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Protected by ancient walls with seven fortifying towers, Alghero lies between the sea and a green hinterland of olive trees and vines. Although well geared for tourism with its excellent fish restaurants and countless little shops in the Centro Storico (Old Town), it retains an unhurried charm. With long beaches of soft sand stretching along its winding coastline, sheltered by quiet pine forests and dotted with bars and hotels, it offers a relaxing holiday mix of sun, sea, sand and small city charm. In the citadel’s web of narrow streets, washing hangs beneath the shuttered windows of tall, tightly packed houses and peeling stucco reveal the ancient stone of buildings inhabited for 800 years. Street names are in Italian and Catalan, a dialect that has been spoken here since the 13th century. Bars and restaurants spill out onto cobbled streets and little piazzas, their tables shaded by stylish cream umbrellas. They line the great ramparts, too, affording grand views and cooling sea breezes. The real magic of Alghero comes with the sunset. To stroll along the walls, or sit at a bar and watch the old city’s buildings glow a peachy-apricot colour as the sun sets in a ball of orange fire behind the headland across the bay is one of life’s special pleasures. Get an outdoor table at one of the rampart restaurants, to dine by flickering candlelight, and the romance is complete.
With a medieval city centre, a beautiful marina, lovely sandy beaches with activities such as kitesurfing and plenty of historical sights to visit, a trip to Alghero will never be boring. Within just a few hours from Alghero are also a number of picturesque towns, stunning beaches and breathtaking natural wonders, all making for delightful day-trips.
Famed for its rock lobsters, Alghero is a treat for lovers of fresh fish and seafood, and its Catalan-Italian mix makes for some excellent and unusual dishes. Salami and pecorino (sheep milk cheese) are produced locally. Malloreddus, with sausage and tomato sauce, is the standard Sardinian pasta dish. Local honey appears on most desserts - try gattò, made from almonds, honey and orange peel - and the local red and white wines are excellent, too.
In Alghero there are many cosy places where you can enjoy a delicious Italian ice cream or a perfect Italian espresso. Sardinian ice cream is famed as the best in the world, and not without good reason. Be sure to enjoy come on a blazing hot summer day, followed by coffee the way only Italians know how to make it.
Alghero’s bars are the focus of the town’s nightlife. Be on the ramparts for sunset, and stroll from bar to bar along the Spiaggia di San Giovanni beachfront. Most bars close around 1 or 2am. After that, head for the waterfront south of the city, which stays busy until around 4am in summer. Think bar-hopping, cocktail-sipping and people-watching. In the summer months (June to September) head for the outskirts of the city to find the late night discos.
The narrow streets of the Old Town are made for both shopping and window-shopping. Via Carlo Alberto, shoulder-to-shoulder crowded, is the main shopping street, while elegant boutiques line up on Via Gilbert Ferret. Stroll along Via Roma for fashion and jewellery. Alghero is famous for the glowing, deep red coral found off the nearby Riviera del Corallo coast. Fishing for the coral is strictly regulated - and jewellery fashioned from the real thing does not come cheap. Feast your eyes on the finest at Marogna in the 16th-century Palazzo D’Albis on Piazza Civica. Across the square, Il Ghiotto has a tempting array of local wines, liqueurs, olive oils and speciality foods. If you are there on the last Saturday of the month, do not miss the Arts, Crafts and Antiques Market on the Piazza Civico. In July and August, late night market stalls line the seafront on Lungomare Dante. During the summer many shops stay open until midnight.
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