Alghero: a DiVine Trip

“…L’ Alguer de sempre se vanta
de ésser país català,
la ginqueta me vol recordar,
a mi ella me canta…”

 

There are places where I want to go without knowing why. Alghero, in Northen Sardinia, is one of these. 

It all starts out with an urge to be somewhere that I’m  not. I travel for several reasons, but even just a short vacation to the beach or an unfamiliar city can serve as a  kind of escape.  I often loosen up, allowing for  learning. I push myself forward in new cultures, try new things, get myself into uncomfortable situations, and find out the best part of me. It is easy to get high off the sense of anonymity that can be experienced while travelling. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a weekend  or a year long trip, if nobody knows me, I  often feel free to break out of my  shell.

I remember when I started planning my first trip to Alghero, which is only 40-minutes flight from Pisa on  Ryanair , I had no idea what I was doing! 

I wanted to get lost in Alghero, but at the same time, I didn’t want to miss the most beautiful things of this unique pearl of the “Coral Riviera”. I thought it might be impossible for me to arrange everything  by simply  following  my guidebook for two days! I had to try something different. I searched the Web for information about Alghero. I just needed someone special to hold my hand and show me the way.  That’s why my first choice was Valeria Crabuzza, Managing Director & Founder of  Alghero ConciergeValeria was the first person I turned to for tips and information about Alghero, and she was always prepared to offer help and understanding. Before my departure for Alghero, I contacted Valeria by mail and then by a phone call. Valeria provided me with outstanding concierge services creating my tailor-made holiday in Alghero. She provided me  with  free advice on accommodations, holiday activities, cultural events, archaeology sites and  other services.  Thanks to Valeria, I saved a great deal of time and effort researching and comparing on the net. I simply told Valeria my  preferences and I packed my bags!  Valeria was my Good Angel in Alghero , a paradise just a few steps from home! Valeria made me fall in Love with Alghero . Now I long to return to this enchanting place!

1st Day, Tuesday , 12th June 2018

I landed in Alghero’s Fertilia Airport on the 12th June 2018.  There were only 6 kilometers from Fertilia Airport to the city centre, a short trip of less than 15 minutes drive. The airport is  well connected with the major Italian and European airports with low cost flights the whole year round. If you don’t want to drive or if you don’t want to rent a car, the city has an excellent transport service to and from the airport. 

It was lunchtime and I reached Alghero’s Old Town  where I met Valeria at Alghero Concierge, her  Holiday Counsultancy and Tourist Services Office in the heart of the city. Valeria was my “Welcome to Alghero” , the best a traveller can wish.  Valeria was charming-a true Mediterranean Beauty. The gentle nature of her soul, was reflected in her love for Life and for the History and Tradition of her beautiful Island.  After my arrival in Alghero at midday and my interview with Valeria, I was excited to  uncover and bring to light  what she reserved . It was incredible, and  Valeria did an incredible job to ensure a perfect vacation in Alghero which covered all my requests. First of all it was very easy for me to visit all the best parts of Alghero , because Valeria booked a nice room  for me in  the b&b “Benebenniu” in Via Carlo Alberto,70,  the carrer major of the medieval town: it was a Bed & Breakfast nestled in the heart of Alghero’s Old Town.  It was in a very  central location  in Alghero among its cobblestoned streets (no heels, but comfortable shoes!), few steps away from the picturesque Sea-Front Promenade, the Bastioni and the Towers. Bus station, harbour, city beach, all the best bars and restaurants were all in the immediate proximity.  After having unpacked my bags, I walked around Alghero’s main streets, having all its Beauty around me , just in the area where I stayed.  I took terrific photos of all that drew my attention and sensitivity . I explored each corner  of Alghero , in any direction from the bottom towards the top and the from left to right! I went on strolling till the afternoon, when Valeria picked me up by car , leading me out of Alghero toward a breathless itinerary : from Punta Negra, Bombarde, Lazzaretto, Cala Dragunara to the final and gorgeous destination of  the Protected Area of  Capo Caccia. I enjoyed the awesome scenery and admired the spectacular landscapes of the -North-Western tip of Sardinia. I was enough lucky  to watch the sun dipping down in the blu sea among its impressive cliffs and to hear the seagulls crying out . As soon as I ridiscovered Nature in all its glory,  Valeria remembered it  was time to go away!  On the road back to Alghero, while I was thinking about that dreamy holiday,  Valeria explained the value and the importance of those places and the story of her life!  

