the port of alghero

Why go?
The flight
Hotels
Restaurants and nightlife
Sights and shops
The walk
The Guidebook
What's on when

Why go?

Compared with other resorts in Sardinia, Alghero is refreshingly uncontrived and despite its long Catalan connection - conquered by Aragon in 1353 - (street names appear in Catalan as well as Italian), its old centre has the feel of an ancient Italian town, often being likened to Sorrento or San Remo. The town's cobbled streets are jammed with boutiques, bars and restaurants.

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The flight

Ryanair flies daily to Alghero from Stansted (08701 569569, www.ryanair.com). Taxis to the town centre take 20 minutes and there is also a bus.

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The hotels

For a room at the Hotel Villa Las Tronas - a 19th-century art nouveau villa that was once a holiday home for Italian royalty. A 10-minute stroll from the town centre, the hotel is full of character with wooden shutters, antiques, wrought-iron beds and old-fashioned furnishings throughout. Rooms are on the small side but for more space, ask for one of the sea-facing rooms on the first floor. They have large terracotta balconies.
Villa Las Tronas, Lungomare Valencia 24 (0039 079 981818, www.hotelvillalastronas.com). Also bookable through Magic of Italy (020 8241 5135, www.magictravelgroup.co.uk).

Just up the road from the Villa Las Tronas is the Hotel Carlos V - a large, plushly decorated, modern hotel with panoramic views of the coast. Facilities include a children's pool, miniature golf course and tennis courts. Rooms are comfortable and well equipped, and those at the back are reasonably priced. Carlos V, Lungomare Valencia 24 (0039 079 979501).

The San Francesco is the only hotel to be found in the historic part of Alghero and is evidence that you can still be comfortable on a budget. Formerly a convent attached to San Francesco church, it has a lovely medieval cloistered area where breakfast is served and classical concerts are held in the summer. Rooms are modern and quiet with private bathrooms and telephones.
San Francesco, Via Machin 2 (0039 079 980330).

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Restaurants and nightlife

The restaurants

For tasty, traditional fare and somewhere with a bit of character, try Palau Reial, located on the ground floor of a medieval palazzo. Generous portions of fish and meat are cooked to old Sardinian recipes over an open fire in the small, atmospheric dining room. If you still have room for dessert, try the Seadas - fritters stuffed with cheese and lemon peel and topped with Sardinian honey.
Palau Reial, Via Sant Erasmo (0039 079 980688).

Buy a set five-course feast at Al Tuguri - a cosy, rustic trattoria, located in the centre of old Alghero, specialising in fresh fish cooked to Catalan recipes. Closed on Sundays.
Al Tuguri, Via Maiorca 57 (0039 079 976772).

Pasta and pizza blow-out at the cheap and cheerful Ristorante El Pultal, just off the Piazza Porta Terra. Try Sardinian specialities such as Malloreddus - gnocchi served with tomato sauce and minced sausage, flavoured with saffron, and culungiones - large ravioli stuffed with potato puree, egg yolk, mint, onion and cheese. Then move on to the extensive pizza menu.
Ristorante El Pultal, Via Columbano 40 (0039 079 974720).

Nightlife in Alghero is fairly low key, but start by sipping cocktails outside the elegant Cafe Latino, overlooking the pretty harbour. Enjoy another pre-dinner drink in the centre of old Alghero, where there are a number of rustic bars, such as the Jamaica Inn on Via Principe Umberto. After dinner, the locals make for the Piazza Civica. The Cafe Costantino is good for nightcaps.

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Sights and shops

Alghero's atmospheric old centre is its real attraction, and it can easily be explored on foot. Much of the architecture, which reflects Catalan and Gothic influences, dates from the 16th century. Seven towers, built to strenghthen the town's defences, dominate the centre.

The excursion
From the port, take the three-hour round boat trip to Grotta di Nettuno - a cave system with remarkable rock formations at the bottom of a towering cliff. The journey to the caves lasts about 45 minutes and takes you along the coast, past the pretty bay of Porto Conte as far as the point of Capo Caccia. A cheaper option is to drive or catch a bus to Capo Caccia from where there is a dramatic 654-step descent down a sheer cliff-face to the caves. Not for the faint-hearted.

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The shops

The north-western coast of Sardinia is well-known for its coral and this sum buys you a coral and gold bracelet from Arte Orafa, a designer jewellery shop on Via Carlo Alberto.

For a bottle of Cannonau Riserva 1998 - a full-bodied, locally produced red wine from Salumeria del Centro on Via Kennedy.

Buy a litre of Algheran olive oil and a selection of pretty Sardinian cakes from the Antica Formaggeria deli on the corner of Via Genova and Via Cagliari.

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The walk

At sunset, take the pleasant stroll along the seafront to the port, starting from Lungomare Dante on the south side. The route is lined with a series of ramparts and towers, coming to an end at the Forte de la Magdalena - the city's most important Spanish fortification. A plaque commemorates Giuseppe Garibaldi's landing here on August 14, 1855. After all that exertion, culture and history, treat yourself to an ice cream.

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The guidebook

Rough Guide's Sardinia has a comprehensive section on Alghero with thorough listings of hotels, bars and restaurants as well as useful maps. Dorling Kindersley's Sardinia has only a few pages on Alghero but gives a good overview of what to buy, eat and drink in Sardinia as a whole.

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What's on when

Easter celebrations, including the procession of statues through town, have a Spanish feel. A World Music Festival takes place throughout August. Classical concerts are staged at the Grotta di Nettuno and San Francesco church. For further information, contact the Italian Tourist Board in London (020 7408 1254, www.enit.it) or in Alghero itself (0039 079 935124).

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