – Sicily. If you don’t know a lot about it, maybe check the info page I’ve created here, just so you’re up to speed.

So, where is Sardinia? Well, let’s have a look at the map…

Now we’re on the same page, I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m not exactly a travel blogger per se, but I am in love with the island of Sardinia, and I’m really passionate about showing it off to everyone else.

I’ve lived here with my Sardinian wife since September 2017, and we’ve spent almost every free weekend since then taking roadtrips and excursions from north to south, east to west, so I do know a decent bit about what there is to see.

Have a look at my newly setup Instagram for my photos of where we’ve been – www.instagram.com/vivaladolcev – don’t forget to follow me to keep up with our adventures.

Anyway, back to business – Sardinia is a big island, so to really do it justice I’m breaking it down into separate posts.

For my first chapter of ‘Viva La Dolce Vita’s Beginners Guide to Sardinia’, I’m starting with my favourite place on the island, and my wife’s hometown, Alghero.

Alghero sea front
Alghero Sea Front

The Beginners Guide to Alghero

Where is Alghero?

Alghero is a small port town in the north west of Sardinia.

The town, the fifth largest on the island, and home to approximately 44,000 people, can date its history back to the 12th century. Originally, it was founded by the extremely wealthy Doria family from Genoa as a fortified port town.

Two centuries later, the growing town was conquered by force by the Crown of Aragon, a kingdom of what is now Spain. During the rule of Aragon, colonisation was widely promoted, and both the town and surrounding countryside were heavily settled by people from Catalonia.

The native Algherese dialect of Catalan, still spoken by some of the local population of Alghero, as well as the Catalan architecture of the historical town centre, are a testament to this colonisation.

Some people refer to the city as ‘Barceloneta’ – little Barcelona, owing to Alghero’s Catalan roots, and the sense of fraternity with the Catalan capital.

Via Minerva, Alghero

Do they speak English in Alghero?

In 2012 Alghero was the 10th most visited place by tourists in Italy, so it’s fair to say they’re used to having international tourists around. With this in mind, you can find English, French, German and Spanish spoken here.

Travel

So, how do you get to Sardinia?

Well, more specifically, how do you get to Alghero?

The easiest way to get to Alghero is by flying into Alghero Fertilia Airport, but it can involve having to take connecting flights, depending on where you’re flying from. This airport is about 20 minutes outside the town, and there are taxi and bus links.

Alternatively, Cagliari Elmas Airport is the largest airport on the island and has direct flights to most European destinations – it is then a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Alghero on a dual carriageway.

There are also train connections from the airport to Sassari, which is 30 minutes from Alghero, please note though that the train from Cagliari can take 4 hours at the best of times!

You can also check Olbia airport, 140km from Alghero, in the heart of the famous ‘Costa Smeralda’ (Emerald Coast) – this area of Sardinia is the playground of the rich and famous – George Clooney spends a lot of his summers here!

If flying into Olbia Airport, just keep in mind that there are not many connections between the west coast and the east coast of Sardinia.

If you are thinking of staying for a week or two, I highly recommend renting a car, so that you can visit different areas of this beautiful island. You can find desks for all the usual international car rental companies at each of Sardinia’s airports.

Alghero sea front

Useful tips for accommodation

July and August are the busiest months for tourism in Alghero, and with that come higher prices for accommodation. If you want to avoid the Summer crowds, and still enjoy the warm sunshine, I recommend May, June, and September. Outside of the main tourist season, the cost of accommodation is relatively low.

If you’re travelling on a budget, I recommend using Airbnb to find self-catering apartments in the centre. There are many to choose from, and it can work out considerably cheaper than a hotel or traditional Bed and Breakfast in the town centre. Usually you can also look at the reviews and see what previous guests have said about the host and/or accommodation.

If you don’t have an account, you can use my link here to create one, and get up to €25 off your first booking!

When making the booking, anywhere in Alghero itself should be fine as you’re generally only a 20-minute walk to anywhere else in the town.

If you prefer a more luxurious stay, www.booking.com is a great site for finding hotels in the surrounding area – just make sure that it’s close to the centre of Alghero if you don’t have a car.

Bastione, Alghero

Getting Around Alghero

Once you’re in Alghero it is really easy to get around by foot, the historical centre is relatively small, and there is a city beach about 15 minutes’ walk from the centre. To visit the beautiful countryside and beaches further out, I do recommend renting a car – public transportation isn’t exactly reliable.

The best beach spots outside the town, where you’ll find Caribbean-like turquoise blue water, and crisp white sand, are Le Bombarde, Il Lazzaretto and Maria Pia. For the surf lovers, don’t miss Porto Ferro. In a relatively small area around Alghero, you will find some of the best beaches in Sardinia.

Going a little further afield, one hour to the north to be specific, you’ll find the paradise that is Stintino – words don’t do justice to just how beautiful this area is!

View of Stintino, and the island of Asinara

Alghero Historical Centre

The historical centre of Alghero is characterised by narrow cobble-stoned streets, and Catalan architecture dating back hundreds of years – it’s great for a stroll, with one of the highlights being getting lost, and discovering something new around every corner.

The historical area is close to the port, and is packed full of great bars and restaurants, and sunset on any of the sea-facing terraces is not to be missed. Alternatively, there are also a few beautiful churches worth a visit such as San Francesco, San Michele and the Cathedral of Santa Maria. The two main public squares are Piazza Sulis and Piazza San Giovanni.

View of San Francesco Church, through the narrow historical town streets

Capo Caccia and Porto Conte

If you manage to rent a car, definitely do not miss a visit to the promontory of Capo Caccia, and the beautiful Porto Conte Natural Reserve for spectacular views of the sea and surrounding countryside. This area, visible across the harbour to the west of the town, can be reached 30 minutes by car from Alghero.

Winter or Summer, these areas are perfect for a day out in the sun for a bit of hiking and exploring. Don’t forget your sunscreen, sports shoes and water!

Aerial view of Porto Conte Natural Reserve (foreground) and Capo Caccia (background)

Neptune’s Grotto

Neptune’s Grotto is an impressive stalactite cave in the Capo Caccia headland. The cave was discovered by local fishermen in the 18th century and has since developed into a popular tourist attraction. The cave is accessible by sea or by foot – descending 656 steps called ‘Escala del Cabirol’. The steps have an amazing view, just don’t forget you’ll have to go back up too!

Isle of Foradada, Capo Caccia

Palmavera Nuraghe

Nuraghe are a typical Sardinian structure built during the Bronze and Iron age, over 5,000 years ago. These Neolithic defensive settlements can be found dotted all over the island of Sardinia. The Palmavera Nuraghe archeological site is an impressive example of a complex nuraghe, and audioguides explaining the history are available in English.

Palmavera Nuraghe – Neolithic Village

Local Wine Tours

Alghero is also a great location for wine lovers. Sardinia has its own vibrant wine industry, and Alghero is home to two large wine producers – Sella & Mosca, and Cantina Santa Maria La Palma.

Both locations produce great local wines, and can be visited for guided tours and wine tastings. If you want to visit the wine cellars, I recommend contacting them to make a booking before you arrive, as they are quite popular.

The links can be found here:

Cantina Santa Maria La Palma

Sella & Mosca

Sella & Mosca grape vines

Overview

Alghero has a lot to offer and it’s difficult to write everything about this amazing town in one post. If you have any further questions that haven’t already been answered, feel free to post in the comments and I’ll attempt to help as best I can!

Sunset over Capo Caccia, Alghero

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to follow Viva La Dolce Vita on Instagram!

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