Valeria was born her in Alghero  where she spent the first nineteen Years of Her Life before travelling abroad to work in Hospitality.

Initial economic hardships during her childhood didn’t stop Valeria cheerful and strong  temperament, but strengthened her character and  her spirit of adaptabilty. Valeria reflected on  those hard days with a smile, because they made her grow. Valeria has got a brother, Francesco, and a sister Claudia , who eventually became a very well-known Italia songwriter. Claudia Crabuzza won the prestigious Music Award  “Targa Luigi Tenco 2016” (Minority Languages Category) for Best Album in “Algherese” Dialect . She  worked  as author and interpreter with many famous national artists such as the most popular Sardinian ethno-rock band Tazenda, Pippo Pollina, Mirco Menna, Il Parto delle Nuvole Pesanti, and others . Valeria graduated from the professional hotel school of Alghero and started working in the field of tourism in Italy, Switzerland, Egypt and on  Canouan Island (Eastern Caribbean). She was inevitably drawn back to her native land . Valeria  wished to combine her experience, her local knowledge and love of Sardinia, her passion and her positive attitude to best welcome and assist anyone coming to visit Alghero and the north-west coast of Sardinia. On her personal note: she is married and had two wonderful children. The love story with her Egyptian husband  Ehab Rashwan , a pro-active hospitality professional with over 25 years in the hospitality industry , is another incredible and long chapter of her life ! I hope you will have the chance  to listen to it , when you are her guest! 

That one hour drove to Alghero with listening to all  Valeria‘ s tales  astounded me, because it seemed so familiar. 

The  sunset was unforgettable . The artificial lights of the lamps adorning Alghero transformed this noble city in an elegant living room. The closed shops were making the way for the night-loving people. I felt the infinity poetry which emanated from this peaceful and ordered city, but at a certain moment all that enchantment was suspended by my rumbling tummy that looked forward to the dinner time. Soon after  Valeria and me seated  comfortably on a terrace of   the casual “La Botteghina” restaurant . She said it was the right place for tasting local fresh Food &  Wine and it was true!   A friend of Valeria, Carlo Deffenu, a very polite person did the honours. He was a lovely worker there and an Italian writer as well, who proposed a vast range of pleasures! I had typical Sardinian Food & Wine:  a sparkilng  “Vermentino” called “Sessantaquattro” paired with a mussels soutè,  “fregola “ (it’s a type of semolina-based pasta) with seafood,  and “culurgiones” (pasta filled with boiled potatoes, extra olive oil, pecorino cheese, garlic and  mint ) with tomatos sauce and parmisan, best new dish I ever had in the last period! The night was flowing slowly while Valeria was entertaining me with all her knowledge  about Alghero . I was totally immersed in all those stories: a journey in the past of  Alghero, and an understanding of its present, a multifaceted world of an island within  the island that is trying to grow and to improve despite the cumbersome Italian Political system and the closed-shop mentality of the major part of its  inhabitants. By the way, I realized  that Alghero  is considered one of the most charming towns of Sardinia. Ryainair flies  at least here twice a day. Take this as an opportunity to explore some of the amazing Art the city has to offer. Alghero is the perfect blend of History, Gorgeous Beaches, lovely Food & Wine, Traditions and so much more. The town provides excellent hospitality for a constant flow of tourists, with a range of entertainments, facilities and nightlife that is ideal for young and old alike. 

