In my quest to bring the wonders of traveling Sardinia to the English-speaking traveler, I’m introducing a new feature: the X-day itinerary. Since many travelers are daytrippers from Sicily and Corsica, weekenders from Britain or mainland Italy, I want to feature itineraries that the average Sardinia tourist might find interesting. Please feel free to leave opinions in the comments. I might even respond. To kick everything off, I bring you:
Sardinia Travel Guide: Alghero: a 1-day itinerary.
Alghero is one of my favorite Sardinian destinations. To me, it embodies both Sardinia’s ancient and often violent history with modern vibrancy. Many tourists (myself included) take advantage of Ryanair’s cheap London flights to Alghero’s Fertilia airport. For convenience (my own) I’m going to assume you’ve taken the earliest flight and have arrived in time for breakfast. Great!
Rent a car, take the bus, hitchhike over to Via Garibaldi, along the busy waterfront. It shouldn’t be hard as most of the roads through the city dead-end at the port. Grab yourself a caffe e latte and a pastry at any of the bars along the way and start walking towards the fortress.
Visiting the Grotta di Nettuno
Topping my list of top 5 things to see in Sardinia is the spectacular Neptune’s Grotto, a sea cavern carved from a sheer granite cliff. It boasts winding tunnels and spectacular stalactite formations.
The best way to see it is to take one of the boats you’ll see tied up along the waterfront. The tour operators will most-likely speak English so be sure to ask what the conditions are and whether the boat will be able to dock at the cave. This way you’ll get to see the spectacular coastline along Capo Caccia along with the cave.
Your second option if the boats aren’t running, or if you prefer the hike is to take the bus (buy tickets at the Tourist Office in Piazza Porta Terra) and climb down the 650+ steps along the cliff to the cave at the bottom. The bonus here is that you’ll see the views from the top. The obvious con is that you’ll have to drag yourself up 650+ steps.
Whichever way you get there, give yourself 2-3 hours to enjoy the outing. Which will bring us to lunch.
I’m a fan of a slice of pizza on the run, eaten along the fortress wall, but if you’d like lunch with a view, check out Al Vecchio Mulino, with seating on the terrace overlooking the water on Via Don Deroma. Order the 4 Stagioni, it’s brilliant. Try it with a bottle of Ichnusa, Sardinia’s local brew. Named for the Phoenician word for Sardinia, it’s really the only Italian beer worth drinking.
Afternoons, especially in the summer, are sleepy, with most of the locals heading home for lunch and a snooze. Take this time to wander around the old city walls, dating back to the 1100s. Originally built when Alghero was first founded as a Genoese colony, they were expanded at various time in the 1300s under Aragonese and then Catalan rule.
If you’re running from the heat, be sure to visit the Cathedral of St. Mary (Cattedrale di Santa Maria), who’s bell tower dominates the walls. You’ll see examples of Catalan-Gothic architecture. Take the time to light a candle and wander around the nave, which is in the Renaissance style. Don’t be put off by the odd modern façade, it was added in the 20th century.
For the rest of the afternoon, I’m giving you two options: continue wandering the streets along the walls, visiting the Torre del Portal di Alghero, a tower built in the 1370s by Catalan Jews, or visiting the beach at Lazaretto.
Lazaretto is one of the two most beautiful beaches in Sardinia. Famous for its mild current and limpid green water, it shows off the Sardinian coastline to its best. Be sure to grab another Ichnusa at one of the beachside bars. To get there take the SS127bis along the coast, from the city center. Buses travel there on the hour in the summer months. Just look for the beach kids in their towels.
After an afternoon of wandering or beach bumming, you’re going to be hungry and in the mood for one of Alghero’s hidden gems: Ristorante Daps.
If you like dining al fresco, then this is the place for you. It’s a bit hidden, over a brook and through the woods, but very worth the effort. You’ll find it on the north-eastern side of the town, on the way back to Fertilia airport. Get there as early as you can, as the outside seating fills up fast.
The best things on the menu are the frutti di mare appetizer, any of the pizzas, or the housecured Sardinian sausage. Pair it with a local Monica di Sardegna (dry red wine) and you’re in gastronomic heaven.
Via f.lli Cervi, 16 - 079 950050
Nightlife in Alghero is rather limited in the off-season, but if you’re there in the summer, I highly recommend the Miques De Murall club on via Giuseppe Manno, along the seawall. The cocktails are excellent and the music goes all night long. If you’re more into the live music scene, check out Baronda Bar at Piazza della Misericordia.
Ok – that’s it for our first 1-day itinerary. I’m tired already.