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Insider's view · Europe · italy · Sardinia

Insider: Anna Maria Delitala


Insider: Anna Maria Delitala

A tour around Alghero

Almost four years ago Anna Maria Delitala and her mother, Antonella Leda d'Ittiri, who is descended from an aristocratic Sardinian family, opened a small hotel called Wine Resort Leda d'Ittiri on the family property near the Porto Conte nature reserve. As Anna Maria says, wine has been her passion as long as she can remember, and she participated in her first sommelier course already at the age of 19. The 18-hectare property has 2700 olive trees and seven hectares of grapevines. The two crops are divided by a line of slender cypresses. Anna Maria and her mother planted the vines in 2000 with the hope of producing a wine similar to red bordolesi, which is their favourite. Their winery currently produces an average of 20,000 bottles per year: four red wines and one white wine. One of the most interesting is the Cigala wine, made from the rare local Cagnulari grape that is harvested only by hand. The whole wine making process is also done by hand.

Wine Resort Leda d'Ittiri has only six guest rooms, all very homey and furnished in a typical local style. The garden explodes with colour and the fragrance of rose bushes and the lemon tree growing by the bathroom window. The resort also offers wine and olive tours with the obligatory tasting at the end of the tour. Before returning to the family property, Anna Maria worked in the tourism industry in Rome, where her speciality was tailor-made wine and gastronomy tours in various regions of Italy. The bookshelf at d'Ittiri is full of books about Sardinian traditions, and Anna Maria's knowledge of local culture and gastronomy are encyclopedic. "Having arrived in Sardinia, many people spend most of their time lying on the beach, but they don't really see anything of Sardinia." What follows, then, are some places in the Alghero region and along the northwestern Sardinian coast that are definitely worth a visit.

"If you are in Alghero, take the panoramic route from there to Bosa. This 40-kilometre route, called Costa dei Grifoni (Eagle Coast), offers breathtaking views -- no buildings, just cliffs and sea. Bosa is a small, pleasant town with pastel-coloured houses. It is also the only town in Sardinia with a river flowing through it. Take a trip down the river in a boat. Or, climb to the top of the mountain to see the small, charming medieval castle. Return to Alghero on the inland road and make a stop in Torralba to see one of the most impressive ancient Nuraghic (1900 - 730 BC) monuments, the Nuraghe Santu Antine. Such stone Nuraghic structures can only be found in Sardinia, and this is one of the largest and best preserved. Another famous Nuraghic structure is Barumini in southern Sardinia. But 10 kilometres from Torralba is another remnant of the Nuraghic civilisation, the "giants' tombs" near Bonorva village. The most impressive of these, Tomba del capo, occupies a total of 250 square metres.

Drive to the top of Doglia Mountain for an unbelievable view of Alghero, its surrounding beaches and the Capo Caccia port. Although the mountain is a mere 10 kilometres from Alghero, it is relatively unknown. A single road leads to the top of the mountain, and you may well find yourself the only person there. Here, the fragrance of Mediterranean plants and flowers heated by the sun infuses the air and surrounds one like a cloud.

Another "secret address" is Asinara Island off the northern coast of Sardinia. Because it was impossible to escape from the island, the island long served as a prison housing Italy's most dangerous criminals as well as many people associated with the Mafia. The prison was closed down only 15 years ago, and currently the island is a national park. Even though Asinara is very close to Stintino and Della Pelosa, the most famous beach in northern Sardinia that is already crowded in May, many people do not even know Asinara exists. True, the only way to get to Asinara is to register for a tour beforehand and take a ferry from Stintino; then, depending on the type of tour you have chosen, a guide will meet you at Asinara's port. There is only one road on the island. It is also possible to travel by train, but the best option is an all-terrain vehicle tour, which can reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Tours may also include a visit to the former prison and the small village where the prison guards once lived. Today, however, the village is uninhabited and wilderness dominates. The natural environment, paired with the unbelievably beautiful sea all around, provide an incredible palette of colours. Swimming is possible at three beaches on the island. The ferry from Asinara returns at seven in the evening.

Even though Alghero is popular with tourists, it is the nevertheless one of the most beautiful and special of Sardinia's cities. The Catalans ruled here from the 14th to the 18th century. Alghero's walls defied invasion, a fact the locals still take pride in. Even the local language was Catalan, although few today speak it anymore. Alghero is also known as the coral riviera, because some of the world's most beautiful red coral grows just off the coast. Stop by the Agostino Marogna Gallery at Piazza Civica. Located in middle of the old town, this gallery sells not only jewelry but also small statuettes and other objects. Fantastic work!

As opposed to other Sardinian cities, life in Alghero does not stop when the tourist season comes to an end. Come January, a visitor here does not feel lonely, wandering through an abandoned city with closed shops. On the contrary, with a population of 40,000 Alghero continues to pulse and even the restaurants stay open, because locals enjoy them as well.

The most beautiful beaches near Alghero are La Bombarda and Lazzaretto, but they are always crowded during high season. The population here increases by a factor of ten in July and August, but unfortunately the cleanliness of the water may decrease. However, just a little further away, Porto Ferro beach is wide, beautiful and less well known. In addition, two enterprising young men there have begun a business offering horseback rides along the beach.

Neptune's Grotto in Parco di Porto Conte is also touristy, but no less wonderful. Even though many visitors head to the grotto by boat from Alghero, I recommend going a different route: drive to the top of the cliff by car and then climb down the 656 steps chiseled into the side of the cliff. It's a fantastically beautiful climb! Entry to the grotto is only by guided tour (tours every hour) but, actually, I believe the climb is an even better experience than the grotto itself.

Whether you visit Alghero or some other part of the island, definitely take the opportunity to rent a boat. Seen from the water, the Sardinian coast shows a completely different side of its diverse character."


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