Enjoying the sun and sights on the Italian isle of Sardinia

By JoAnne Hungate
This article appears on page 42 of the March 2015 issue.
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JoAnne Hungate looking out over Alghero’s harbor, filled with handsome yachts and fishing boats.

My husband, Bob, had always wanted to go to the Italian island of Sardinia, and in 2013 he decided it was the time. He found a tiny apartment for us in the old walled city of Alghero. Listed online at VRBO.com (listing No. 1000021), the apartment cost 665 ($751) per week during September. We were there for 11 sunny days. 

We flew from Tucson, Arizona, to Alghero. When our American Airlines flight to Los Angeles, where we would connect to a nonstop flight to Rome, was canceled, we were momentarily concerned, as there were no other flights to LAX that arrived in time for us to catch our Alitalia flight, but American Airlines was on it immediately, sending us through Chicago to Heathrow and on to Rome. From Rome, we caught a flight to Alghero with only a few hours’ time loss.

Alghero

We didn’t know much about Sardinia, other than it was mountainous and surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, so we thought Alghero, an ancient walled city on the western edge of the island, facing Spain, sounded as good a place to go as any. We were so fortunate to have made that choice because we don’t think there is another walled city with such a beautiful harbor and such an interesting and complex history.

The night we arrived we took a cab (arranged by our landlord) to the arched entrance in the city’s wall. There we met the representative who would give us the keys to the apartment and show us how everything worked. Her English was minimal and our Italian is the same, but we were able to communicate using hand gestures. 

Since our luggage did not arrive with us, we had been given white T-shirts and small toiletry kits by the airline. With nothing to unpack, we thought finding a place to eat would be a good idea. 

We found a tiny place, Plaça Cívica, just a few doors from the apartment and, tired, we were not up to much exploring. We enjoyed our dinner of spinach-and-ricotta ravioli, a caprese salad and two quarter liters of wine, plus cover charge, cost 32 ($36). 

View from the harbor of Alghero’s Old City.

Our apartment, in a 15th-century stone building, was up two long flights of stairs and facing the Piazza Civica. The building was actually built into the wall of the city. 

The inside of the apartment was very new and modern. It consisted of one long room that included a sofa near the small balcony, a small dining table and chairs and, situated in the back, by the entry, a kitchen (in red). There was a bathroom with a shower (no tub) and a washing machine and drying rack. 

The sofa could be pulled out to use as a bed, but the real bedroom was a loft at the top of a circular staircase. There were some storage closets and bedside tables with reading lamps. 

The biggest drawback there was the 5-foot ceiling height! Getting up in the middle of the night required you to be awake enough not to hit your head and to navigate the circular staircase down to the bathroom. But this obstacle was minor, as we soon realized what a super-special location we had found.

Delectable dining

It became our daily morning habit to wander through the narrow streets as the shopkeepers were opening up, then stop at an outdoor café by a park just outside the city wall for a latté and espresso along with a couple croissants. There we would watch women pulling their carts to shop at the market, people as they hustled off to their jobs, and elders, mostly men, filling up the park benches to visit with each other.

The tourist office was just across the street from our coffee spot, so we could easily stop in to find out which buses went where and when. The bus stops were also within a block of this favorite outdoor spot. 

We’d finish our coffee and stroll along one of the many narrow, cobbled streets, exploring the various items in the shops, or we’d walk down a few blocks to the harbor, where there was always a lot of colorful activity and several opportunities for a sightseeing boat ride. 

On our first day, we walked along the top of the wall, where we viewed the harbor and the sea. I was immediately drawn to one set of outdoor tables, at Ristorante O. Our lunch there was elegant and very delicious. We enjoyed  the 3-course menu, with wine, for 61. 

We met the owners, Roberta and her master chef husband, Eoghain O’Neill. Their indoor restaurant was located down a level, at via Sant’Erasmo, and we went back that evening to try their foie gras pizza (with wine, 29). It was a splurge, but we had decided to treat ourselves. (Before we had the fancy pizza, we had an Aperol with soda and a Negroni at Caffé Latino [Bastioni Magellano, 10] for 11.50 and watched the sun set over the Mediterranean.)

