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Alghero

Also known as 'Barceloneta', little Barcelona, it is the capital of the Coral Riviera and preserves the language and traditions of Catalonia. The etymology of the name is assumed to be due to the word Aleguerium (seaweed), due to the leaves of the marine plant Posidonia oceanica, erroneously called seaweed, which, during the seasonal change of seasons, are deposited on the Alghero coastline after sea storms. In its waters, the precious red coral is present in great abundance and is of such economic importance that a branch of it is included in the city's coat of arms.

Founded by the Genoese Doria family in the 12th century (1102) in the north-western part of Sardinia, for two centuries, thanks to its strategic position, it was part of the maritime republics.

In the mid-13th century, Alghero was occupied by the Aragonese following their victory in the naval battle of Porto Conte, in which the Genoese were defeated by Bernardo Cabrera's fleet allied, for the occasion, with the Venetians. There were later other attempts to take over the city by the Genoese themselves and by Arborean troops, but these were promptly repulsed by the Aragonese.

In 1501, Alghero acquired the title of Royal City, thanks to King Ferdinand the Catholic. The Kingdom of Sardinia then passed into the hands of the Savoys in 1720, but Alghero did not lose its Catalan identity, so much so that, in 1850, a catechism in Catalan was printed for the use of the Algherese. Even today, 20 per cent of the inhabitants speak a kind of archaic Catalan, and although it is not an official language, the Catalan of Alghero has been recognised by the Italian Republic and the Autonomous Region of Sardinia as a minority language and as such is subject to protection.


THINGS TO SEE

In 1501, Alghero acquired the title of Royal City, thanks to King Ferdinand the Catholic. The Kingdom of Sardinia then passed into the hands of the Savoys in 1720, but Alghero did not lose its Catalan identity, so much so that, in 1850, a catechism in Catalan was printed for the use of the Algherese. Even today, 20 per cent of the inhabitants speak a kind of archaic Catalan, and although it is not an official language, the Catalan of Alghero has been recognised by the Italian Republic and the Autonomous Region of Sardinia as a minority language and as such is subject to protection.

Located on the mountain of the same name, the necropolis of Santu Pedru consists of ten tombs dug into the trachyte rock, many of which are ruined, the most important being tomb number I, called the 'tomb of the tetrapod vases' due to the discovery of two vases with four feet; tomb number IV is also worth mentioning, as it was converted into a church in the early Middle Ages and in the main chamber there are two altars dedicated to St. Peter and St. Lucy.

When you stroll along the streets of Alghero's historical centre, you will have the opportunity to visit several architecturally important churches, such as the 16th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria, the church of San Francesco, flanked by the convent, and the church of San Michele, dedicated to the patron saint, with its dome covered externally in polychrome tiles, which has become one of the symbols of the city. You will then come across buildings that belonged to nobles or aristocratic families from various eras: Gothic, such as the Palazzo de Ferrera or the Machin; of Savoy Baroque style is the Palazzo Serra and from the Neoclassical period, the Teatro Civico. Among these buildings, there are a number of valuable ones, more than twenty, that testify to the important strategic role the city played in the Catalan political scene.

Alghero has retained about 70 per cent of its walls with their seven towers and three forts. The recently restored bastions, dating back to the Catalan-Aragonese period, surround the old town until they join the Lungomare Dante, built in the 1950s, which together offer a promenade along the sea.

Not to be missed are the Archaeological Museum (MUSA), the Mare Nostrum Aquarium Nature Museum, the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, and the Coral Museum (MACOR). Not to be outdone is the Sella e Mosca Ethnographic Museum, inside the wine estate of the same name, which is also a stone's throw from the Anghelu Ruju Necropolis. Fertilia airport is 6 km from the centre of Alghero and can be easily reached thanks to the public transport of the ARST company (line 9373 'AL.FA') and the various private transfer, car rental or bus rental services.

Fertilia airport is 6 km from the centre of Alghero and can be easily reached thanks to the public transport of the ARST company (line 9373 'AL.FA') and the various private transfer, car rental or bus rental services.

