With around 8000 inhabitants, this small, unsung town huddled beneath the ruins of the 12th-century Castello Malaspina is the ideal spot for an off-season break. An hour’s drive from Alghero airport, it lies just a couple of kilometres from a glorious arc of sand that is said to be one of Italy’s cleanest beaches, backed by bars and restaurants.
The old town too is well-equipped with places to eat and drink (see here for a selection)—not to mention shops, museums, churches and endless atmospheric cobbled lanes that are mostly inaccessible to traffic.
A vibrant street market takes place on Tuesday mornings, allowing you to hunt down souvenirs and exercise your bartering skills.
At the top of the town lie the ruins of the Castello Malaspina, built by the Ligurian Malaspina family in the 12th century and later enlarged. The fortification contains the church of Nostra Signora di Regnos Altos, boasting a remarkable set of Catalan-style frescoes from around 1300, and offers sweeping views over the river and out to the sea from its ramparts.
Bosa formerly occupied a site a couple of kilometres upstream of the present town, though little of this settlement survives apart from the old cathedral of San Pietro, built over an early Christian necropolis. The main body of the church is pure Lombard Romanesque in inspiration, dating from 1073, though it later underwent modifications.
Bosa was once known for its leather-making industry, with tanneries ranged along the river in the the Sas Conzas quarter. The last of the tanneries closed in the 1960s, but one of them has been renovated to house this fascinating museum devoted to the local – and reportedly extremely smelly – industry, with working displays of machinery and methods of tanning from centuries ago.
The 19th-century Casa Deriu has been restored as a museum and gallery, where you can tour a suite of rooms furnished in period style, including frescoed vaulted ceilings, olive-wood parquet flooring, majolica tiles and Art Nouveau paintings. Everything is a bit faded, but it gives a good impression of how the wealthy classes once lived. There are displays of local crafts and lace-making, and the third floor is devoted to local painter and ceramicist Melkiorre Melia (1889–1982).
Marked out by its colourful domes, Bosa’s Cathedral lies by the old town bridge, its 15th-century origins largely obscured under an overlay of Piedmontese Baroque. The lavish interior is a riot of grand arches and polychrome marble. A few individual items are worth picking out, including carved lions subduing dragons on the altar steps and frescoes in the apse painted by Emilio Scherer at the end of the 19th century.
First and foremost must be the marvellous beach at BOSA MARINA, 2km away and connected in summer by a miniature train or a bus service year-round. Regularly voted one of Italy’s cleanest beaches, it has numerous bars and eateries close by, and an old Spanish watchtower to explore.
If you want to go further afield, there are more beaches to explore to north and south of Bosa. Try the sparsely populated SINIS PENINSULA, to the south, or the renowned stretches of sand around STINTINO, on Sardinia’s northwest tip.
Bosa’s OLD TOWN is a maze of picturesque cobbled lanes, though it’s difficult to get lost – if you’re confused, simply head down (for the main street and the river) or up (for the castle)!