Castelsardo, the heart of medieval Sardinia

Mara Noveni | Live the World

May 29, 2024

In the north of Sardinia, in Italy, in the province of Sassari, there is a village as precious as a jewel, located on a promontory, reflected in the Gulf of Asinara. Our destination today is a visit to Castelsardo, the heart of medieval Sardinia.

Included in the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Castelsardo is a small authentic village of medieval origin, where time seems to have stopped. Walking through the alleys, the flowers on the balconies, the tables of the outdoor restaurants, and the baskets on the doors of the houses catch the eye. It is one of those villages to get lost and find delicacy, vitality and authenticity. In fact, in Castelsardo, everything is authentic, its architectural and naturalistic beauties, the craftsmanship, the typical products, the beautiful inlets, the still-alive traditions and the port.

© iStock / kekko73

The origins until today

The history of Castelsardo is very ancient and is undoubtedly linked to its strategic position. Finds dating back to the Nuragic era have been found, and even the ancient Romans built a part of the city. But the historic centre, as it appears today, was founded by the Genoese family of the Dorias, who reigned in northern Sardinia in the Middle Ages. At that time, and for this reason, the village was called Castel Genovese and was used for a long time as a fortress to defend the commercial routes that connected Sardinia to Genoa.

Subsequently, and for about 300 years, there was Spanish domination in Sardinia, which also took possession of this place and changed its name, which became Castell'Aragonese. Until 1700, when, with the arrival of the Savoy family, Castelsardo obtained its current name.

Today Castelsardo is a village, dominated by the castle, which preserves history and traditions, but opens its doors to conscious and slow tourism, not the usual "hit and run" tourism. It is a village representing authentic Sardinia.

What to see in Castelsardo

Castelsardo is one of those places that is a bit tiring to visit due to its uphill roads. Still, the effort is amply repaid by the breathtaking view that can be enjoyed from any point in the upper part of the city, and on a clear day, it allows you to lengthen the look up to the mountains of Corsica.

© iStock / AnjoKanFotografie

The Doria Castle and the Weaving Museum

The fortress stands at the highest point of Castelsardo, as if to watch over the village of coloured houses, and makes its skyline unique and recognizable. Walking on the medieval walkway of the fortress, especially on the ramparts, gives visitors glimpses and unforgettable panoramas lost on the open sea, allowing them to breathe air full of iodine and history. The castle has been used for many centuries as a military strategic point and, more recently, as the headquarters of the Carabinieri barracks.

© iStock / elisalocci

Currently, the castle is also the seat of the Museo dell'Intreccio Mediterraneo (MIM), where you can admire the characteristic baskets made with dwarf palm leaves and woven by hand according to ancient tradition. In fact, the art of basket making is typical of Sardinia and involves the weaving of fibres and vegetable leaves to create different objects for everyday use.

© iStock / AnjoKanFotografie

The Cathedral of Sant'Antonio Abate

This church dates back to the early 1500s and was built in a mixed style between Gothic, Catalan and classic Renaissance. The dome is completely covered with coloured majolica from the 17th century. Inside, on the high altar, you can admire a beautiful painting of the Madonna Enthroned by the famous Master of Castelsardo between the 15th and 16th centuries. Also worth visiting is the Diocesan Museum or Master of Castelsardo Museum, located in an underground crypt, where you can take a small guided tour and admire the Maestro's sacred silverware, paintings and tables. The cathedral sits right on the promontory overlooking the open sea, and the view from here is a spectacle of nature.

© iStock / elisalocci

A walk in the historic centre

Like any village, Castelsardo has narrow streets, alleys and stairways that offer picturesque corners to photograph and observe. At every crossroads and corner, a new scenario opens up with plants and flowers, colourful houses or breathtaking views.

A tip is to observe the historic buildings and discover the architecture and their beauty, such as Palazzo Loggia, the seat of the Town Hall, the Palazzo dei Doria and the Palazzo di Eleonora d'Arborea. The Episcopal Palace is the ancient residence of the bishops, inside, you can admire original furnishings and works of art and a permanent exhibition on magic, witchcraft and the holy inquisition. Among the small religious structures is the small Church of Purgatorio, where funeral rites once took place, and the remains of the deceased were kept.

© iStock / kekko73

The Port

Porto Fringianu is a tourist port located in the western part of Castelsardo. This area is less touristy than the historic centre, but walking among the boats docked at the docks is nice. Not far away is the small beach of Torre Fringianu, a tower built as a defensive outpost during the Spanish domination. From her,e the view of the village is truly beautiful.

© iStock / encrier

The beaches

Quite close to the port is the beach of Marina di Castelsardo, which is often too crowded but also the closest to the town. In a few minutes by car, you can reach the more famous beach of Lu Bagnu, a long strip of golden beach with many flat rocks for lying down and sunbathing. In particular, in this area, Madonnina Beach is a beach equipped with all services.

Other very beautiful beaches are Cala Ostina, a bit tiring to reach but wonderful, Punta La Capra for sailing and windsurfing lovers, and Punta Li Paddimi for snorkelling lovers.

© iStock / Balate Dorin

The Elephant Rock

The Elephant rock is very famous and photographed by visitors from all over the world: a rock which, eroded by atmospheric events, has taken the shape of a baby elephant. The rock is also important from an archaeological point of view, as two domus de Janas dating back to the pre-Nuragic age have been found inside it.

© iStock / peuceta

Staying in Castelsardo

To experience Castelsardo at 360° and to keep it in your memory drawers as a beautiful memory for life, I recommend staying for at least 3-4 days. In this way, you can experience it not only when it is most crowded and noisy but also in its most silent hours. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to explore the surroundings, which are also beautiful, and to spend time in complete relaxation, with the sound of the crystal clear sea and the Mediterranean scrub. The hospitality of Castelsardo's facilities is perfect, despite being quite diversified, to satisfy any need and budget.

For example, I can suggest you a romantic loft with a jacuzzi in the historic centre, where you will have a romantic experience; with a truly refined design and a unique atmosphere, equipped with all comforts, close to all the services that the historic centre can offer; on your doorstep, you will have coffee shops and restaurants, and the beach is not too far away.

© Booking / unknown author

If you prefer to stay in a less central location, but closer to the beach, you can opt for the Hotel Rosa dei Venti, located in Lu Bagnu, right on the seafront. Some rooms have a sea view, and in the warmer months, you can enjoy breakfast on the terrace.

© Booking / unknown author

If, on the other hand, you prefer independent accommodation in an apartment all to yourself, you can stay in Domo S'apposentu, a beautiful house with a large private terrace, welcoming and with all comforts, close to the sea. The apartment is in an excellent position, close to shops and supermarkets, and is very well connected with comfortable and fast roads to reach the beaches of Stintino, Alghero and Santa Teresa di Gallura in an hour. Also excellent value for money.

© Booking / unknown author

Without a doubt, visiting Castelsardo, the heart of medieval Sardinia, is a valid experience at any time of the year. You will love its corners and squares, the panoramic points, the sea, scents and colours, its historic buildings, the beaches, the jagged and irregular coast, and you will keep a memory of a perfect holiday, able to put you in peace with the world! So do not be late to arrive, Castelsardo awaits you!

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