One hour from: Alghero

Visit Sardinia's grottoes, ancient ruins and palm-fringed piazzas.

Neptune's Grotto

Neptune's Grotto

Hidden at the base of the towering Capo Caccia cliffs on the peninsula of the same name, the cathedral-like Neptune's Caves are crammed with stunning stalagmites and stalactites. The long, snaking marine tunnel, Neptune's Grotto, is the most impressive, but the neighbouring Green and Ricami grottoes are also pretty spectacular.

By car: take the 127bis towards Fertilia and follow signs; journey time approx 35 mins. By boat: take one of the many boats at the port; journey time approx 15 mins.

Palmavera

The outskirts of Alghero are littered with remains from Sardinia's nuraghic period, from 1500 to 500BC. Palmavera consists of a ruined palace surrounded by some 50-odd circular huts that were once used for religious meetings and social gatherings.

By car: take the 127bis towards Fertilia and follow signs ; journey time approx 20 mins.

Bosa

This ancient, unspoilt town, watched over by the ruins of the mighty Malaspina Castle, is a much overlooked gem with cobbled, medieval lanes. For an overview, head up to the castle ramparts and pick out the key sights, including the cathedral and the pretty gothic church of San Pietro. Then make your way downstream to nearby Bosa Marina, with its tiny port, beach and trattorias.

By car: take the coastal road south towards Cagliari and follow signs; journey time approx one hour plus.

Sassari

Get through the rambling modern outskirts of Sardinia's second city and you will find an ancient centre crammed with bustling narrow lanes and palm-fringed piazzas. There are many fine monuments to visit, including the baroque cathedral and the impressive Ducale palace.

By car: take the 127bis and follow signs; journey time approx one hour.

Porto Conte

The Bay of Porto Conte is a natural paradise of small beaches, secret coves, hidden creeks, rugged cliffs and partially submerged marine caves. There are plenty of watersports on offer from diving and snorkelling to windsurfing and sea kayaking. Visit the nuraghic, Phoenician and Roman remains at Saint Imbenia, which includes a necropolis and a villa complete with baths. Head north to the pristine beach at Porto Ferro for another prime picnic spot.

By car: take the 127bis to Fertilia and follow signs; journey time approx 45 mins.

Argentiera

For years, Argentiera, a former silver mining community set in wild and rocky surroundings, lay abandoned, but it is now an up-and-coming tourist centre. Many of the miners' cottages have been converted into smart flats and the mineshaft at the heart of the village has been preserved. The nearby beach at Frana has fine sand mixed with centuries of dust deposits from the silver mine.

By car: take the road north towards Porto Torres and follow signs; journey time approx one hour.

The Magic of Italy (0870 888 0222; www.magictravelgroup.co.uk) has seven nights' b&b at the Hotel Villa Las Tronas from £810, with flights and car hire. Italian Tourist Board (020-7408 1254; www.enit.it).

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