If you are looking for a European tourist destination, consider the island of Sardinia, a region of southern Italy. Depending on your interests, this beautiful area can be an ideal vacation spot. You can get classic Italian food, and wash it down with fine local wine. Some parts of Sardinia remain undiscovered by tourists, while other sites are favorites of Italian and international jet setters and are priced accordingly. This article presents northern Sardinia. Companion articles present central Sardinia and southern Sardinia.
Spanish in Sardinia? Alghero’s nickname is little Barcelona. A quarter of the population speaks a sort of Catalan, related to Spanish as their native tongue. The street signs are in Catalan. The Sixteenth Century Cathedral of St. Mary is one of many older buildings clearly influenced by Catalan architecture. Climb its bell tower to get a great view of this city, especially at sunset. You’ll find the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art in the former (Thirteenth Century) Rosario church next to the Cathedral. The museum hosts a unique collection of Catalan silverware.
Neptune’s Caves is a magnificent geological marvel deep inside the limestone promontory of Capo Caccia. It is a long, long array of caverns, wide passages, clear lakes, deep wells, and narrow tunnels. Visits are by guide only when the weather permits.
The ancient university town Sassari is Sardinia’s second largest city. Its Thirteenth Century Cathedral exemplifies multiple styles, Romanesque, Baroque, and Catalan-Gothic. Other churches to tour include the Thirteenth Century Church of Santa Maria di Bètlem, the Twelfth Century Church of St. Peter in Silki, and the Church of the Most Blessed Trinity. Make sure to visit the Eighteenth-Nineteenth Century Duke’s Palace, now the Town Hall and the Nineteenth Century Palazzo Giordano.
According to legend the famous jet-setter Aga Khan discovered Porto Cervo when seeking shelter from a storm. He liked the location and developed an upscale resort, a favorite of the yachting crowd. If you don’t have a yacht there are rental agencies.
One Sardinian specialty is roasting large animals in a wood-lined pit. I’m told that Porceddu (Roast Suckling Pig) works best. Vermentino di Gallura DOCG is produced in northeastern Sardinia from the local white Vermentino grape. It may include up to 5% of other local white grapes. It may be dry or sweet. As you might have guessed, the Alghero DOC wine is produced near the city of Alghero. It is made in a wide variety of styles from white or red local grapes or from several international grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.