Alghero was inhabited since prehistoric times, and  was founded by the Genoese in the 11th century. For many years, it was controlled by the dynasty of the Doria family, despite a brief period of Pisan domination in 1283 and 1284. Many different conquerors launched assaults on Alghero  until the Catalans expelled everyone in 1372 and created a home away from home. From then on, the town came to be known as “Barceloneta”, or “Little Barcelona”, and maintains its Catalan identity to this day. Control of Alghero passed to the House of Savoy in 1720 and this marked the start of a long period of steady decline. This continued right up until the Fascist Era which resulted in heavy damage to the town during Italy’s participation in WWII. The removal, from the surrounding countryside, of malaria in the 1950s and the growth in package holidays during the 1960s saw the start of a transformation in the fortunes of Alghero. A large number of hotels and restaurants have been built on the investment in the town and development has spread northwards alongside the city’s sandy beach. Today, tourism has not completely overtaken Alghero and the town still retains its distinctive Catalan identity with the local fishing industry an important contributor to the local economy. 

2nd Day, Wednesday , 13th June 2018

It was late in the night. I opened the window of my room that overlooked one of the main square of Alghero

There was nobody outside, but few tables scattered among cafes and restaurants and a  silhouette of a  bell tower that raised above the rooftops of houses and churches. My thoughts wandered and I couldn’t sleep for the excitement of what it happened, but I was tired and I fall asleep. The following day I woke up late in the morning, and the weather was awful.  I thought it was  perfect to visit Wineries in Alghero.  I sat down at my table for eating something.  I took a look  in blogs and travel forums about  all the Top Wines. In the meanwhile ,  Valeria and her friend Katya attended my breakfast with  a  homemade lemon cake, hot coffee and orange juice. Katya is another fabulous character of this Sardinian Novel. At first sight Katya, so pretty with big green eyes, seemed to be an easy going person. Actually, Katya is a  romantic bohemian, a very deep fellow, a strong worker with the soul of an artist  in sewing technique. She said she was from Pesaro, Marche. She met Valeria on the Caribbean Resort 20 years ago. Since that time they were not only colleagues , but above all close friends. After having travelled a lot,  with a long stay in Peru, that changed her mind placing greater emphasis on the “being” and not on  “having” in this life, Katya wanted to help Valeria in her aim to create something unforgettable in Alghero, with the intent of promoting this area in Italy and abroad. What a marvelous and spiritual conversation! Katya withdrew, bidding me farewell, and saying I was in  a good service with Valeria about my trip in Alghero. Of course she was right! I glanced at the clock on my phone and a last great moment awaited me to complete my journey: visit the best Wineries in Alghero. The weather promised to get worse, far more than I could expect! Never before had I seen so much rain in summer . Before my  appointment with Valeria and with the divine nectar of Sardinia in the early afternoon , I had little time to visit the old churches of the historic core, that provided sufficient protection against rain and wind: “San Francesco Church”, the Alghero’s  Cathedral, and the  “San Michele Church”. The churches were unadorned, the simple churches of a simple  fishing village. I liked these types of churches- built solely as a religious sanctuary for the towns people with no more boisterous intent. Alghero’s Old Town was large enough to be interesting and small enough to tackle in a day of exploring. Walking around Alghero, I didn’t feel like I was in Italy, but in a foreign land with such an atmosphere you had to live. Colorful facades, an almost derelict elegance , all complete with beautiful sea views from any given angle.

It was lunchtime and to my surprise,  Valeria came to take me to a luxury Hotel called “Carlos V” in Alghero to attend a Wine Tasting organized by  “Tenute Delogu “ .  