 

A site of primary natural interest is the protected marine area of Capo Caccia Isola Piana, with a spectacular sea cave, the Grotta di Nettuno (Neptune's Cave), accessible by sea thanks to the Linea Grotte (Cave Line) service, departing from the tourist harbour or by land along the 'Escala del Cabirol' (roe deer staircase), consisting of 660 steps and 'carved' into the promontory's ridge. It begins with the great hall of Lake Lamarmora, one of the largest salt lakes in Europe, and in the Smith Hall stands the Great Organ, the largest column in the entire cave. On the east side of the promontory, accessible only by sea, are the Grotta dei Ricami and the Grotta Verde. For climbing enthusiasts, the Via Ferrata del Cabirol, runs along the walls facing west, up to 203 metres high, in that portion of the coast between the Foradada viewpoint and the Neptune Caves.

For climbing enthusiasts, the Via Ferrata del Cabirol, runs along the walls facing west, up to 203 metres high, in that portion of the coast between the Foradada viewpoint and the Neptune Caves.

Not far from the hamlet of Tramariglio, it is possible to go trekking in the protected area of Noah's Ark, a vast area that includes Monte Timidone and Punta Cristallo, where it is possible to admire the flight of griffon vultures and the splendid Cala d'Inferno, and where the sheltered sea allows for snorkelling. Other recommended spots are Cala Dragunara, Punta Giglio, the two caves on the island of Foradada and Porto Conte, the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean, and it is also possible to go horseback riding, side-by-side and trekking biking. Scuba diving enthusiasts can enjoy some of the most spectacular environments in the Mediterranean, with the Grotta di Nereo, the largest sea cave in Europe, and the Grotta dei Fantasmi (Cave of the Ghosts), so called because of the particular conformation of the rocks.

For those who like to go inland, there is Lake Baratz (Sardinia's only natural freshwater lake) with its surrounding pine forest, into which the German army plunged weapons and ammunition during the retreat.

The Alghero coastline stretches for more than 80 kilometres, with more than 30 beaches among which we mention: Le Bombarde where there is a bathing establishment and a sailing centre; San Giovanni which is located in front of the tourist quarters, Cala Burantinu and the Porto Ferro beach, very popular for surfing and windsurfing.

There are many events involving tourists staying in the city. If you are in Alghero for Easter, the most important religious event of Spanish origin takes place during Holy Week.

During the St. John's Fair, the artistic event Los Pintores de La Muralla is a particular highlight. From 21 June until October, numerous painters from the non-profit AlguerArte Cultural Association take centre stage along the Magellan Bastions, creating their works before the eyes of passers-by.

In July, the Grand Prix Corallo Città di Algher takes place, an evening for awarding prizes to sportsmen, journalists, dramas with a sporting theme and films, while the first week of August sees the evocative sea procession in honour of Nostra Signora della Mercede.

There are many sporting events, such as the Alghero-Scala Piccada car race, the Rally Championship that has, for some years now, been based in the 'City of the Coral Riviera', right between the quays of the marina and the 'Ramblas'. This is followed by sailing regattas, swimming and free-climbing marathons on the Capo Caccia promontory.

The most famous festival is that of the Bogamarí (sea urchin), between February and April, when it is most tasty and meaty. In Sardinia, sea urchin fishing and marketing is generally permitted from 16 November to 17 April, unless otherwise decided by the Region of Sardinia.

Throughout the month of December, moreover, and until early January, the Cap d'Any de l'Alguer, (the New Year's Eve of Alghero) takes place, known throughout Sardinia with its numerous shows and concerts that enliven it.

Alghero's handicrafts are mainly related to the creation of red coral jewellery, but also to basketry (a tradition mainly related to fishing and to the creels, made of reed and olive tree suckers, used until the 1970s for lobster fishing) and typical Sardinian handicrafts.

There are numerous exquisite ristoranti and agriturismi where you can savour local flavours. The cuisine is mainly based on fish and shellfish.

Famous are the lobster all'algherese or better known alla Catalana, the coppazza, spaghetti with sea urchins and spaghetti with

bottarga (mullet roe), baked salted monzette (land snails of the Helicidae family) and paella algherese; among the desserts, crema bruciata and menjar blanc, while among the vegetables, the coral tomato, camona tomato and cardoons are worth mentioning.

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