Other times, we would just have a few appetizers as our dinner to go with our evening drink and sunset view at Caffé Latino. We had very good fish at several restaurants.

One of the most unusual and interesting dining experiences we had was at Mabrouk (via Santa Barbara 4), a small, crowded seafood restaurant hidden down a cobbled street. The set 4-course menu allows diners to experience as many as 10 different types of locally caught seafood, with as much wine and water as required. 

The food came at a fast pace, and every table was full of happy diners, so reservations are advised. They don’t take credit cards, but we felt the cost (40 per person) was very reasonable. Just seeing all those dishes and the flair with which they were delivered was worth the price!

Along the coast

One day we took a bus south along the beautiful coastline to the small village of Bosa, set on the water. We explored the village on foot, walking along the streets that stair-stepped up the side of a steep hill. 

We had lunch there before catching a bus back along the same coastline, but going in the opposite direction at a different time of day offered an alternate view. 

We discovered the food markets just outside the city wall and enjoyed seeing the various fish and other seafood, vegetables and fruits for sale, but we didn’t purchase much food to cook with, as there were so many options available for eating out while enjoying the beautiful views across the very blue Mediterranean. 

We enjoyed Sardinia’s scenery as we traveled along the coast by bus. (We even took the bus to the airport when we left.) It was freeing not to have a car to park and to be able to plan each day just as we chose. Bus fares were reasonable. 

Heading north by bus, another day trip took us to see one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, in Stintino. This is a big beach community, and we found that sitting space on the beach was at a premium. All the beach chairs were grouped in separate sections, with a different person in charge of each group renting his or hers for the day or half day. 

A view of the kitchen in our little apartment and the spiral staircase that led up to the loft.

The water was crystal clear and lined with wonderful fine-sand beaches. Wading out just a short distance, I almost stepped on a small flounder lying in the sand. 

The beaches we visited weren’t very busy, but mid-September is past the regular season, so that might be the explanation. 

We often met other travelers when we were dining out plus some on the bus, but nowhere did we meet others from North America. 

It has been more than a year, and we still talk about our wonderful, unguided adventure in beautiful Alghero.    

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
JoAnne Hungate looking out over Alghero’s harbor, filled with handsome yachts and fishing boats.

My husband, Bob, had always wanted to go to the Italian island of Sardinia, and in 2013 he decided it was the time. He found a tiny apartment for us in the old walled city of Alghero. Listed online at VRBO.com (listing No. 1000021), the apartment cost 665 ($751) per week during September. We were there for 11 sunny days. 

We flew from Tucson, Arizona, to Alghero. When our American Airlines flight to Los Angeles, where we would connect to a nonstop flight to Rome, was canceled, we were momentarily concerned, as there were no other flights to LAX that arrived in time for us to catch our Alitalia flight, but American Airlines was on it immediately, sending us through Chicago to Heathrow and on to Rome. From Rome, we caught a flight to Alghero with only a few hours’ time loss.

Alghero

We didn’t know much about Sardinia, other than it was mountainous and surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, so we thought Alghero, an ancient walled city on the western edge of the island, facing Spain, sounded as good a place to go as any. We were so fortunate to have made that choice because we don’t think there is another walled city with such a beautiful harbor and such an interesting and complex history.

The night we arrived we took a cab (arranged by our landlord) to the arched entrance in the city’s wall. There we met the representative who would give us the keys to the apartment and show us how everything worked. Her English was minimal and our Italian is the same, but we were able to communicate using hand gestures. 

Since our luggage did not arrive with us, we had been given white T-shirts and small toiletry kits by the airline. With nothing to unpack, we thought finding a place to eat would be a good idea. 

We found a tiny place, Plaça Cívica, just a few doors from the apartment and, tired, we were not up to much exploring. We enjoyed our dinner of spinach-and-ricotta ravioli, a caprese salad and two quarter liters of wine, plus cover charge, cost 32 ($36). 

View from the harbor of Alghero’s Old City.

Our apartment, in a 15th-century stone building, was up two long flights of stairs and facing the Piazza Civica. The building was actually built into the wall of the city. 

