Alghero lies southwest of Sassari in the northwest corner of the rugged and unspoilt island of Sardinia, perhaps the only region of Italy without motorways! It was founded in 1102 by the Doria family of Genoa and became a Catalan colony under Peter IV of Aragon in 1354. Emperor Charles V took up residence there in 1541. The town blends the appeal of a modern beach resort with the Catalan charm of its battle worn historic quarter, clustered around the picturesque port.
Traces of the Aragonese architectural style can be seen in the 16th-century cathedral and the 14th-century Church of San Francesco, both of which are a mix of different styles. At the back of the cathedral is an octagonal campanile while Chiesa di San Michele has an attractive majolica dome. The Museo Diocesano, in the former Oratorio del Rasario, houses treasures of religious arts. Alghero was defended on the landward side by towers and walls but most of these were removed in the 19th century. However several towers and gates remain including the main entrance to the old town, Torre Porta a Terra and the Torre di San Giovani. The Porta a Mare (Sea Gate) leads you into Piazza Civica where the buildings remind you of the town's late medieval origins.