True, Silvio Berlusconi takes his holidays in Sardinia so you’d expect it to be expensive, exclusive and glamorous. But that’s the east coast. Try the west!
There are low-cost flights to Alghero from London’s Stansted and major hubs in Italy, and this part of the island of Sardinia is pleasant, unspoilt and great value for money. The airport bus, for a start, is far cheaper than on mainland Italy, at one euro. (Compare this, for instance, with the bus ride from Bologna station to the airport, roughly the same distance, which costs 6 euros.) The bus goes right to the centre of the attractive town of Alghero.
Good Value Accommodation
Good B&Bs are plentiful in Alghero. The Bugamari, for instance, from 54 euros per room including breakfast, provides home made cakes and fruit from their garden. There’s also a supply of parasols, beach towels and mats for their visitors, and as the clean sandy beach is just across the road, what could be better? (No need to hire a sunbed and parasol for the day.)
Alghero itself has a historic center with cobbled streets, a fortified marina, and restaurants and pizzerias to suit all pockets. The Casablanca makes excellent pizzas in an open kitchen, as well as a good range of other dishes and is good value.
A local industry is based on red coral, which is gathered off the coast here under strict protection. Every souvenir shop sells it, and it’s possible to buy rather attractive small pieces such as rings and bracelets at reasonable prices.
Inexpensive bus trips travel along the beautiful coastline, through some of the remotest and wildest parts of the Mediterranean, where wild donkeys and moufflon roam, and rare griffon vultures hang in the air currents.
The bus to Bosa takes about an hour and ten minutes, winding around the coves where the sea is that particular shade of bright turquoise so characteristic of Sardinia. Bosa comes as a surprise, a pile of brightly coloured houses tumbling down the hill from the castle to the river, after what seems to be miles and miles of uninhabited empty landscape. There are attractive shops and cafes, and the steep climb to the castle gives you a glimpse of a way of life which is fast disappearing as old women sit in their doorways making lace. Do check the time of the return bus to Alghero, though. There are only about two a day and missing the last one means being stranded there overnight.
A narrow gauge railway runs from Alghero to Sassari, another most interesting and inexpensive day trip. Sassari is Sardinia’s second city, but isn’t at all geared to tourism. It’s inland, and not particularly beautiful, but repays closer inspection. There’s a fascinating museum, and eating out is certainly cheaper than in Alghero. There are often folklore festivals here, with long processions of people in national costume playing traditional instruments and giving away samples of local produce – great for those on a limited budget!
The one splurge has to be a boat trip. Choose between a trip to Neptune’s caves where the boat anchors and passengers scramble ashore to take a tour of amazing caves. Sounds a bit corny, but it really isn’t.
The other option is a whole day (eight hours) at sea with lunch thrown in: good value at 35 euros per person. The boat goes to little isolated coves inaccessible from the shore where passengers can swim in transparent waters alongside the multi-coloured fishes. For the first hour the crew sit on deck cleaning freshly caught mussels. These will be the main course for lunch. Before that come local cheeses and salamis, followed by crab pasta. Wine is abundant, of course, and fruit and liqueurs leave guests feeling as though they’re in paradise. The ladder is again lowered and the swimming begins again.
Most holidays in paradise don’t come on a shoestring, but western Sardinia does just that.