After summer, Alghero takes a couple of months of relax and stops a little bit, lulled by its sea that cools down. The town snuggles on itself and seems to embrace its citizens after that the crowd of tourists is gone away.
But when Christmas comes, Alghero blooms with a thousand of lights and its old town becomes a small shining jewel, where Christmas decorations and Poinsettia plants blend with the cream-coloured stones of the ancient buildings.
From the Barcelona Promenade, where we can leave the car, we walk towards the old town walls, just before sunset. The sun is reflected on the calm water, on which boats and yachts float gently. Their masts are a thin black forest on the background of the sky still transparent as alabaster. The bell tower of the Santa Maria Cathedral (Immaculate Conception Cathedral) and the coloured dome of San Michele Church rise above the walls.
We approach the Maddalena tower and we go through the Porta a Mare (Sea Door). We greet the small Madonna enclosed in a glass theca in the upper right and we enter the Piazza Civica (Civic Square). We find ourselves in a sitting room characterized by warm colours, with open boutiques and colourful planters. The air smells of candies because of the shop nearby. If we walk towards right, on the slightly uphill, we will pass in the Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral square), on which there is the grand neoclassical facade of Santa Maria Cathedral, with its columns that appear too big for the square.
Near the Cathedral we can see a well, which gives the name to the building behind it: the building of the Pou Salit that means “salted well”. It is said that women of Alghero used its salted waters for make the bread. Today it hosts a section of the Architecture Course of Sassari University.
In front of us, we can see the sea. We climb a short staircase and we emerge on the Marco Polo ramparts. The cold wind invests us suddenly as we exit from the protection of the old town. The sea of Alghero stretches beyond the ramparts towards the Capo Caccia promontory, right on the line of the horizon. A big wooden construction near the rampart draws our curiosity: it is one of the three reconstructions of catapults used in the Middle Ages as defence of the town, arranged between six cannons dating back to the sixteenth century. If we have calculated well the times, or if we are simply lucky, we are in this point of the ramparts exactly at the moment of the sunset. The sun is a sphere of molten gold that lies on the sea and burns the water, while the sky fills of red and copper shadows.
Let’s go back to the Piazza Civica for explore the decorated streets. Next to us starts Carlo Alberto Street, the main street that cuts the old town from Piazza Civica towards the Cristoforo Colombo ramparts. We could follow this street until the end and reach again the sea, as if we were on a small Rambla stolen from Barcelona; Alghero seems the little sister of the Catalan city. But let’s take the time to wander in every road and every hidden cobbled alley. We can’t get lost, the old town is small.
We turn into Roma Street, the first street that crosses Carlo Alberto Street.
We observe the brilliant shop windows: there is a mix of stores of famous brands and emporiums more particular. We are surprised of all the gold and silver decorations that contrast with the austerity of the ancient stones. From the shop windows of the many jewellery stores, the red of the coral jewels draws our attention together with the gold.
We go back to the Carlo Alberto Street and keep following it. Among all the shops and the jewellery stores (they are very many), under a long dark red drape embroidered, comes out the linear facade of the San Francesco Church. Often, its severity is soothed by the colours of the paintings exposed by a painter.
Now we arrive to Piazza Sventramento (Disembowelment Square: the name is in memory of the bombs of the Second World War) and we can buy a little bit of nougat at the stall, while we are deciding where to go. We could go on in Carlo Alberto Street and reach the ramparts, or we could continue our shopping tour in Gilbert Ferret Street.
Let’s go on in Carlo Alberto Street: we can glimpse a church from here. We approach it and we discover that is the San Michele Church, which has that dome covered with colourful tiles that we already saw from the docks near the Barcelona Promenade.
We follow the last part of the street. Before going out on the ramparts, we can take a look in the bookshop “Il labirinto”, which is just before the end of the street.
We are on the sea again. The sun has set and the warm light of the streetlamps shines on the promenade on the right, along the Cristoforo Colombo Ramparts. In front of us rises the Sulis tower, on the homonymous square that stretches on our left.
We want to continue shopping, so we cross the square and we go back in the old town, through San Francesco Street. We see another tower here: is the tower of San Giovanni, tall and large.
If it isn’t happy hour time yet, but we are still in time for a sweet snack, maybe a little belated, from the tower we can go on the right and then turn on the right in Sassari Street. Here, we can stop at “Ciro” pastry shop for a cup of chocolate with whipped cream. We can also take a piece of cake, but only if we didn’t already eat all the nougat!
Otherwise, to see other shops, from the tower of San Giovanni we can go on the right in Gilbert Ferret Street or we can go straight on in Simon Street. At the end of Simon Street, there is Porta Terra Square (Earth Door Square), where we will find Porta Terra tower. By day, we can enter for free in this tower and climb it to watch the old town and the tourist port from above. In Christmas time, this tower is always decorated with some particular Christmas tree-shaped composition.
Our shopping tour is ended. Let’s continue on Sassari Street towards Barcelona Promenade. Behind us, the streetlamps light up the external walls of the old town, the sea is a calm black expanse and from the sky the half-moon peeps.