Gita Italiana 2010: Finding Treasures in Alghero, Sardinia

Welcome to our first stop on the Gita Italiana 2010! Today we’re hanging out in Alghero, Sardinia with my friend Keren Bensoussan of The Road Less Travelled.

Finding Treasures in Alghero

After having travelled all over Italy, I was finally called to Sardinia, Italy’s island famous for its emerald sea.

I was offered work so I accepted, but not after seriously questioning how long I could survive on an island. I am a city girl after all, but the airport was only 15 minutes away, and that sealed the deal.

My first days in Alghero were wonderful. It was like being in paradise. Tall trees fanned the streets with their delicate green leaves; the quiet sea glistened with sunshine diamonds in mountainous horizons, and I could walk through Alghero’s “central park” at ease, safe in a mother Alghero’s arms. I felt young, innocent, even slightly vulnerable, which made me wonder, “what is going on here?”

Capo Caccia by Keren Bensoussan

A week later I ran into my landlord.

“Ciao, Keren! Come va la prima settimana in Alghero?”
(“Hi Keren! How is your first week in Alghero going?”)

I told her that everything was fine but that something was different and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Ah, sì, tutti dicono che Alghero è speciale.”
(“Ah, yes, everybody says that Alghero is special.”)
She said this with a glint in her eye.

“… well … what is it?” I asked her.

“Non c’è criminalità,” she answered.
(“There’s no crime.”)

Certainly petty crime exists, but there is no “hard” crime like murder.

There’s no mafia either (there have been kidnappers, but only if you’re really rich. The rest of us can relax.)

I stood there sort of speechless, reflecting on what she said and I suddenly understood: When people feel safe, they are kinder towards one another. Which basically means that you don’t need to be on the defensive, and you don’t have to worry about being “straniero” (foreign) because they welcome foreigners with open arms.

Just as Sardinia is known for its sea, warm weather and cool breezes,

Sardinians are known for their generosity, sincerity and simplicity.

Porticciolo Beach by Keren Bensoussan

Porticciolo Beach by Keren Bensoussan

When my teaching contract ended my students took me out for pizza and bought me gifts. It was a lot of pizza and a lot of gifts so I asked, “why?” They told me that it was a tradition that began in the past when it was a great honor to have visitors arriving on the island. Sardinians will open their home to you, treat you like family and embrace you without expecting anything in return. It’s simply their way.

Sardinia is also the oldest land in Italy. In fact, I don’t really feel like I live in Italy here because they have their own language (Sardo) and their own history. “Il continente” (the mainland) is more like Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” while Sardinia is humbler and simpler. When you get here all you really have to do is relax and be yourself.

But like “il continente,” Sardinia differs from place to place. I have visited many towns and cities, all very interesting, but have found that Alghero, “the gem of Sardinia” is truly special. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s a port town that has greeted many tourists has something to do with it. It is more open-minded. Perhaps it’s the fact that it has a strong Catalan influence that gives it an exotic edge. Or perhaps it’s the strong Sardinian values that are instilled in a population that has had to survive on a separate piece of land- pulling together and developing trust and honesty amongst themselves so they could thrive and live in peace with each other.

Capo Caccia by Keren Bensoussan

Capo Caccia by Keren Bensoussan

A Sardinian friend told me that in his village, in the past, doors didn’t have locks on them. When someone arrived, they entered and were welcomed just the same.

I have woken up in some Italian cities with the sound of church bells banging in my ears (bing, bang, bong go the church bells at 7am) but here in Alghero, it’s a lullaby, sweet and gentle, like the people. Just another thing I love about Alghero.

This sweet simplicity extends also in the culinary department. There is less sugar in the desserts. The pasta special is “spaghetti ai ricci” (spaghetti with sea urchin). I never liked sea urchin’s overwhelming flavor until I tried this dish. I personally love the fresh sardines from local markets and although it sounds like sardines may have something to do with Sardinia, it doesn’t. And of course there is the Mirto, the local liquor made of berry leaves which is delicately sweet and strong but not in excess. Everything seems to be done with balance- perfect for a seeker of “la via di mezzo.”

When my contract ended I left Alghero but decided to return. A sweet Sardo convinced me to open a Yoga B&B with him and I agreed.

Sunset by Keren Bensoussan

Sunset by Keren Bensoussan


Keren Bensoussan is originally from Montreal, Canada. She has been living in Italy since 2007 and teaches ESL and Hatha Yoga in Alghero.


Grazie mille Keren!

Be sure to come back tomorrow when we’re headed to the Aeolian Islands from Calabria!

