Sassari is the second biggest city in Sardinia with approximately 200.000 people including the suburbs. The entire area was already inhabited in prehistoric times, as witnessed by many remains, including the necropolis of S’Elighe Entosu or Mesu ‘ and the Nuraghic complex of Monte d’Accoddi with a Mesopotamian temples shape which is one of the most impressive in the entire Sardinia.The modern city, which was officially founded around 1100 still preserves a considerable historical and artistic heritage influenced, among others, by the Catalan-Aragonese presence who conquered the island in 1324. Sassari and its territory still preserve their identity which are expressed through the numerous traditional festivals. Among them is the Procession of Candlesticks the 14th and 15th of August every year. This traditional religious celebration consists of a procession of nine huge wooden candles shoulder-carried along the city’s streets in a long colourful parade. Each element in the parade contains a vast repertoire of meanings, including religion, folklore and history. According to the tradition this is the way to fulfil the vow made to the Vergine Assunta who saved the city from the plague in 1652. The “Faradda dei Candelieri” as called by the locals has been included into the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2013.
The historic centre of Sassari is packed with lovely monuments: the most impressing is certainly the Cathedral of San Nicola di Bari, closely followed by the charming churches of Santa Maria di Betlem and Sant’Apollinare. Today, tourism is one of the most important resources for this area, rich not just in culture and traditions but also beautiful coastline and agriculture.
Alghero. The town has still well visible the influence of Spanish culture in its monuments and language. The entire area was in fact under the Catalan domintion for centuries during the Middle Ages. Alghero is nowadays a well know holiday destination for those looking for a city break or a longer vacation period, taking advantage of beautiful and well organized beaches around the area. The old town, which can be only visited by walk, and the harbours’ promenade, make the city a worthwhile visit. The town was originally built on a promontory and is made up of old late medieval dwellings surrounded by walls and several towers still well preserved.
Alghero, like almost every town in Sardinia, has well kept its traditions and character. The real soul of the city can perhaps be seen at its best during Easter Week when the whole town gets involved in fascinating religious rituals that mix Italian and Spanish traditions.
Alghero is surrounded by a wonderful coastline, its territory is a marine protected area which helped to preserve the local flora, fauna and marine life. Many water sport activities are available in the area, including wind surf, diving, sealing, etc. A large variety of restaurants and coffees, together with the presence of the Neptune’s Grotto and stunning views from the Capo Caccia Peninsula, make this romantic city a great place to visit through the year.
Stintino and Asinara Island. Stintino’s beach called “La Pelosa” is definitely one of the most well-known beaches in Sardinia. It overlooks the Gulf of Asinara, on the North-Eastern coast of Sardinia, approximately 45 minute’s drive from Alghero. Stintino was originally a small and charming fishing village established in the 1885 by the residents of the Asinara island which then became a top security prison.
The “Torre della Pelosa”, which faces the famous and enchanting Pelosa beach is a Spanish tower built during the 17th Century by the Catalans which purpose was to rase allarms in case of pirate intrusions.
The Asinara Island is separated from Stintino by the small Isola Piana. It used to be a “famous” top security prison for deported during the World War I and mafia criminals later. Fortunately, today is more well known for its unique flora and fauna since the island was turned into a Natural Park in 1997. Its territory offers beautiful small beaches and bays and an ideal quiet refuge to wild boars, moufflons and various types of raptors. An endemic albino donkey is also part of the unique ecosystem that characterizes this territory. The island can be visited under ranger surveillance by bicycle, walk or with a road little train.
Castelsardo. Is one of the most charming Sardinian towns and it is built on top of a promontory wich dominates the sea. Its medieval structure, with bastions, steep stairways and twisted narrow streets are still well preserved.
One of the main attractions is the Medieval church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, with a wooden crucifix of the Black Christ dating from the 14th century. Just few kilometres outside the town, in an area called Multeddu, stands the Roccia dell’Elefante, a dark trachyte rock shaped by the wind to resemble an elephant. This rock was used in prehistoric period as place of worship which in Sardinian takes the name of “Domus de Janas”.