We had heard that Alghero on Sardinia's northwest coast was unusual because many people still speak Catalan, the language of Barcelona and the surrounding region of Spain. The Catalans had been a major seafaring power and had an outpost in this part of Italy in the Middle Ages. Even though they departed hundreds of years ago, they have left their language in Alghero as well as architectural influences and cuisine. It was easy to forget while strolling the off the beaten path streets of Alghero and looking at paella specials at every other restaurant that we weren't on the island of Mallorca or in Barcelona. The street signs are in Italian, Sardinian and Catalan, further reminding us of the old influences.
Yachts line the waters outside Alghero's ramparts.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria evokes Catalonia in Spain.
The medieval ramparts are lined with walking paths.
In addition to the charms of exploring the medieval city, Alghero is a perfect launching pad for day trips on one of the many boats lining its harbor. We decided to try two different types and were very happy with both. Our first voyage was on the Andrea Padre which offered a half day trip to "Neptunes Cave," a spectacular grotto in the sea.
The entrance to "Neptune's Cave" is approached either from a long stairway (more than 600 steps) on land or from the sea.
The boat passed spectacular rock formations and stopped at a beach where passengers could try their hand at cliff jumping.
The next day we booked a pricier but more intimate trip on the Andrea Jensen, a traditional wooden sailing ship, captained by an amiable British couple. We sailed the same waters as the first day, but this time we and our 12 companions were wined and dined with traditional appetizers, local wines and a delicious pesto lunch. We stopped several times to swim in the clear waters with our new friends from Germany, Italy and England. Once again our bravery was tested with many jumps from the side of the boat and from high in the rigging.
Returning to Alghero we felt like we belonged to the yachting community we saw all around us. Relaxing for a last evening in town, we joined the nightly ritual of toasting another glorious sunset in Alghero, a new favorite city that we had just discovered.