18 Beans of Wisdom to “Gita Italiana 2010: Finding Treasures in Alghero, Sardinia”
  1. 08.17.2010

    What a beautiful post! I particularly like the twinkle in her landlord’s eye…“Ah, sì, tutti dicono che Alghero è speciale.”

    Time to add Alghero to my itinerary!

    Agreed, Stephen!

  2. 08.17.2010

    Sounds wonderful! I have been to the Cagliari area of Sardinia, but missed out on Alghero. Another reason to return.

    When ordering dinner at a restaurant in Sardinia I asked the waiter to slow down because I didn’t understand his accent. I explained that I was a foreigner and he replied, “Oh, Italian?” which says loads about how Sardinians feel about their separate identity! 😉

    Hahaha classic! Thanks for sharing!

  3. 08.17.2010

    Another place for me to visit.. years ago my husband went to Sardinia with the Royal Air Force .. what a place to go 🙂

    Lucky him! Yes, you must convince him to take you 🙂

  4. 08.17.2010

    What a lovely start to the gita. There’s still so much of Italy that I need to explore and I’m really looking forward to hearing about everyone else’s little pockets of the bel paesa. 🙂

    I think we’re all going to have a bigger bucket list when the gita is over 😉

  5. 08.17.2010

    Am loving the Gita Italiana! What a cool idea! Will you be able to stop up here on Lago Maggiore as well? 🙂

    I don’t believe we’re making a stop there this time, but that just means another gita!

  6. 08.17.2010

    I just love Sardegna…have been around 5 times there:-)
    and to be honest i am a city girl too, but when you see the colour of the sea there, taste the local specialities, i lost my heart there…
    glad u liked it too:)
    have a lovely rest of the week,
    sunny smiles from cloudy Holland

    Sounds wonderful, Jana! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. 08.17.2010

    When we flew into Sardinia we landed in Alghero and we could feel a difference as well. The air is fresh and the atmosphere is so laid back, especially from where we had just flown in from (WDC- NYC, where they made us go through security again-ROME and finally Alghero). Even though our final destination was Capoterra (closer to Cagliari), I plan on making a return trip to Alghero and its beautiful beaches one day. Thanks for sharing a piece of Sardinia here, I look forward to seeing more of Italy soon 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Adrianne 🙂

  8. 08.17.2010

    I was in Italy a couple of weeks ago and when I see this post I just long to go back. Sigh. I like what you explain about the tradition of hospitality – so wonderful to welcome everyone.

    Thanks for coming by, Mary-Laure!

  9. 08.17.2010

    Ah, just another reason to visit this island about which I’ve heard only good things. I’ve met only two people from Sardinia, but they were as warm and friendly as you described. Thanks for this lovely glimpse into the island.

    Glad you enjoyed, Kathy 🙂

  10. 08.18.2010

    This sounds absolutely idyllic. So nice to know there is some place this warm, friendly and crime-free. I’m glad you’ve found such happiness there.

    A very warm post (the place and the blog post) 🙂

  11. john

    Sardinia is a very good travel destination


  12. 08.18.2010

    Reading this post brought back some nice memories. Sardinia is paradise and I long to return.

    Happy to read it! Glad you enjoyed 🙂

  13. Gil

    Sardinia has always looked so beautiful and exciting to me!

    I’ve always been fascinated by her too, Gil. Such an enchanting land 🙂

  14. 08.18.2010

    Thank you all for your thoughts and feedback on Alghero! It’s great to hear that some of you have experienced its magic. It’s truly a wonderful place to visit and I hope you will all have the chance to make the trip someday!

  15. There must be something to island living that causes people to be more friendly. I’m from Hawaii, where the Aloha Spirit is legendary. And now I’m living in Kuching on the island of Borneo, where I’ve found the same kind of open friendliness.

    Sardinia is a beautiful place and I hope to visit one day.

    Me too! There is something special about islands, I agree 🙂

  16. 08.25.2010

    Sounds like a magical place! *sospiro*

    As for the island thing, maybe you’re on to something… I lived in the San Juan Islands of Washington State and found them to be very friendly and community oriented.


    Thanks for coming by, Tui!

  17. Jay

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I spent two years in La Maddalena in the US Navy. I learned Italian while I was there and came back to the states and became a linguist among other things. The time that I spent there was life changing for me. I loved the passeggiata every evening, walking arm in arm and laughing and speaking Italian with my friends, smoking and drinking at the bars on the piazza. If I could get back, I would, you’re very fortunate 🙂

  18. maria

    I was very fortunate to have 3 trips to alghero last year and more in love with it every time I see it since 20 years ago



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Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake