In the summer, this Mediterranean island may be a bustling holiday hub, frequented by none other than controversial former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi himself. However, outside of the May to September window, the Italian island is a very different location altogether, and one that caters to those who want to get away from it all.

From Dublin, Ryanair jets in to Alghero airport, with a three-hour direct flight making the trip manageable and affordable.
Alghero itself is a short 20-minute journey from Fertilia Airport, and the small city is a pure joy.

The historical centre – or centro storico – is the heart of the city. It's a beautiful gallimaufry of serpentine streets flanked by crumbling Mediterranean architecture on both sides, with exposed stone and faded pastels providing an old-world feel of past greatness.

All of this grandeur is built onto the harbour, with the Mistral wind blowing across the ramparts and down the winding streets, forcing one to take refuge amongst the cobblestones and exposed brickwork, and allowing the temperate Mediterranean climate to soak into one's skin as the chill from the wind is banished.

At night, the centro storico basks in the glow of street lamps cloaked in red cloth, which cast a maroon colour across the streets that they inhabit; it all adds to an impossibly romantic atmosphere.

Culturally, the city is a fascinating mix between Italian and Catalan-Aragonese culture, with the latter influence coming through invasion in the 14th century; this mix is seen through the architecture and food – both of which display a unique fusion.

Beyond the centro storico the modern city envelopes the heart of the town, with a selection of wonderful hotels within walking distance of the centre.

The three-star Hotel Angedras is a fine choice, with its whitewashed walls and uber-friendly staff making it an excellent place to call home for a stay. If it's five-star luxury you're after then Hotel Carlos V and Villa Las Tronas Hotel fit the bill.

Carlos V is the definition of modern luxury, with rooms either facing onto a quiet garden encircling a huge seawater swimming pool, or looking out over the pristine blue water of the Med.

Villa Las Tronas is a stunning hotel. Located on a rocky outpost jutting out into the sea, the hotel is set on private grounds with labyrinthine gardens; if the wallet can stretch to it, then it is the best choice.

Even if you don't stay as Las Tronas, the spa and wellness centre is available for €50 a head and is well worth it with a seawater swimming pool, sauna, Turkish bath and massage centre, all contained in a superbly designed state-of-the-art building.

Inside the centro storico the best attraction is rambling around the streets and peering inside the many churches and the cathedral that mark different sections of the town. Nearby there is also a traditional Italian market - if you fancy some bartering and a chance to practice your language skills.

Another excursion worth making is across the nearby bay by boat. A 45-minute boat trip, for €15, brings you to the Neptune's Grotto cave.

Once arrived at the cave, the ship goes into its lowest gear and extends a stairs out across the water to touch the rock; at this point the passengers walk 'the plank' and, if the sea is rough, navigate their way across a heaving stairs to the safety of land; it's quite a sight to behold.

Once inside, there is a very interesting tour of the cave and its famous stalactites.

Another wonderful day trip is to drive down the coast to Bosa. Rent an iconic Fiat and head south from the town, following the narrow, winding road as it hugs the steep cliffs with a mesmeric view out over the western Mediterranean.

There are beautiful beaches dotted along the coast where you can stop off for a drink, snack, walk or swim. But bear in mind, the water is nippy until mid-April, early May.

After an hour on this road, one reaches Bosa, a quaint town built onto the Temo river, with multicoloured buildings creating a rainbow effect around the town.

Walk around, drink a coffee in one of the traditional bars, and head up to the town's Castle – Castello Malaspina. It's a good walk up a steep hill and for a small entry fee one can pay in to enjoy the lovingly maintained rampart walls and church. Dating from 1112 and built by a wealthy Tuscan family, it's a fascinating insight into a previous era in Italy.

The town also has a superb restaurant - Sa Pischedda. With superb staff, mellow jazz and white décor, stopping in here for a bite after taking in the town is highly recommended. The traditional ray fish starter, the locally sourced steak and swordfish are all excellent.

Back in Alghero, eating is also a delight, with beautiful bread, pizza, pasta and seafood the order of the day.

For seafood, Teatro and Il Pavone are regarded as some of the best eateries in town. La Botteghina is the place for pizza and pasta – all their ingredients are sourced locally and seasonally, making it a slow foodies' heaven.

For old-school slap-up Italian fare, Al Solito Posto will serve up a massive plate of spaghetti, with beautiful homemade sauce. The classic Alghero spaghetti dish, with capers, olives and clams is the best choice here.

All of the above eateries can be found at or simply by asking at your chosen hotel.

Alghero has a busy event calendar, with festivals to beat the band, so timing your trip to coincide with one is a very good idea, allowing you to take in some art or music on your journey.

Easter holy week – or la setmana santa - is a great time to visit as the town proclaims its Catholic heritage and stages the stations of the cross along the cobbled streets. Black-hooded believers carry an effigy of Jesus around the centro storico for all to see, ending with a mass in one of the churches located in the town.

The setmana santa ritual embodies the town's desire to maintain links to its former traditions and display them for the next generation of Sardinians, as well as allowing visitors an insight into Italian culture. Don't miss the opportunity to grab a slice for yourself.

Tadhg Peavoy