Alghero is a tourist destination that manages to put everyone in agreement. For the young there is a great variety of nice clubs and discos and the sea of course, for those who prefer to spend a few relaxing days, Alghero offers beautiful walks, restaurants and cool evenings by the sea. The history of this city began in 1102, when the Doria family decided to build a fortress-city from Genoa, with walls still visible today. The predominant architectural style is Aragonese and Catalan, because the city has been dominated by the Aragonese. In short, an architectural, linguistic and even culinary mix, very interesting, unique in Sardinia.
Just under Spanish rule the city experienced a great architectural development, but also a cultural one, with the influences of the Catalan, which can still be felt today in the dialect of the city. Alghero is a favorite destination for both Italians and foreigners, precisely because of its versatility, and for the convenience of connections with the ship and the plane. Let’s find out what are the things to see in Alghero, from natural monuments like the caves of Nettuno, the cliffs of Capo Caccia and Punta del Giglio (in addition to the fantastic beaches, such as Mugoni, Porto Ferro, the Bombarde …), to the churches , from nuraghi and necropolises to palaces and towers, without forgetting a visit to the Cathedral with its bell tower and the promenade with a stop in the beautiful civic square.
1. Caves of Neptune
The Caves of Neptune are one of the major attractions of Alghero in terms of nature, these sea caves are karst formations that owe their name to the God of the Sea. You can get to the caves by following a stairway made up of 654 steps called the Escala del Cabirol, or through the ferry that takes you directly to the destination from the marina. The most beautiful thing is the formations of stalagmites and stalactites that can be admired and that create real natural spectacles. Inside the cave there is la Marmora lake, over 100 m long, fed by the waters of the sea. The caves wind along 4 kilometers of coastline. These caves are located just below the Capo Caccia promontory.
2. Capo Caccia Promontory
The Capo Caccia Promontory, in addition to being fascinating for its natural beauty, is also an important place from a historical point of view. Here, in fact, several archaeological discoveries have been made. The surrounding seabed is rich in red coral and Nereo lagrotta is the ideal place for lovers of scuba diving, who can also admire groupers and lobsters here. The Grotta di Nereo is the largest submerged cave in the Mediterranean Sea; you can access it through three levels of depression, located at 18, 20 and 38 meters and in addition to the coral here you can enjoy the view of the sea daisies. The promontory of Capo Caccia has an impressive height and falls sheer to the clear waters, it is part of the Marine Protected Area of Capo Caccia. Here you can still see the griffin, an extinct bird of prey, flying high in the skies.
3. The Ramparts and the Towers
The ancient walls of the Alghero fortress are still visible in different parts of the city. The original walls, dating back to the 12th century, were extended with the passage of time and underwent major changes during the 16th century. During 1867 following the royal decree, Alghero lost its importance as a defensive outpost and the walls began a path of decline. Today it is possible to admire eight towers inside the walls and 11 externally. Go and see the Tower of Porta Terra, which is located at the end of Via Vittorio Emanuele II, which once served as the entry point to the city and was called Porta Reial. Its portal is decorated with sandstone and the Jewish community contributed financially to its construction. Today, several exhibitions are held inside and conferences and conventions are held.
What we now call the Tower of San Giovanni was once called the Tower of San Michele or the Torre di Mezzo; very particular its radial vault. Its height was not the current one, in fact during 1700 it was considerably reduced. The Tower of Sulis, once was called Torre dello Sperone, the current name derives from Vincenzo Sulis, a tribune of Cagliari who was imprisoned in this tower from 1799 to 1821, accused of treason that, at first he was sentenced to life imprisonment , but then in 1821 he was released. This tower also went down in history because on the night of May 5, 1412, the population of Alghero from here managed to repel the French offensive. The spiral staircase connecting the two rooms from which it is built is very particular.
La Torre di San Giacomo is known to the population as the Torre dei Cani, because inside it once housed a kennel. The current name is due to St. James and King James I the Conqueror. Most likely it was restored during the 1600s and in the overall style recalls the Gothic and Catalan architecture. The Powder Tower was once used as a deposit for weapons, ammunition and gunpowder, was built during the 1700s, under the rule of the House of Savoy. Near the Powder Tower we find the Garitta Reale, the tower that had the task of controlling the entire Gulf of Alghero. The Tower of Sant’Elmo, which in reality is dedicated to Sant’Erasmo (which in El Catalan is pronounced), a sailor, has always been venerated in Alghero. The coat of arms of the Crown of Aragon, still visible today on an external side, is very particular. Finally, the Torre della Maddalena was built during the 1500s as well as the fort attached to it. It is called so because on a niche there is a statue most probably depicting the Magdalene, but it is often referred to as the Tower of Garibaldi, to celebrate the hero of the two worlds who landed in Alghero in 1855.
