The archipelago of the Maddalena it is traditionally a sort of must for many of those who visit the north of Sardinia. White sand beaches, coves where shades of blue enchant the gaze and calm the soul, but also a respectable “land” offer, too often overlooked by those who interpret this archipelago as a destination for a hit and run trip. Regardless of the excesses of the Costa Smeralda’s worldliness, the seven Maddalenine islands have everything you could ask for to what we normally call a “dream vacation”, within an hour’s reach by plane for us Italians.
In June, when we were there, it can happen to find yourself at sunset alone on a postcard beach with the sea gently caressing the granite. An oasis of peace and silence full of elements to decipher: one natural library. In short, not dedicating at least a long weekend to him would be a real shame: here are some ideas for a holiday not only on the sea.
ON FOOT IN CAPRERA
And so let’s start right from the earth. Because if it is true that some aspects of the archipelago can only be experienced by a boat, it is equally undeniable that not all days are climatically suitable for this type of activity.
For those who love walks and a bit of trekking in the midst of nature, the numerous paths of the island can also be tackled by those who are not trained. The highest point, Mount Tejalone, rises just over 200 meters above sea level, but from its top it is possible to admire the whole archipelago and the view on clear days is impressive.
During one of these walks you cannot fail to notice the numerous abandoned military structures that are camouflaged in the Mediterranean scrub of the island. In Caprera – but not only – there emerges strongly history of the archipelago, a strategic point in the Mediterranean and the subject of disputes at the end of the eighteenth century between France and the Kingdom of Sardinia. In 1793 a clash took place between these two powers for the control of the Magdalene: a young Napoleon took part in it, and was defeated, rejected by the inhabitants led by Domenico Leoni (later called Millelire), the first gold medal for military valor. of the Italian Armed Forces. But Caprera, for those who love history, also goes by another great name: Giuseppe Garibaldi, who lived here for almost thirty years and whose house-museum is still located, where it is possible to discover the man beyond the symbol.
A walk on the island also conquers those who love botany and the foraging, that is, the collection – without damaging, this is essential – of wild herbs. An activity that opens a window on the traditions of the archipelago, as Eleonora explains, an environmental guide passionate about botany and in love with her land that she also promotes on her Instagram profile. Mastic, juniper, myrtle, lavender: these are just some of the plants that populate the island in addition to the maritime pines, imported here on the initiative of Garibaldi. Eleonora explains that the mastic was used as a toothpaste, that the sticky leaves of the sea cistus served as Swiffer for the ash, that the cat grass has a strong expectorant power, while the lavender soothes skin lesions.
After an excursion through the paths of Caprera, you can always cool off with a swim in one of the beaches of the island: it is difficult to find one that is not worth it, but we mention here Cala Andreani and Cala Coticcio, also called Tahiti by the Maddalenini.
THE UNIQUE SEA
Spending a few days at La Maddalena means having the opportunity to fill up on dream coves. They are very many and scattered between the seven major islands and the 55 smaller ones. We have explored some of them with Lorenzo who immediately tells us with a bright gaze that he took the boat license before the one for the car. Today with his Luxury Virginia it takes tourists to discover “its” islands with solutions that range from sailing ships to ultra-fast dinghies, which can also reach Corsica in a short time.
Ship traffic, mainly due to excursion boats, is very strong in this stretch of sea, despite the whole area being part of a national park of the same name. It is essential to have a respectful and sustainable approach towards these natural treasures: Lorenzo himself observes that on the beaches the impact of thousands of tourists who unwittingly take away sand every day (even if only with swimsuits and beach towels) risks compromising them.
Beyond the indiscriminate possibility of physically getting off the beaches – which should be discouraged – a day trip by sailing ship, or other types of boats, allows you to discover some views that are inaccessible in other ways. You see the islands from a magical perspective, you eat in the sea and you can dive into these bodies of water, first of all the well-known Port of the Madonna, an emerald treasure chest guarded between the islands of Razzoli, Santa Maria and Budelli.
