As I was coming into Santa Teresa di Gallura on the ferry from Corsica, I was overcome with excitement. For many reasons, but I knew that Sardinia was my last TCC country in Europe and also that amazing Italian food was only a short walk from the port into town. In addition, I was aiming to explore the northwest part of the island. With my very good Italian and the direction of a very helpful information booth at the port, I was able to both figure out the bus schedule to Alghero and also find the best restaurant in Santa Teresa di Gallura to tide myself over. The timing worked out perfectly and it gave me three hours to eat, explore the town, the beach and comfortably make the bus and claim the back middle seat to maximize legroom!
First things first, I had to locate the highly recommended Pape Satan pizzeria in town. Once I walked the 15 minutes or so uphill from the port I was a sweaty mess and very excited for a cold acqua frizzante and some pasta and pizza. It did not disappoint. In fact it was tremendous. After a lovely lunch in the garden I asked if I could leave my bag with the restaurant proprietor while I went to check out the town square and coast. He was amenable and I was off.
Santa Teresa is a cool little town that is perfect for a few hours in transit and if you had to spend the night, it wouldn’t be bad either. There is plenty to do with a beautiful beach, great gelaterias and colorful town to explore. However, I caught my 3pm bus to Alghero Airport to get the rental car and finally made it into Alghero around 7pm or so. After a while looking, I settled in at the La Margherita Hotel right in the old city, 2 blocks off the water.
Alghero is the second largest city on Sardinia after Cagliari and is a very pretty place to be. It is right on the coast, has some nice beaches in the city and is also close to both wineries and more beaches along the cape just north of the city. It also boasts proximity to the awesome Grotta Di Nettuno.
The Grotto Di Nettuno is a gorgeous cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites in a mountainous cove wedged some 700 feet or so down. In order to get to it, you can either take a boat from Alghero or you can drive over to it and walk down over 600 steps and some amazing scenery. Obviously, I walked and it was really cool. Once you arrive in the cave, you were greeted with an awesome natural scene with the perfect amount of light coming in from the cave hole. They also offer a 12 euro tour of the cave which I did not do because I’ve been on cave tours before and 12 euros is too much for something like that to explain about the rock formations etc. Going up the 600 steps was another story.
It was painful but fun at the same time. It was one of those things where you just take it in stages and give yourself short term goals. It is very hot and there are plateau levels so you just aim for that. To be honest, I got up pretty fast, I’d say in about 15 minutes or so but I am sore today as I am writing this on the plane to London but well worth the great experience.
Back toward Alghero and Capo Caccia there are some other really nice beaches so I stopped at Spiaggia Lazzarotte (below) where the sand was packed with Italians in small bathing suits, both men and women per the usual. It is always entertaining to say the least. The water was chilly but really nice and clear. After 2 hours or so I headed back toward town and stopped at the much larger and spacious city beaches with great views of the old town and Alghero.
Alghero itself is divided between the new city that is more or less off the beach and the walled old city with very impressive ramparts bordering it from the sea. The ramparts are packed at night with people having dinner, strolling or my personal favorite-eating gelati! As with most places in Italy, there are no shortages of places to eat.
Alghero has a distinct feel though of Catalan. In fact, it was ruled by the Catalans for some 300 years. The menus often include paella and other Spanish favorites. In fact, Catalan is still spoken by locals and all the street signs are in both Catalan and Italian. Also, all the street addresses in the old town have the Catalan flag above the number of the house (above). I found this very interesting. Some of the layout of the old city and port looked like you could have been in Barcelona if you didn’t know any better.
The beauty of the city should not be underscored as the old city is much like others in Italy and on the Mediterranean. The old town alleyways and streets have character and the two big churches in town mark the skyline. However, the ramparts (below) and the walled city set it apart in my mind. Dining at sunset on the ramparts at any one of the fabulous places is memorable and then strolling the alleyways and shops of the interior.
Alghero is very family oriented and while there is no shortage of places to eat and drink, there aren’t many nightclubs or bars to speak of. Not that I was looking to party but a nice cocktail or local beer or wine is a nice way to cap off the night overlooking the water.
I really enjoyed my time in Alghero and northeastern Sardinia. I had originally planned on heading east to Olbia and Porto Cervo on the Costa Smeralda but the ungodly prohibitive prices and the fact my plane left from Alghero sent me west. It ended working out for the best as it usually does and I loved my two days on Sardinia.
The whole time I was thinking to myself how does Sardinia compare to Sicily, Lampedusa, Capri and other Italian islands I’ve been to and the truth is they are all different and there isn’t a good way to compare. I like that conclusion best because they are all great but after my experience, I cannot wait to go back and explore the rest of this Italian jewel.
I will be spending the next few days in London visiting friends and then heading out to the Faroe Islands and Iceland…stay tuned!