Just under 300 nautical miles from Barcelona (about 550 kilometers away across the Mediterranean) is the Italian city of Alghero, located on the northwest coast of the Sardinia island and also known as the Sardinian Barceloneta. Of Genoese origin, as its walled profile reveals, the four centuries of domination of the Crown of Aragon also left their mark on the architecture, gastronomy and culture of a population that still boasts of maintaining Alghero as its language, a dialect of the Catalan.
Even if Alghero, whose name evokes the algae that the tidal wave leaves in the San Giovanni beach, has become an attractive tourist destination – it is considered the capital of the Coral Riviera-, does not let go of its condition as a fishing village that has seen both friends and enemies come from the sea. That is why he has learned to always look at it from the front, although sometimes he has to protect himself in its towers and bastions, and other times, enjoy it in beaches, museums and recipes.
10.00. Meeting Neptune
From the puerto From Alghero, innumerable boat excursions depart that cross the coast to dock at the door of the Neptune’s Grotto (1), an underground wonder that should be visited first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. It can also be reached by land from Cape Caccia, venturing up the steep Cabirol staircase, with 654 steps that cross, in a dizzying zigzag, a cliff more than 100 meters high. The views, as you might expect, are sublime, although the subsequent climb as well. This cave, more than 10 million years old, can only be accessed with a guided tour that leads through the unique forms that water builds in the rock, with special attention to the Great Organ, the largest column in the entire cave, as well as the salt lake Lamarmora, the second largest in Europe.
12.00. From tower to tower
Back in Alghero, it is time to visit the remains of its wall, especially its bastions and towers raised by Genoese and rebuilt by Catalans. Fifth Sardinian city by number of inhabitants (it has about 44,000 residents), currently 8 of them are preserved in the interior and 11 abroad, being the Earth Gate tower (2) the one that served as access to the city. Nearby, and in a clockwise direction, is the Torre de San Giovanni (3) and, reaching the sea, the emblematic Torre de Sulis (4). Leaving the Mediterranean on the left and without losing sight of it, you reach the Christopher Columbus Bastion (5), to the Torre de San Giacomo (6), al Marco Polo Bastion (7) Yet the Powder Tower (8). The almost circular route ends at Saint Elmo’s tower (9), better known as the Madonnina for the bronze statue of the Madonna by Stella Maris that crowns her.
14.00. Gastronomic influences
After touring the imposing defensive system bordering the sea, you want to try the typical dishes that the Italian city boasts. Here you can find a paella that has little to do with the Valencian, and whose main ingredient is the fregola, a round pasta that resembles the grain of rice, a dish that also includes seafood as well as lamb. Another typical recipe that evokes the Catalan soul of Alghero is the Catalan lobster, a delicious lobster with tomato and onion. To taste the first, the Alamo Paelleria (Via Ambrogio Machin, 20), while the restaurant By Musciora Danilo Delrio (Via Giuseppe Mazzini, 59) (10) it is ideal for the second.
16.00. Beach afternoon
To get off the food, nothing like taking a walk on the beach of Lido Novelli (11) and of St. John (12), the two urban sandy areas that run along Via Lido for about two kilometers, duly dotted with restaurants, bars and beach bars. If what you are looking for are dunes, pine forests and sandstone rocks, the most recognized beaches are to the north, between Fertilia and Porto Conde, such as Le Bombarde (ideal for families with children, young people and surfers), Punta Negra, Mugoni or Maria Pia (with its juniper-covered dunes). In Alghero, the beaches not only offer an incredible snapshot of crystal clear waters of an almost impossible turquoise, they also supply one of the town’s most precious products: red coral. It is not only that the streets of the old town are full of small shops that offer all kinds of jewelry made with this red gold, but here it has its own Museum (Via XX Settembre, 8) and it even appears on the city’s coat of arms.
19.00. Three churches
When the sun begins to fall on the cobbled streets of its historic center, Alghero vibrates with a unique color and atmosphere that concentrates its heartbeat on the Civic plaza (13). Here, in addition to a good number of restaurants, some of the most representative buildings of the city are located, such as the Ferrera palace, the City House or the Dogana Reale palace. Another of the places with a significant construction surplus is the Prince Umberto street (14), which treasures the Casa Doria and its beautiful Gothic windows, as well as the curia palace. And, ending the street, the Church of Mercy.
There are two other religious sites that must be visited and that compete for the prominence of the skies of Alghero. On one side, Santa Maria Cathedral (15), from the 16th century, built in a transitional style between Gothic and Renaissance, with its characteristic octagonal bell tower visible from almost every point of the city. And, on the other, the church of San Miguel (16), dedicated to the patron saint of Alghero and crowned by a colorful dome reminiscent of the trencadís, that mosaic of bright colored tiles that characterizes Catalan modernism.
21.00. Dinner in front of the sea
If the food has been starred by the gastronomic influence of the Crown of Aragon, dinner can be a good time to level up and enjoy a typical Italian cuisine. At the Old Mill (Via Don De Roma, 3) (17) it condenses the charm of the city both in its premises and in its dishes, although, if one seeks not to lose sight of the sea, Miramare Restaurant & Pizzeria d’Autore (Via Gramsci, corner of Piazza de Sulis, 20) (18) It has excellent pizzas made in a wood oven.
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