Among the many beaches of the archipelago, one in particular has gained international fame: the Pink Beach of Guts (in the picture). Precisely the unsustainable use of this corner of paradise has meant that there is now very little pink: the singular color of the sand is given by the deposit of a microorganism that detaches itself from the posidonia; pity that over the years the tourists have plundered the sand of the beach. And the prohibition of access ordered in 1992 by the park, whose means are unfortunately too limited to monitor the 180 kilometers of coastline of the archipelago.
A break two other mentions are conquered by Cala Corsara, frequented – not for tourist reasons – since the Neolithic and where the granite has taken on forms that are sympathetically reminiscent of some animals, and Cala Conneri, also known as the “beach of love” (in the gallery at the beginning of article, in addition to some curiosities about the archipelago, you will find some images of these places).
To fully enjoy the island it is advisable – for those who have the opportunity – to rent a scooter (there are also electric ones) and take the panoramic road that immediately offers an overview as well as some viewpoints worthy of photos. The car can be brought thanks to the ferries which in the summer season are very efficient and frequent, but the impact on this small island is considerable and the parking lots, especially near the most beautiful beaches, are very limited.
L’arsenal of beaches mind-boggling island is well stocked. Those on the western side, in particular, stand out for their charm: Trinita Bay and Spiaggia del Morto are suitable for those who love sand and can be reached with a five-minute walk. Punta Tegge, on the other hand, is an expanse of polished granite that descends into the sea and gives the impression of being in a lunar landscape. From these three – we add the chapel of the Madonnetta – you can enjoy a truly enchanting sunset. The Octopus Head is instead on the eastern side: to get there you need a short, not very easy path, but the spoils for the senses deserve.
L’cultural offer and museum is rather small: the reopening of the «Nino Lamboglia» naval archaeological museum is planned, where the numerous Roman amphorae found inside the wreck, shipwrecked in the waters of Spargi, are kept. Beyond this and the two Garibaldi museums, there is the diocesan museum, the result of the painstaking work of some Maddalenians who are passionate about local history. The island also holds gems related to its history including Villa Weber, where Mussolini was hidden for a few days, and the French Quarry, whose granite was used for well-known infrastructures and works, including the Suez Canal.
Like all small Italian islands, in August the livability of La Maddalena is lower. For this the ideal is to discover it in the months of June, July and September; even in October, they explain to us, the climate is still very mild (the sea water, on the other hand, is cool throughout the summer season).
The receptive realities they are diversified and include campsites and b & b; the hotel offer, in particular, should be modernized, but there are also some hotels here. Arriving by ferry, you can immediately see the Excelsior, which boasts a strategic position right in front of the marina, while the only 5-star hotel on the island, the MA&MA, is located near Punta Tegge.
AT THE TABLE
The gastronomic offer is wide and mainly based on the excellent fish available. There are many realities that offer raw products, including the Magreta, a point of reference recommended by the Maddalenini themselves with an enviable quality of raw material. There Blue Pearl, led by Giovanna, a restaurateur from Brescia with clear ideas, also revisits some classics of the Sardinian tradition in a maritime version: here we tried the culurgiones with fish filling and an octopus that makes you remember.
For those who can afford to spend more, the island’s most exclusive address is undoubtedly The cliff (which we told you about in this article). Equally exclusive it is La Cassita, the only commercial activity on the island of Santa Maria, where there are only a handful of houses and villas, including that of Roberto Benigni; here guests arrive both by sea and by helicopter and there are the sprouts of a management attentive to sustainability in a context where nature dominates unchallenged.
For a more informal and meat-based meal you can opt for the Meet overlooking the lively main square of the island or to the About Bandiru, led by the sanguine Eraldo, who brought to the island the best of Campidanese home cooking with meats, cheeses and a pig able to send the taste buds of the most carnivores into ecstasy.
(Cover photo and the gallery: Thomas Baistrocchi).