Oristano and Alghero don't look as if they are too far away from each other on the map, so when we planned the holiday we didn't think that travelling between the two places would be particularly problematic. When we arrived in Oristano, however, and began planning our onward journey to Alghero, it turned out to be more complicated than we had anticipated. There are no direct trains between the two towns and when we tried to put "Alghero" as a destination in the search fields on train websites and even ticket machines in the station, it didn't come up as an option. We eventually established that we could take a train from Oristano to the town of Sassari, and from there take a bus to Alghero. There were two problems with this plan, namely that the journey between Oristano and Sassari involved changing trains at a place called Ozieri with a gap of just five minutes between trains, and that the first train we could catch out of Oristano to Ozieri didn't depart until 13.34 in the afternoon.
After checking out of our accommodation we therefore had another morning to spend in Oristano. We walked around the town centre for a while before settling down to read in the sun. We had a light lunch in the cafe where we had eaten the other day, before strolling out of town to the train station. On the way we noted a couple of sights that we'd missed in Oristano.
The journey to Ozieri took just under two hours and as it approached 15.11, the time at which we were supposed to arrive there, we stood up nervously with our suitcases. We didn't appear to be nearing any sort of metropolis, as the train was passing through empty, barren countryside. It was pretty much 15.16, the time at which our connection to Sassari was supposed to depart, that we began to pull into a small station in the middle of nowhere. Luckily there only appeared to be one other platform and there was a small train waiting on it, so we were able to run across the platform and jump on.
So far so good, but it was when we arrived in Sassari an hour later that our travel problems began. The instructions we had printed off the Internet gave us directions to what we assumed was Sassari's main bus station, on a road about a kilometre away from the train station, and from where we believed we would be able to catch a bus to Alghero. We started walking through the subarbs of Sassari. The directions on our Google map were fairly straightforward and within twenty minutes or so we were nearing the end point. Interestingly, we couldn't see any indications of a bus station; no road signs pointing to it and not even any buses passing us on their way there. The directions petered out and we found that we were standing at a metro stop outside what seemed to be Sassari's university hospital. There was a bus stop around the corner, but it only seemed to be served by local buses within the town. It was most definitely not a bus station.
We experienced a brief moment of panic, but decided to stay calm and consult the guidebook. The guidebook had a useful map of central Sassari and we scanned it looking for the location of the bus station. We eventually found it.... 100m away from the train station where we had started. We were a bit confused because we definitely hadn't noticed a bus station as we came out of the train station, but we convinced ourselves that it must have been there and that we just hadn't spotted it because we hadn't been expecting it. We turned around and began to retrace our steps.
As the train station came into sight again, our confusion deepened. We couldn't see a bus station, but we could see a large empty expanse of tarmac with some derelict buildings alongside which may perhaps have been a bus station in a former life. It certainly didn't look as if any buses were going to be departing from it any time soon. Oh dear.
Fast running out of other options, we went back into the train station to see whether there was anyone we could ask for advice. There was a ticket machine in the lobby so we tried searching for Alghero again, only to have it confirmed that it wasn't a possible destination. Tim went up to the counter and asked the man behind it how we could get to Alghero. The man replied that there was a train(!) to Alghero leaving in five minutes from the end of platform one, but that he didn't sell tickets for it. The implication we got from him was that we should go to the end of platform one, jump on this mysterious train and buy a ticket from the conductor.
