A modern city by Sardinian standards, L’Alguerium (named after the algae that washed up on the coast) started life as an 11th-century fishing village. Thanks to its strategic position, it was jealously guarded by its Genoese founders who, despite a brief Pisan interregnum in the 1280s, managed to retain control until the mid-14th century.

They were finally ousted by the Aragonese, who took the city in 1353 after a naval battle at Porto Conte. Catalan colonists were encouraged to settle in the town, and after a revolt in 1372 the remaining Sardinians were relocated inland to Villanova Monteleone. From then on, Alghero became resolutely Catalan and called itself Alguer.

Under its Iberian rulers, the town thrived. It became the main Catalan port on the island and in 1501 was raised to the status of city. Fortifications were built to defend it against land and sea attacks. Further adding to its prestige was the arrival of the Holy Roman Emperor (and king of Spain) Charles V in 1541 to lead a campaign against the North African corsairs.

After about 350 years of Spanish rule, the city passed to the Piedmontese House of Savoy in 1720. The next couple of centuries proved hard for Alghero, and by the 1920s its population had fallen to just over 10,000. Heavily bombed in 1943, it remained in pretty poor shape until tourism arrived in the late 1960s, paving the way for the development of the modern new town.