Encircled by dramatic medieval walls, which rise abruptly from deep-blue waters, Alghero’s defences shelter one of Sardinia’s largest and most spectacular old towns. Uneven cobbled streets, rich history and a fiery Catalan flare provide a real depth of character, and the Coral Riviera’s pristine beaches, which stretch out nearby, help to make Alghero a real highlight of Sardinia.
Alghero has changed hands numerous times over its tempestuous history, but it’s the Catalan influence that you’ll feel most acutely, as you explore. It was the Catalans who upgraded the defensive ramparts of the ‘Sardinian Barcelonetta’ into the spectacular, imposing fortress we see today, enclosing the old town’s evocative knot of narrow streets and rose-gold-coloured masonry. Wander the streets at your leisure, enjoying the cooling shade of the tight, cobblestone streets with lemon-gelato in hand, or enjoying fresh tuna steak at the bustling La Boqueria market. Alghero Cathedral is hidden amid the labyrinth of narrow streets, but it’s the distinctive Baroque-dome of Chiesa di San Michele that you’ll immediately notice peeking ostentatiously over the terracotta roofs of the old town, flaunting its rainbow-coloured patterning.
Plush restaurants revel in Alghero’s historical collision of cultures and produce delicious fare like plump clams tangled in tagliatelle, and succulent porcetto pork – slowly roasted to perfection in smoky wood ovens. Wash it down with mirto, a crushed berry liqueur, or sample the fruits of local vineyards, with a platter of Sardinia’s renowned pecorino sheep’s cheese.
The city dominates Sardinia’s Coral Riviera – so named because of the red coral found here that’s been used for jewellery since Roman times. Lie back and listen to the waves washing ashore at Spiaggia di Maria Pia beach, breathing in the smell of pine-needles on the breeze.