4. Cathedral of Santa Maria
The Cathedral of Santa Maria ad Alghero has a beautiful octagonal bell tower, which is clearly visible from different points of the city. The church is located in the historic center and can be visited. Even the Campanile can be visited, but you pay for the ticket and it is open every day, except Wednesdays and Sundays. In the months of April, May, September and October, the visiting hours are from 10.30 to 13.00 and from 16.00 to 18.30, while in the summer months of June, July and August the times are 10.30 – 13 , 00 and 19.00 – 21.30. Check days and times for safety before visiting it. When there are adverse weather conditions and during the winter it is not possible to visit the bell tower. We do not know the exact date of the construction of this cathedral, certainly it was carried out after 1530. As a whole the dominant style is the Catalan Gothic style, although there is some Renaissance influence, due to the continuation of the works for several years, works that even ended during the first half of the 1600s. Inside the cathedral is divided into three naves separated from each other with three Doric columns. On the left side we find three chapels dedicated to San Carlo Borromeo, the Anime del Purgatorio and San Filippo Neri. Also on the right side there are three chapels dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, to Sant’Erasmo and to San Narcisio and Sant’Isidoro. At the end of the central aisle we find the high altar which is presented in a particular Rococo style. To reach the altar you have to climb six steps and there is a statue of the Virgin Mary among the angels, while on a shelf, on the right side of the altar we find the statue of St. Peter. The two frescoes by Stanis Dessy, Sardinian painter, engraver and sculptor, depicting the expulsion from Paradise and Maria Assunta, are very particular. Behind the altar we find the apse with five chapels, one dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows, one called the Chapel of the Bell Tower, an empty one, a fourth called the Chapel of the Falsa Croce and the last one dedicated to Saint Andrew. Inside the church there are also numerous other chapels, all particular and among which stands out the Chapel of the Holy Spirit where the Crucifix of the Privileged was present, which today is exhibited at the Diocesan Museum. Also inside this chapel is the sarcophagus of the martyr of Rome San Donaziano.
5. Church of San Francesco
This church is a source of pride for the Catalan Gothic style in Sardinia. You can find it in the central Via Carlo Alberto. Its facade, in typical Franciscan style, is very simple, the coat of arms of the Franciscans is visible on the portal. The exact date of its construction is unknown, according to some historians it dates back to the fourteenth century, while others date the construction back to the following century. Certainly the church was built in two different construction phases: initially the cloister and the bell tower were built, then it was enlarged with the addition of the convent. The original layout of the church consisted of a single nave, but during the 16th century it was modified and assumed the current one of three naves. In the central nave we find a barrel-vault, while in the aisles the cross-vaulted one. The central part was rebuilt following a collapse in 1593. The bell tower is a spire. The ink is certainly the most archaic construction and is formed with round arches, on which columns with decorated capitals rest. It is located next to the church in the adjacent convent and must absolutely be visited.
6. Church of San Michele
In the place where today the church of San Michele stands, there was once another religious building, always dedicated to the same saint. The present building dates back to 1661. The existing church was given to the Jesuits by Bishop Baccallar in 1584 in order to build a college of the Society of Jesus, whose work began five years later. The activity of the college ended in 1774, when Pope Clement XIV dissolved the company of Jesus. The present church was born from a project by Domenico Spotorno and the works lasted for several years. In 1950 the Jesuits returned to Alghero and bought a part of the building that they turned into a library. The façade of the church is in a very linear style with three windows and the wooden portal on which there is a marble bas-relief. Inside the church is divided into a single nave with a barrel vault. On each side of the nave there are three chapels, very special are those dedicated to the Immaculate Virgin, to Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, to Francesco Saverio, to San Michele and to the Madonna della Freccia. At the center of the altar it is possible to admire a painting depicting St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of Alghero.
7. Palazzo d’Albìs
Walking through the city, in the historic center, you will find the Palazzo d’Albìs, once called Palazzo de Ferrera, because it was built by the De Ferrera family in the 16th century. The D’Albìs took possession of it only later. The palace shows its Catalan architectural style and is built on three floors. This historic building was the seat of the city governor and the Viceroys of Sardinia stayed here. It is known because in 1541 it hosted the emperor Charles V.