The inside of the apartment was very new and modern. It consisted of one long room that included a sofa near the small balcony, a small dining table and chairs and, situated in the back, by the entry, a kitchen (in red). There was a bathroom with a shower (no tub) and a washing machine and drying rack. 

The sofa could be pulled out to use as a bed, but the real bedroom was a loft at the top of a circular staircase. There were some storage closets and bedside tables with reading lamps. 

The biggest drawback there was the 5-foot ceiling height! Getting up in the middle of the night required you to be awake enough not to hit your head and to navigate the circular staircase down to the bathroom. But this obstacle was minor, as we soon realized what a super-special location we had found.

Delectable dining

It became our daily morning habit to wander through the narrow streets as the shopkeepers were opening up, then stop at an outdoor café by a park just outside the city wall for a latté and espresso along with a couple croissants. There we would watch women pulling their carts to shop at the market, people as they hustled off to their jobs, and elders, mostly men, filling up the park benches to visit with each other.

The tourist office was just across the street from our coffee spot, so we could easily stop in to find out which buses went where and when. The bus stops were also within a block of this favorite outdoor spot. 

We’d finish our coffee and stroll along one of the many narrow, cobbled streets, exploring the various items in the shops, or we’d walk down a few blocks to the harbor, where there was always a lot of colorful activity and several opportunities for a sightseeing boat ride. 

On our first day, we walked along the top of the wall, where we viewed the harbor and the sea. I was immediately drawn to one set of outdoor tables, at Ristorante O. Our lunch there was elegant and very delicious. We enjoyed  the 3-course menu, with wine, for 61. 

We met the owners, Roberta and her master chef husband, Eoghain O’Neill. Their indoor restaurant was located down a level, at via Sant’Erasmo, and we went back that evening to try their foie gras pizza (with wine, 29). It was a splurge, but we had decided to treat ourselves. (Before we had the fancy pizza, we had an Aperol with soda and a Negroni at Caffé Latino [Bastioni Magellano, 10] for 11.50 and watched the sun set over the Mediterranean.)

Other times, we would just have a few appetizers as our dinner to go with our evening drink and sunset view at Caffé Latino. We had very good fish at several restaurants.

One of the most unusual and interesting dining experiences we had was at Mabrouk (via Santa Barbara 4), a small, crowded seafood restaurant hidden down a cobbled street. The set 4-course menu allows diners to experience as many as 10 different types of locally caught seafood, with as much wine and water as required. 

The food came at a fast pace, and every table was full of happy diners, so reservations are advised. They don’t take credit cards, but we felt the cost (40 per person) was very reasonable. Just seeing all those dishes and the flair with which they were delivered was worth the price!

Along the coast

One day we took a bus south along the beautiful coastline to the small village of Bosa, set on the water. We explored the village on foot, walking along the streets that stair-stepped up the side of a steep hill. 

We had lunch there before catching a bus back along the same coastline, but going in the opposite direction at a different time of day offered an alternate view. 

We discovered the food markets just outside the city wall and enjoyed seeing the various fish and other seafood, vegetables and fruits for sale, but we didn’t purchase much food to cook with, as there were so many options available for eating out while enjoying the beautiful views across the very blue Mediterranean. 

We enjoyed Sardinia’s scenery as we traveled along the coast by bus. (We even took the bus to the airport when we left.) It was freeing not to have a car to park and to be able to plan each day just as we chose. Bus fares were reasonable. 

Heading north by bus, another day trip took us to see one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, in Stintino. This is a big beach community, and we found that sitting space on the beach was at a premium. All the beach chairs were grouped in separate sections, with a different person in charge of each group renting his or hers for the day or half day. 

A view of the kitchen in our little apartment and the spiral staircase that led up to the loft.

The water was crystal clear and lined with wonderful fine-sand beaches. Wading out just a short distance, I almost stepped on a small flounder lying in the sand. 

The beaches we visited weren’t very busy, but mid-September is past the regular season, so that might be the explanation. 

We often met other travelers when we were dining out plus some on the bus, but nowhere did we meet others from North America. 

It has been more than a year, and we still talk about our wonderful, unguided adventure in beautiful Alghero.