Alghero, in north-western Sardinia, is one of the island’s most seductive towns. It was ruled by the Spanish between 1400 and 1700 and this influence is writ large in the old quarter, called Barcelonetta, or Little Barcelona. The cobbled streets here still have a distinctive Catalan character and, to this day, the locals speak a Catalan dialect. The new town spreads out on the other side of the 16th-century walls, and offers easy access to a royal flush of white, sandy beaches.
A roll call of beaches
Just north of Alghero’s marina is the Lido, also known as San Giovanni Beach. It’s a 1.5-kilometre ribbon of sand and a great spot for sun-worshippers. For something even more spectacular, just 5 minutes away by car is Maria Pia Beach, a long stretch of ice-white sand fringed by fragrant pine forests. The Mediterranean is warm, crystalline, and child-friendly. Or head to nearby Bombarde Beach, which has a lively line-up of beach bars with DJs spinning the decks.
The old quarter
Barcelonetta is Alghero’s well-heeled old quarter and the heartbeat of the town. Spread among its tangle of cool alleyways and grandiose piazzas is a varied choice of trattorias, plus some of the best ice-cream parlours in Sardinia. History buffs can goggle at Alghero Cathedral, built in Catalan Gothic style, and the lavish Palazzo d’Albis. And if you follow the seafront fortifications, you’ll arrive at the marina, which is filled with an armada of luxury yachts.
Close to Capo Caccia
A 25-minute drive away is Capo Caccia, whose dramatic limestone cliffs are undercut by natural caves. Neptune’s Grotto, containing stalactites and stalagmites dating back 65 million years, is the most visited tourist attraction in the area. But there are underwater caves, too, that divers and snorkelers can access. Nereo’s Grotto, with its network of tunnels and archways, is the pick of the lot.