The Province of Sassari is located in northwestern Sardinia.
It overlooks the Sardinian Sea to the north and west, and borders with the Provinces of Oristano and Nuoro to its south, as well as by the Province of Olbia-Tempio in the east. The province expands over 1,653 square miles (17.8% of Sardinian territory) and comprises 66 communes, including some of the most beautiful touristic resorts: Castelsardo, Alghero and Stintino, in addition to the Island of Asinara.
Sardinia's only natural lake, Lake Baratz, belongs to Sassari (while man-made Lake Coghinas lies in Sassari's west). Then, one of the vastest plains of Sardinia, the Nurra, is a former malarial region that was drained during the Fascist era. Of course, the province is also made up of numerous beaches, by turns rocky and sandy.
More inland, rather, lies the territory of Logudoro, characterized by a hilly and mountainous landscape. Logudoro boasts the third town in Sardinia for height above sea level, Pattada. Pattada is particularly known for its production of craftmade knifes, sa Resolza.
From 1600 to 1500 B. C. the Nuraghi Civilization rose up in this area (as in other parts of the island), leaving behind innumerable traces.
One of the most important monuments in Sassari is the Fontana del Rosello , built in the Late Renaissance style and characterized by statues: one for each season, and one equestrian, of San Gavino. Also worth seeing are the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, erected in the 13th Century; originally Romanesque, it was later rebuilt as Gothic, but with Baroque facade. Then, visit the Palazzo Ducale, a monumental 18th-Century limestone construction; the Tower of St. Anthony, a remain of the original, 13th-Century city walls; and the Church of San Pietro in Silki, also built in the 13th Century. We also recommend the G. A. Sanna Archaeological-Ethnographic Museum, housing archaeological finds from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages.
Moving towards the sea from Sassari, we reach Porto Torres, on the Gulf of Asinara. In addition to Porto Torres's charming historic center, we can admire the Basilica di San Gavino, one of the oldest and most important examples of Pisan Romanesque architecture on the island; the Basilica di San Gavino a Mare, built in the mid-19th Century near the ancient necropolis Turris Libisonis (the remains of which are kept in the Antiquarium Turritanum); the Palazzo di Re Barbaro; the Terme Maetzke and Terme Pallottino, boasting still their mosaic floors that date back to the Roman Empire; and the Roman bridge, built for commuting from city to countryside.
To northwest of Porto Torres, almost on the end of the small peninsula that reaches the island of Asinara, there is the picturesque village of Stintino, a former fishing village and now popular seaside resort with golden beaches and crystalline sea. Continuing to north we reach the National Park of Asinara, that takes its name from the island (in the center) and is a protected marine area.
Descending along the coast towards the south, we reach the Promontory of Capo Caccia and the enchanting Bay of Porto Conte. In the western part of Capo Caccia, overlooking the sea, the Escalada del Cabirol is 665 steps carved into the rock wall and leading to the Grotta di Nettuno (Neptune's Grotto), among the most suggestive of the Mediterranean. (We can also arrive here by ferry from Alghero.)
On the opposite side of Neptune's Grotto is the entrance to the Grotta Verde (Green Grotto), hiding away traces of the Neolithic Period. Grotta dei Ricami is also close, but accessible only from the sea. The Bay of Porto Conte is part of the Marine Reserve of Capo Caccia-Isola Piana. Nuraghe Palmaneva and the Necropolis of Abghelu Ruju, also in the area, are also tour-worthy.
By continuing along the coast, we reach the beautiful, monument-filled town of Alghero. First, the ancient towers that once surrounded the entire village today they have dwindled down to seven (including Torre de Sant Joan, Torre de l’Esperò Reial, Torre de Sant Jaume, Torre de la Polvorera). Other monuments include the bastions, the ancient fortification of the city; the Plàia Civica, which is the Medieval square of the city; the Cathedral of Santa Maria, built in 1500 in Gothic-Catalan style; and the Plàia del Bisbe, a Neoclassical piazza fronted by the Teatro Civico, the Palazzo Vescovile and the Casa Doria.
Equally-striking is the town of Castelsardo, one of the most interesting old towns in Sardinia, on the northeast of Sassari, on the opposite side of the Stintino Promontory from Alghero. Strolling through the historical center of Castelsardo, we can admire the Castle, of Medieval origins, which housts the Museo dell'Intreccio Mediterraneo and its complex, handmade baskets; the Church of Santa Maria, preserving the famous Black Christ (Lu Criltu Nieddu), one of the oldest in Sardinia; the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Anthony the Great, built in the 16th Century with a beautiful retablo (altarpiece), the early work of an unknown artist designated with the name the Master of Castelsardo.
Around Castelsardo, other sights to see include the famous domus de janas, prehistoric tombs long used as a prison and then, up until a few years ago, as a residence; the Roccia dell’Elefante (Elephant Rock), which takes its name from its bizarre elephant shape; and the Nuraghe Paddaggiu.
In the southeast of Sassari, we recommend a visit to the town of Ozieri, with its Church and Convent of Saint Francis, Archaeological Museum, and Cathedral of the Immaculate Virgin. The ruins of the Castle of Goceano or of Burgos; Ortachis Park (with meadows, numerous springs and beautiful waterfalls); and the Valle dei Nuraghi, a complex of monuments left by the Nuraghic civilization all stand out. Be sure to see the Nuragic Palace of Santu Antine, one of the greatest and most famous Nuragic structures in Sardinia.
Some of Sardinia's most beautiful beaches lie in the Province of Sassari, meaning it is an ideal spot for vacations by the sea. Among innumerable beaches from which to choose, we recommend the beaches of the Gulf of Asinara - e.g. Platamona or La Pelosa Beach in Stintino, with its crystal-clear waters sheltered by the Isola Piana. Also quite nice are the beaches of Lido San Giovanni and of the Bombarde, in Alghero; the Balai beach in Porto Torres; and that of Lu Bagnu, next to Castelsardo.
In the environs of Asinara National Park it is possible to organize different types of excursions to explore the beauty of local flora and fauna, both marine and terrestrial. Such includes the characteristic albino donkey, symbol of the island. Those who choose the Park's guided tours can go by foot (trekking), bus, train, jeep, bicycle, and horseback. More adventurous? Try boating and sailing, scuba diving, and fishing.
As in the rest of the island, plenty of festivals and folkloristic events enliven the Province of Sassari. Among these, the Cavalcata Sarda, held on the third Sunday of May in Sassari, kicks off summer on the island. For the occasion, women, men, young people, children and the elderly parade through the city in traditional costumes, some by foot, some riding horses. Castelsardo is known for its Procession of Lunissanti when, on the evening of Holy Monday, an important torchlight parade winds along the town's streets.
The cuisine of the Province of Sassari favors vegetables, with typical dishes like la cavolata (cabbage soup with pork) and favata (beans cooked with bacon, sausage and spices).
Other typical dishes are the lamb cordula (juniper-flavored lamb offal), fried calamari, and cuttlefish cooked with tomatoes.
Among the desserts are the papassini (with nuts and raisins) and the sospiri di Ozieri (praline almond paste with honey, covered with chocolate and sugar).
The towns of Ittiri and Thiesi deserve special mention. Ittiri is famous for its artichokes (thorny Sardinian), oil (winner of many national awards), sweets, honey, bread, cold cuts, and cheeses. Meanwhile, Thiesi is rather renowned for its cheese production.
Among the wines, taste the Moscato Sorso-Sennori. Highly-appreciated (and exported internationally) is the production of white, rosé and red wines in the area of Alghero.