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La Maddelena, Italy

Updated on July 25, 2013

Fabulous Archipelago of Sardinia


Sardinian Splendor

Near the exclusive enclave of the super rich and chic in Porto Cervo, La Maddelena is a little-known island archipelago at the northern point of Sardinia, an Italian outpost in the Mediterranean Sea. My mother left the United States to live there for three years as a librarian for a small United States naval base's elementary school. It is so remote that the children of servicemen must attend a boarding school high school in Rome. I was fortunate to visit often, sometimes two times a year for a month each time. Sadly, the base closed in 2007, but my mother has Italian and American friends she still goes back to visit. Some servicemen/ civilians buy their homes rather than renting.

Terra Firma

The land itself is a rugged, rocky pink granite that eventually erodes to form the beautiful "spiaggia rosa" beach sand, or pink sand. The contrast of the rosy sand with the crystal clear Mediterranean waters viewed from the hilly heights above is very memorable. The granite quarries were quite busy, but today only a few older men work them. Tourism, mostly from Europeans and some Asians, is the lifeblood of the community today, which is connected to the Sardinian mainland today by ferry from Palau.

The mainland of Sardinia features Porto Cervo, on the Costa Smerelda, the playground of the rich and famous such as Tom Cruise. There are many other things to explore and it is possible to drive from tip to tip in 165 miles or so.

To the north is nearby Corsica, the birthplace of Napoleon, which is still owned by France today. It is a beautiful island to visit by ferry, although the crossing can be stormy and choppy. Both islands also are subject to a fierce wind from the Saharan Desert in Africa called the Sirocco. It is a wearying, dusty wind that can last up to 4 days.

La Maddelena, Sardinia, Italy

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The archipelago consists of many islands that unoccupied.

Nuraghi- Prehistoric Strongholds

Fascinating nuraghe.  Nuraghi (plural) can be found mostly on the interior of Sardinia.
Fascinating nuraghe. Nuraghi (plural) can be found mostly on the interior of Sardinia.
Giant's grave with entrance.
Giant's grave with entrance.

Prehistoric Structures

The nuraghi were prehistoric (around 1500 BC) strongholds likely built to protect the inhabitants from murauders from the sea. Most were built in the interior of the island for additional protection, it is thought. Massive stones make up sometimes three stories of dark, spooky interiors. These structures fascinated me during my visits. Other interesting sites to see are the Giant's Graves, large monolithic graves. The precise use is really not known; perhaps they were tombs built to continue to honor tribal heroes. Folklore assigns them as real giant graves; however, no larger than average bones have been found.

Incredibly Beautiful Beaches

Secluded Beaches

The real star of the island is the beaches. Set against the pink glow of the granite landscape, the clear blue water stands out with a beauty that is surreal and almost unearthly. Driving around on winding roads affords many incredible views. The most popular beaches to visit are Spiaggia Giardinelli, the wind-sheltered Spiaggia di Spalmatore, the touristy Spiaggia de Porto Massimo with views of Caprera, and Punta Marginetto with views of two small islands. The best beaches are on the tiny islands that are uninhabited and can be visited by boat. One of those beaches are Spiaggia Rosa on Budelli island, famous for its pink sands, so famous in fact, that it isn't possible to set foot on the beach. Too many tourists were taking away the rare pink sand.

Visit Giuseppe Garibaldi's Final Resting Spot

Nearby La Maddelena you will find the uniter of national Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi. His home on Caprera is a quiet and peaceful place to contemplate his contribution to many revolutions in the Americas, not just Italy. He turned down an offer from American President Abraham Lincoln to serve as a major general in the War Between the States, or the Civil War. The condition he set to take it was to be the commander-in-chief over the Union forces and also require emancipation of the slaves, something Lincoln was not ready to do at that time. He was well-known around the world and even inspired ladies' fashions, such as the Garibaldi jacket.

Great Overview of La Maddelena

Shopping & Crafts

There is a sizable town there, which is set into a hillside, and it was an important base for the Italian navy. I really enjoyed the evening stroll or "passegiata" that all La Maddelenians do before dinner around 8 p.m. and we made it our practice to do this every night. The shops follow a siesta schedule during the day with most opening additionally later from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. I had my children with me and this truly enhanced the experience since every few feet, someone would stop and interact with them.

Some of the crafts of Sardinia we enjoyed buying were pottery pieces and also woven baskets, into which they can weave your family name. They are well-known for their textiles; in particular, beautiful wool rugs with intricate geometrical patterns and needleworked linens for curtains. There are also cork trees that the craftsmen use to make a variety of crafts.

Lovely La Maddelena

La Maddelena is beautiful to visit and it feels like you are in almost an alien landscape. There is plenty to do with another island country nearby to hop to if you are interested in a change of scenery.


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