The Maddalena Islands, Italy
Written by Missy Johnston
The Maddalena Islands of Italy, a lovely group of islands to visit on a yacht charter of the Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, are located off the coast of Sardinia inside the Straits of Bonifacio. Budelli, Caprera, Razzoli, Santa Maria, Santo Stefano and Spargi are the main islands which surround La Maddalena Island and are most easily visited by yacht charter. Often compared to the BVI’s, The Maddalena Islands are close enough to each other to navigate with dead reckoning, are surrounded by beautiful crystal-clear water in varying shades of blue and green and have many anchorages from which to choose that are just beckoning for a stop for a cooling swim.
This group of small rocky islands has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Today, the main island of La Maddalena has the largest settlement and population. Many of the rest of the islands are inhabited by rabbits, birds, and the occasional Shephard using the vegetation of these undisturbed islands as a feeding ground for his flock. A main feature of these islands is the pink sand found on many of the island beaches. In fact, the island of Budelli is home to one of Italy’s most enchanting beaches, famous for its pink sand.
Just as popular in ancient times as now, wrecks of Roman ships can still be seen along the bottom of the surrounding sea and offer a great scuba diving adventure. These islands are loved not only by yachtsmen, but also by dolphins, who can often be seen coming up to play in the wake of your yacht with a smile and a twinkle in their eye.
The Maddalena Islands are a National Park, with rules and regulations that must be abided when visiting. To visit a permit is required which your Captain will take care of acquiring. There are restrictions on landing, anchoring, fishing, diving etc. Several areas cannot be visited at all. There are many mooring balls expected to be used to avoid damaging the bottom when anchoring. The cost of some mooring balls is covered by the cost of the permit, however there are other private mooring balls for which there will be an additional charge. In locations where anchoring might be possible, there may also be a charge for anchoring. There are only three settlements in this archipelago which are Maddalena Town on La Maddalena, a fishing village, Stagnali, a small village on Caprera, and about 20 summer houses on Santa Maria.
What to See and Do in The Maddalena Islands, Italy
Beaches: Beaches are what The Maddalena Islands are known for, including long white sandy beaches and beautiful pink sandy beaches, all ringing beautiful tiny bays, and anchorages filled with clear water in multiple shades of blue. The beaches and water are the main draw of The Maddalena Islands. Budelli Island has the famous pink sand beach, with the sand colored pink by little microorganisms that live in the sea grass on the beach. The beach is blocked off as too many visitors took too much sand home as souvenirs and today the sand is more a blushing white sand beach. Enjoy the footpath around this beach, but do not step on the beach itself.
Hiking: Head ashore on the various islands in this National Park to hike along the many trails, where it may be you, a bunch of goats and rabbits wandering through the lentisk and pistachio fragrant shrubs.
Maddalena Town on La Maddalena Island: Home to a huge NATO Base until 2008, where English was the language spoken, in the restaurants, cafes, and shops in La Maddalena, a surprising amount of English is spoken. This is a little fishing village, where the ferry docks, and where the most civilization available in these islands can be found.
Church of St. Mary Magdalene and the Diocesan Museum: Located right in the center of Maddalena Town, on Maddalena Island the church is simple, but lovely. Next door in the lane adjacent to the parish is the Diocesan Museum, which is small but well kept, with surprising items that belonged to Admiral Nelson such as candelabras, gold, traditional costumes, paintings and religious items. Please dress appropriately and be prepared to leave a small donation in the museum.
Giuseppe Garibaldi House, House on the island of Caprera: This house is where the famous revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) lived after retiring to private life, and where he died and was buried.
The Maddalena Islands are a pristine playground about which very few are aware, offering miles of beaches, isolated anchorages and beautiful clear waters. These islands are a highlight of any yacht charter in Sardinia.