Sardinia’s coastal cities are well preserved local centers that are well worth a stopover or as a base to explore the surrounding region. Over 10 days, I made it to Cagliari, Alghero, Castelsardo and Bosa. Sardinia has significant airports at Alghero, Olbia and Cagliari, so you can also access the island that way if you’re intent on flying.
Cagliari is Sardinia’s principal city and a great place to arrive off the overnight ferry – there are direct ferry connections from Sicily and mainland Italy.
Cagliari’s castello stands out and is the first thing to take a look at. Sardinia has very Celtic tones and in Sardu the city is called Casteddu – Castle – which sounds rather Welsh or Breton to me.
You have great views from the citadel and it’s worth climbing to the top of the Torre dell’Elefante, one of the city’s remaining two defensive towers.
Cagliari is a great walking town and while it is Sardinia’s largest city it still has a very approachable and accessible feel.
The wall art is random and catchy – who doesn’t appreciate a melting Francis Bacon.
I stayed at the Arcobaleno hotel which was close to the port and was very comfortable. There are plenty of great restaurants in Cagliari, although I would recommend going further afield from the Marina area where they lean a little towards visiting tourists – the Stampace neighborhood and Corso Vittorio Emanuele west of Plaza Venne is worth a look.
Alghero ended up being my favorite spot to stay however – balanced on the northwest corner of the island, it faces out to the open Mediterranean and has a clearly set out medieval fortified port town, with a larger suburban town spreading into the hinterland. It definitely gears to visitors but is really well preserved without getting spoiled. The walls are intact along large stretches and overlook the ocean.
Alghero gets the westerly winds and has plenty of variety in weather.
As with any city in Sardinia, it’s quick to escape into the county. You can rent bikes from Rent a Bike Raggi di Sardegna on Via Maiorca. They also organize longer tours and will recommend itineraries. I got ambitious and decided to head south along the coast road, which had some spectacular views along the way.
I stayed at the Hotel San Francesco which worked well – just ask to see the bathroom before you take the room as mine was ok but on the small side. Alghero has some good craft brew pubs, including the excellent Birreria San Miquel and L’Altra Vineria. If you’re feeling like a more outdoor cocktail with great accompany snacks, Cafe Latino overlooks the Marina. There are plenty of restaurant options in Alghero and it’s hard to go very wrong.
Who came up with Castelsardo? Founded as a stronghold in the 12th century by the Doria family from Genoa, it was also ruled by the Spanish during their period of Mediterranean dominance.
This would have been a tough nut to crack in terms of medieval siege warfare.
It’s not a big town and after the fort there are some narrow streets and pretty standard suburbs.
Castelsardo can be walked thoroughly in half a day however you are back in the 15th century.
Even if you are passing by, it’s worth a stop to check out the place. The Ristorante Il Bounty is outstanding and their seafood pasta is garlicky, fresh and superb. There are a number of B&Bs in the old town and I stayed at the Colti di Rosa which was very comfortable.
I liked Bosa – it’s a relaxed market town located by the Temo River, about 40km south of Alghero. It is slightly inland so has missed out on the beach tourism that has commercialized other Sardinian cities. This is a nice walking town with the obligatory castle on the overlooking hill.