On Sardinia's northern coast, the town of Castelsardo has an ancient history and inspiring beauty, named among the most beautiful towns in Italy. Resting on the rock above the Gulf of Asinara, you can look across the water to Corsica and the isles of the Parco Nazionale dell'Asinara to the west. It has a stunning setting on the slope, while at the top of the rock is the ancient castle.

The town had pre-Nuraghic settlements as well as a Nuraghic presence before the Romans arrived. You'll find several interesting archeological sites around the area. The castle was built by the powerful Genovese family, the Doria, which was officially named Castelgenovese in 1270. The borgo was initially built around the castle, then expanded, and wealthy Coriscan and Ligurian families built homes here. It passed to the rule of the giudici, a type of district judge rule that occurred in Sardinia in the Middle Ages, the districts being called giudicati, until becoming part of the Aragon dynasty. Castelsardo was the last town to fall under Spanish rule, in 1448, becoming part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. That in turn became part of the House of Savoy in the 1700s but unlike the other cities in the area, Castelsardo retained the Aragon stripes on their city coat of arms, and still bears it to this day.

The town really is beautiful in its pastel colors standing out against the rocky slope and the intensely blue water below. Set on a natural harbor, the picturesque marina and towering rock are alluring (and photogenic).

There are plenty of things to see and do. A few of the must-sees include the Cathedral, dedicated to Sant'Antonio Abate, sitting above the water, with its distinctive domed bell tower. Inside are works of art to admire. The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie contains several fine statues, including one highly venerated Cristo Nero (black Christ). The Castle is also a must, for its dominating position and spectacular views, and also for the Museum dell'Intreccio Mediterraneo, the most visited museum in Sardinia. It contains a large collection of artigianal wares, artifacts and items that trace the history of this area.

There are several palaces around town that belonged to the once-noble families.

The town put on a huge Holy Week celebration with processions, culminating on Pasquetta (Monday after Easter) for a huge festival that brings in big-name performers, called Pasquetta in Musica. Throughout the summer months there are many concerts and festivals to add fun to the beach scene. You'll find trails for walking and, of course, there are plenty of water sports and nice beaches to enjoy that turquoise water.

The food naturally centers on the sea, and there are plenty of excellent eateries where you can sample it.

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