We jogged down to the end of platform one, just as a small train with two carriages pulled into the station. There were a lot of people waiting for it, mainly students who seemed to be using it to travel home from school, but we managed to squeeze on and even find a seat towards the back. The train pulled off and it really was incredibly rickety, bumping its way through increasingly hilly countryside. We saw the ticket collector coming through our carriage and so Tim took out money to buy a ticket. When he approached us, however, there was a small commotion as it turned out that we were actually supposed to have purchased a ticket before we boarded the train. Although not from the ticket office in the train station, because it seems that this train was run by a different company to the normal Italian trains. The conductor announced that we were going to be fined which was mildly concerning, but our minds were soon put at rest when we found out that the total amount we owed, including our two tickets and the fine, was €6.40
After half an hour or so the train came to a standstill and all the passengers got off. We looked out of the window and couldn't see any kind of sign announcing that this was Alghero, but we guessed that it must be and fortunately we were correct. As we hadn't expected to arrive at the train station we didn't have a map from there to our apartment, but we were able to follow road signs pointed to the "centro" and so find our way to the sea to orientate ourselves. First impressions were that Alghero looked like a really pretty place, with long sandy beaches lined with palm trees and an old town jutting out into the sea which was reminiscent of Zadar. We had arrived earlier than anticipated so we had a drink at a little cafe overlooking the sea before heading inland to find our accomodation.
The B&B we were staying at turned out not to be very far away and we found it without any problems. The owner's wife met us and showed us into our room, which was nice and spacious and appeared well-equipped. In most countries checking into a room involves being given the keys and handing over your passport and money, but for some reason in Sardinia these things appear to be more complicated and it was about an hour before we had successfully completed the check-in process.
First of all we had to have a guided tour of the room. We were shown how to open and close the door, and instructed not to do it too noisily. We were then treated to a demonstration of how to open and close every window in the room. We all had to pile into the bathroom and take note of where the shower and toilet were. There were complex explanations of how to use the coffee machine and adjust the temperature of the toaster. These were just the bits I understood; the majority of it was completely lost on me as we trooped around the room, staring at cupboards and light switches. I thought perhaps that things were nearing their end, when the lady motioned that we should sit down at the table and proceeded to fill in a form based on our passports. It seemed straightforward enough, but she ran into difficulties when she got to the box asking which country we were from. The title on our passports said "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" and she didn't know what that meant. Tim tried explaining that we were from England/Britain but he didn't know how to say "United Kingdom" in Italian and the poor lady had evidently never heard of it. It seemed to be important that she didn't make a mistake on the form, so in the end she had to ring her husband and ask him what to write. "Ooon-eye-tedd king-domm" she read out and he told her straightaway what it should be in Italian. Phew.
A few minutes later the husband himself turned up and we paid the money we owed. Surely check-in must now be complete? But no, he produced a town plan of Alghero and proceeded to mark it up with recommended fish restaurants for us. He did, admittedly, also give us some useful information such as where to catch the airport bus from on Sunday. The final thing which remained to be done was to check whether our computers would connect to the wi-fi. We thought he was being overly cautious in wanting to confirm this, until Tim switched his laptop on, entered the code for the wi-fi network and was told that he needed a username and password to access it. The man said that there wasn't a username and password and that something must be wrong with the security settings on our computer. The solution was seemingly that we should all go downstairs to the little stationery shop which he runs, where he would press the button on his router and everything would magically work. We all traipsed down to the shop, but unfortunately when we pressed the router button nothing happened and our computers were still demanding a password and username which didn't exist. We tried playing around with various settings on our machines but nothing worked and so we had to face up to the situation that we would be spending the rest of our holiday without wi-fi.
The good news was that this was officially the end of check-in. Yay! It was gone 8pm by this point so after some minimal unpacking we headed out into the town, where we found a pizza restaurant that was not only serving pizza but actually had Hawaiian as one of the options on the menu. I think that is genuinely the first time I've found a Hawaiian pizza in Italy, and it was beautiful
We had a leisurely start to Friday morning before setting out to properly explore Alghero. It wasn't a long walk from our apartment to the walls of the old town.
We passed through the gate and starting strolling through the pretty streets of the old town. In places they were very narrow.
We were able to climb up and walk along part of the town walls.
They weren't very high but they gave us a beautiful view of the harbour.
We also spotted this church, with its unusual multicoloured roof.
Once we got to the end of the walls, we were able to walk along by the seafront. There were some enormous towers which used to be part of the town's defences.
We also had some great views out across the coast...
...and back towards the old town.
We finished our day with a walk along the beach.
All that remained now was to find some wi-fi to post the blog!