8. Civic square and waterfront
Do not miss a stop in the beautiful square of the city, the civic square with old buildings, restaurants and outdoor bar, a connection point between the historic center and the port. You find it very close to the port, and it is the center of commercial activities, from here the streets full of shops, even of souvenirs, depart.
9. Nuragic Complex of Palmavera
For archeology lovers, we recommend a visit to this beautiful nuragic complex. This site came to light in 1903, following the archaeological excavations of Antonio Taramelli, who decided to dig also in Palmavera, where there were present what at the time appeared as so many stones. During the excavation, however, this complex did not come to light, as we admire it today, as excavations were interrupted and resumed only in 1960 by the will of the Archaeological Superintendency which continued the work. The nuraghi in Palmavera were real homes. This complex was built in other historical periods: the most archaic part, which includes some huts and the capital tower, called Mastio, was built between 1600 and 1300 BC; the second tower, the courtyard and the bastion were built between 1300 and 1150 BC, all the rest was built around the year 1000 BC The complex can be visited every day; in the summer period it follows the schedule 09.00 – 19.00 in the winter 10.00-14.00. Check the schedules for security. We recommend a guided tour. The entrance ticket is € 3.50, adding € 2.50. You can take a dip into the past together with a specialized guide who will make you fully enjoy your visit. You can rent an audio guide.
10. Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju
Still for archaeology lovers, we recommend a visit to the Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju which is the largest Sardinian necropolis. This necropolis is a “Domus de Janas” or a house of fairies and witches. The complex came to light during the excavations of 1903 by Antonio Tamarelli. In fact, a skull and a vase were found in this area and excavations immediately began which led to the discovery of 31 hypogeums. Inside the necropolis we have the cockpit openings and the dromos ones, the latter having a larger cell, which is the entrance cell, where the funeral rite was held and others more restricted, destined for burial. There are explanatory panels along the way. Over the years there have been several excavations carried out on this site, including those of 1936 during which four tombs and those of 1967 with the discovery of other three emerged. All the finds that were found during the excavation campaigns are exposed in Sassari, at the Sanna National Museum. Since you visited the adjacent estate of the Sella and Mosca wineries, of which the area once belonged (after the discovery of the necropolis the owners of the estate gave the land to the municipality).
11. Necropolis of Santu Pedru
The Necropolis of Santu Pedru is made up of ten tombs and came to light following the works for the construction of the Alghero aqueduct. At the entrance of the necropolis it is possible to admire the most important tomb which is the Tetrapod Tomb or Tomb I. It consists of 9 cells, you enter through a corridor that leads to the largest cell, which leads to the smaller ones. It owes its name to the various finds that were found inside it, including the Tetrapod Vases. On the highest part of Santu Pedru it is also possible to admire a nuraghe with a single tower.
12. Punta Giglio
This tip is one of the many natural beauties of which Alghero is rich and is practically a limestone promontory. On the western side of this promontory it is possible to see several strongholds and some points from which the cannons of war were fired during the Second World War. These cannons rested on some bases built with limestone, so they were camouflaged with the ground and were difficult to spot. Precisely because of its strategic position, always during the Second World War, this promontory was used as an anti-aircraft base. Throughout the promontory you can smell the scent of the lily, a plant present in abundance, to which it owes its name. Very special are the grottos, many of which can only be reached through a dive. Among the most important we remember the Grotta dei Cervi and the Grotta dei Fantasmi.
13. Porto Conte
The beautiful Porto Conte is a natural harbor, but at the same time a Natural Park with more than 5000 hectares of Mediterranean vegetation and the presence of different species of animals. Its peculiarity is the color of the waters, which are really clear. This port was already known at the time of the astronomer Claudio Tolomeo who named it “Portus Nimpharum” or the Port of the Nymphs.
14. Alghero Aquarium
If you are in Alghero on a rainy day, after visiting the historic center, you could also visit the city’s aquarium, inaugurated in 1985. The aquarium is divided into several sections: a large central tank that houses sharks of different species, from colorful leopard sharks to peaceful nurse sharks, to the feared blacktip sharks. Then there are about fifteen tanks that are dedicated to the various species of the Mediterranean, both coastal and high seas. At the time of writing unfortunately the aquarium is in poor condition and those who have visited it have not been happy … We await improvements …