The sun rose at 6AM and we had a gentle breeze from the NNW at about 10-15 knots and a pleasant high 60’s with an overcast sky -- a perfect day for touring. After a delicious breakfast we took the tenders to the port of the beautiful medieval city of Alghero. Once there, we boarded our ferry “Neptunos” to Neptune’s Grotto four kilometers across the bay. The ride across the bay was lovely with a strong breeze. The seas were kind today since the swells were very small and we had little difficulty in getting onto the rocky entrance to the grotto. It can happen that the seas are so rough that when you reach the grotto you cannot get off. The grotto was stunning. As we went deeper into the interior, the views became ever more beautiful – large caverns of crystalline stalagmites and stalactites formed delicate columns, some 100’ tall, and some covered with iridescent green and beneath them were limpid pools of transparent sea water. It was truly a natural cathedral.
After lunch we returned to Alghero, boarded our coaches and went on to the small boutique wine estate of Azienda Agricola Leda’ D’Ittiri. There we sampled three very good wines, a rose, a white and a richly complex and strong red. The wines were accompanied by local olives, pecorino cheeses of different maturities, and bread dipped in olive oil made on the estate. The owner gave us a very informative introduction to each wine, how it should be drunk and its characteristics. She only bottles 18 thousand per year and when compared to the large producers who bottle 5 to 7 million. We were really getting something unique and only available at the estate. The owner provided the same information on how to select really good extra virgin olive oil. Everything made on this estate is done by hand in the traditional way. No pesticides are ever used. Many of us purchased the wines and the olive oil which were very reasonably priced given that they are artisanal products.
We then boarded our coaches for a return to Alghero and some took a brief walking tour of the old city. I was struck by the frequency which the street names were in Catalan, the national language of Catalonia and Barcelona. In fact, the people of Alghero speak a dialect of Italian that is heavily influenced by Catalan. The Spanish were their overlords for some centuries so this makes sense. Alghero is clearly a city of some wealth as we passed all the world-famous shops, such as Gucci and dozens of shops selling fine jewelry, particularly red coral, and local products. The corals are still harvested but those from the Mediterranean are very limited and most of what was for sale was Pacific red coral. The Mediterranean coral is a pale rose color and is far more expensive. We returned to the Sea Cloud and settled in for our conversation and cocktails and one of Sea Cloud’s inimitable dinners.