Alghero - Sardinian city with Catalan origins
Alghero is the 5th largest city of Sardinia, a lively place, full of charm with Catalan origins. It is a wonderful spot to learn about Sardinian nature, history and archaeology and, of course, food.
The name of Alghero comes from the word “alghe” which means “seaweed”. The city was founded by the Genoese in the 11th century as a fishing village. Then the Aragonese took it and colonized it with Catalans. Alghero started to take on its Catalan identity and thrived until 1720, when it turned to Savoy rule.
Nowadays Alghero is a fortified city, with its walls still largely intact and theses can be visited. Bastions and towers are dotted around this area. We recommend taking a walk along the promenade and enjoy the scenery. Bastioni Cristoforo Colombo Lungomare is the walking street along the sea, one of the most beautiful places in the city to have a stroll. Although the historical centre is the city’s most interesting area, a labyrinth of narrow streets, a car-free zone, where you can find many small shops, restaurants and old churches like Roman Catholic cathedral ‘Cattedrale di Santa Maria’, as well as the Chiesa San Michele. The Cathedral of Santa Maria is one of the main churches of Alghero, it was built in Catalan Gothic style around the 16th century. It is famous for the bell tower which stands out from the historic centre of Alghero. Its main entrance can be found on the small Piazza del Duomo.
You should know that the area around Alghero is known as the “Coral Riviera”. Alghero is the centre for Red Coral, corollium rubrum, which use to surround the north-west coast but now is protected. Since ancient times, until now artisans have been using red coral to produce stunning jewellery pieces as well as amulets and decorative objects. So while visiting make sure to stop in at the Museo del Corallo and learn more about the history of coral. We also recommend stopping at one of the artisan shops – Antonio Maronga who set up his workshop in 1963 in Alghero. In 1973 he inaugurated his first shop, building on his skill and technical virtuosity to combine complex crafting. The Maronga goldsmith production revolves around the crafting of coral together with sophisticated and diversified goldsmith techniques bringing unique pieces to life. We encourage you to visit his shop and get some beautiful souvenirs.
Alghero offers lovely and unspoilt beaches. We recommend you to go and visit them, also because they are beaches of rare beauty and dream-like sceneries. Explore the famous beach Le Bombarde, blessed with crystalline water and golden sands, with plenty of sunbeds to rent. This scenery is just as gorgeous as the beach itself, made up of volcanic rocks and a dense forest of Mediterranean flora. Check out the restaurants and bars located around the beach to get a cold drink and cool down a bit. Make sure you also stop at splendid Lido di San Giovanni beach, and outside of town check out the Maria Pia dunes, dotted with centuries-old juniper trees.
A must-see is Capo Caccia, a cliffside and marine zone with breathtaking views and underground caves discovered in the 1700s by local fisherman. Perfect for nature lovers but also to discover archaeological sites with trekking and caving itineraries. You will find here one of the most famous caves in the whole of Europe, mainly due to their size and beauty. Grotta di Nettuno can be reached in two ways: the most spectacular one is through the 654 steps carved into the rock (the Escala del Cabiròl). The view is breathtaking, but the ascent on the way back can be a challenge. Second way is by boat from Alghero, ideal for those who also want to have a look at the coastline. Tours of the caves last around 45 minutes and you have a great opportunity to admire, nearly 600 metres of which can be visited, with stalactites and stalagmites and a lake.
While in Alghero you should go a little further and discover one of the best beaches in north-western Sardinia called La Pelosa. It is located about 1 hour’s drive from Alghero, in the Gulf of Asinara, a few kilometres from Stintino. And it is like a magnet for tourists, so don’t expect to be alone once there. White sand and shallow turquoise water, it truly looks like a paradise.
Fans of archaeological sites will not be disappointed. Alghero is a perfect spot to discover raw archaeology, sites that are still being uncovered. The most intriguing archaeological remains are called Nuraghe (ancient megalithic buildings found nowhere else in the world). Check out the complexes of Palmavera within the Porto Conte Park, a village almost four thousand years old. It was built with blocks of limestone and sand, and it consists of a central body two towers and huts.
If you have some more time during your Sardinian adventure you should spend a day in Bosa, a truly charming and colourful village set on the side of a hill. Still untouched by tourism you will find here maze of multi-coloured houses, a Medieval castle with impressive views and a river flowing towards sparkling sea. The best thing to do is simply wandering around and soaking in the atmosphere. Check out old factory buildings on the riverside, some of them are abandoned but a lot have been converted into restaurants and houses. Here you will see the houses lined along the river banks. A section called “Sas Conzas” is comprised of identical and harmonious structures once serving as tanneries. The houses continue up Serraville hill, up to the ruins of a castle built by the Malaspina family around 1112. Nowadays only the walls and the tower remained, but for €5 you can walk around the walls and climb up the tower for a fabulous view of sea, river, mountains and fruited plains.
Near Bosa Marina worth visiting is a little vintage train (Il Trenino Verde) which was restored and put back to work. For a small fee you can travel out of the town and into the wilds of Sardinia. They have different packages, some that include wine tastings.
For the wine enthusiast we want to highlight that in the Bosa area, it is produced La Malvasia di Bosa. A concentrated DOC dessert wine, grown in vineyards not more than 325 meters above sea level (these towns make up La Strada della Malvasia di Bosa).
But let’s go back to Alghero to talk about the local cuisine. Alghero’s local cuisine still retains a Catalan influence and it is seafood-based. Catalan style lobster is a typical dish of this city. The lobster is fished in the local sea and after being boiled, it is served as a salad with fresh tomatoes and onion.
We should mention that Sardinian cuisine is celebrated for the sheep’s cheese, Pecorino, local seafood along with excellent meats (dish like porceddu – suckling pig wrapped in myrtle and bay leaves and spit-roasted for several hours) and wine (Cannonau, Vernaccia, Malvasia and Vermentino). The most famous bread: thin crispy Pane de Carasau (or simply Pane Curasau), similar to Carta di Musica, is the most common local bread, a shepherd food which lasts for days.
Another typical Sardinian delicatessen is bottarga, known as ‘Mediterranean caviar. It‘s salted, pressed and dried roe of either the tuna or grey mullet. In Sardinia, they shave it on to spaghetti vongole. Fish eggs have been preserved this way for centuries and are popular both in the Mediterranean and in Asia. Sardinian bottarga di muggine, from grey mullet, has become famous around the world.
And if you wonder what about pasta dishes? You won’t be disappointed as Sardinian dishes include Culurgiones (stuffed dumplings), fregola (like giant couscous) and lorighittas, twisted rings. Our favourite is fregola, which means breadcrumbs, it is a typical sardinian pasta made of semolina and rolled into small balls. There are plenty of recipes for cooking fregola but the most delicious is a seafood version: with clams, prawns and served with some saffron broth and a loaf of crunchy bread.
To wrap up our story we strongly suggest you to plan a trip to Alghero. It is a lovely and versatile destination where everyone can find something interesting to do. We hope that this post inspires you to visit this part of Sardinia and try its bounded cuisine.
‘’Life in Sardinia is probably the best a man can wish: twenty-four-thousands kilometers of forests, countryside, shores immersed in a miraculous sea, this corresponds to what I would suggest God to give us as Paradise.‘’— Fabrizio De Andrè, 1996