The  terrace of  the 5 stars Hotel  “Carlos V was magnificent , it  afforded panoramic views that encompassed everything from the Capo Caccia promontory (which has a silhouette resembling a sleeping giant) to the costal road that conceals the town of Bosa. The grey of the sky made visible exceptional views that resembled a Monet canvas,  with a mix of rough and soft colours and sparse and evanescent  brushstrokes. That landscape inebriated my senses just like the Top Wines  did in the tasting room. A  light seafood buffet accompanied the Wine Tasting that included the best labels of the  “Delogu Winery”: “Die”, “Ide”, “Geo”, “Ego”, “Cagnulari”, and  “Chelos”.“Tenute Delogu “ extends across approximately 60 hectares, encasing a modern Winery, vineyards, a prestigious Wine Resort and dining options. Amongst palm and olive trees, the vineyards are immersed in Sardinia’s Mediterranean scrub. This is where the “Tenute Delogu “ arises and from where its Wines derive.  I had the honour of knowing personally the owner of the “Tenute Delogu “ Mr Pietro Delogu. Pietro was present at that event to increase potential with his own customers . He was busy to give interviews to the Japanese press about his Wine production, then he was able to spend a little time  with us. We had lunch in that exclusive hotel and talked about that pleasant moment relaxing over glasses of his bubbles. After a while  Valeria had to go away to  collect her children from the residential home and Pietro invited me to spend a couple of hours at his estate “Tenute Delogu “ . We arrived there after an hour’s drive under that heavy rain! Pietro was very proud of all he did in his life, and this was the feeling I perceived during our conversation before to reach his estate.  Finally we arrived at his  “Tenute Delogu “, and we  had no guided  visit from outside due to the standing rain.  We took  refuge in the estate’s restaurant , where he  made me feel at home. That place was lovely and the grey overcast made us long for drinking good Wines! At the very moment when Pietro was describing last lable of his Wine collection, foreign clients entered the reception despite it being closed. As an Islander and a business man, Pietro opened the door . I helped him with attending to them. He regarded my attitude  as polite, but I explained it was a pleasure for me.  It was also  a way to thank him for his dedicating time to me.  We ended our time in the barrique cellar of his Winery , where I finished my friendly interview writing down as much as I could. Pietro’ s passion and love for his job and land emerged from his words.  Pietro wants to pursuit his dream to get better and better.  If only one day the Italian government , in Sardinia as in the rest of the nation, could provide financial and legislative  support for the development of enterprise policies. Pietro and Valeria are strongly attached to their  native land but open minded by nature . I hope their courageous choice to invest all the necessary efforts in ensuring the implementation of their projects and ideas   will find support in a fair and  effective  policy  at local and national level, as soon as possible.  His was the sort of honesty  speech that does one good and it was lightened with a glass of Canonau . Valeria returned to take me back in Alghero. So, I said goodbye to Pietro, a smart and multi-faced man. I knew that this was not a farewell. 

Sardinia is an island that strikes its visitors with natural contrasts, the lights and colors of a region that boasts old traditions and a wild and pure nature.  Sardinia is a land full of archaic Wine Traditions.  Sardinia offers fascinating Wines, it merits to be considered as one of Italy´s most unique wine regions.  There are international varieties and  indigenous grapes, such as Bovale, CagnulariMonicaCarignano, and others. All this  makes it worth to go for a Wine-Discovery tour as I did  at “Tenuta Sella & Mosca” .

“Tenuta Sella & Mosca” was a nice place to visit, they offered a free tour in their estate and I liked it a lot despite the rain. “Tenuta Sella & Mosca” was  founded in 1899 and it is the second largest contiguous vineyard in Italy and one of the largest wineries in Europe – it is a 1,600-acre property with more than 1,200 acres of Wines. From vibrant whites to nuanced reds, “Tenuta Sella & Mosca” has a Wine for every mood and meal. My favourite one is Torbato: a grape originally from Spain with only about 200 acres left in the world. Torbato produces refreshing, pale-straw wine marked by white flowers and hints of sea minerals. The sparkling version is a must as an aperitif but there are also still versions–ranging from gentle, mid-low body to richer, creamier versions. All are definitely worth trying with light fish appetizers, oysters, and clam spaghetti! 

 

For my last night in Alghero , I spend long hours meditating the goods things in Life with Valeria, then after a drink  and an appetizer in a bar , I went to bed .

When the alarm clock rang at 5 o’clock in the morning, I realized I had to leave Alghero. Before to get the airport, I relaxed at the harbor edge while I was investigating  the best picture angles for my  last photos. As I sat on the bench gazing at the rocky faced hills across the harbor, a local fisherman jumped down from his boat and strolled past. His nutty brown skin indicated a life on the sea, his complete lack of self  consciousness as he sang aloud. I lapsed into a fantasy of a  simple  village life. Give me a week here, and I’m quite sure I’d sing along!

I didn’t really know what to expect, but it’s safe to say this city far , exceeded my expectations. 

Ti amo Alghero.

Enjoy it !

Stefania

Thanks to the  travel writer Paula Cullison for her precious help

 

 

 

 

 

 



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