The Bonifacio Strait separates Corsica from Sardinia and it hosts 2 world famous areas: The La Maddalena National Park Archipelago and The Lavezzi Natural Reserve. If you wish to visit the Lavezzi Natural Reserve, you can book a sailing trip on board a modern and fast zodiac and explore the southern coast of Corsica, Bonifacio town and islands of Piana, Lavezzi and Cavallò. For more information contact our ticket office, our crew or book online on www.corsicatour.it
“The kingdom of the wind”
What we know today as the islands in the Bonifacio Strait are in fact the highest peaks of the hills that were submerged by sea during the last glacial era. Until 10 000 years ago it was possible to travel from Sardinia to Corsica on foot. The old path led across the area that we know nowadays as Spargi, Budelli and Lavezzi islands and is now submerged at about 60 meters under sea level. The sea depth in the Bonifacio Strait is irregular and sometimes poses serious difficulties for navigators and sailors. The Strait, in Latin called Fretum Gallicum or Taphros, is well-known for the strong currents flowing in the direction of the predominating wind. Not by chance the Strait is also known as “the kingdom of the wind”. Navigation is particularly difficult when Mistral wind from north-west blows. When the wind is particularly strong speed it pushes the vessels towards the thousands of rock spurs just under the surface. This was exactly what happened in 1855 when 773 French soldier on board the Semillante died on Lavezzi, where the rocky spurs form a dangerous hidden web. There is a small cemetery on Lavezzi to commemorate their unfortunate end, which is described in Alphonse Daudet’s book “Letters from my mill”.
Since 1994 after the umpteenth shipwreck, the French ferry that ran aground on Berrettini islands within the archipelago area, the transit of cargo ships transporting dangerous pollutants is prohibited. All ships that nowadays wish to sail across the Straits need to have a laissez-passer issued by the control station at Capo Pertusato or at La Maddalena. And it is a good thing as this marine area is part of the Cetaceans Sanctuary.
An important strategic point
The Bonifacio Strait is a crossroads for passengers and cargo ferries that connect Sardinia to Corsica, to mainland Italy as well as to Spain. Furthermore, it is a common sight on these gleaming waters to see the unfurled white sails of racing yachts participating in the numerous regattas organised by the Sardinian or Corsican Yacht Clubs.
The Bonifacio Strait is an extremely important strategic point. In the past it was an essential corridor towards the open Mediterranean sea. Now it is enclosed between 2 different states. This was the reason why Italy fortified La Maddalena Archipelago when Corsica became French in 1768. Subsequently France fortified the high cliffs of Bonifacio and Capo Pertusato. In fact, we have already mentioned several fortresses and further on during our trip we’ll see others.
The legend of Torco: the marine prince
And now the legend of Torco, the marine prince who lived in Sardinia in the times when the people were still living in caves. Torco was a son of the Sea God and he was am accomplished sailor. He guarded the Sardinian coast to keep the pirates and foreign conquerors far away. While he was young, no pirates succeeded in landing on Sardinia, but time was passing and one day a pirates ship appeared in front of Punta Falcone. The pirates arrived from Africa commanded by Atlas, the most powerful and vicious pirate king in the whole Mediterranean. Torco knew this would be a decisive battle. And so it was: the battle raged in the Bonifacio Strait. Torco and his Sardinian allies succeeded in keeping the pirates far from the coast all day long, but in the evening a large enemy ship rammed Torco’s small boat, it broke into 2 parts and sank with him and his crew on board. Deep in the abyss the sea king, with seashell-shaped hands, took his son and laid him on a bed of sea-weed. Then he leaned over Torco and breathed the spirit of the sea into his mouth. In that instant Torco sprouted gills and his legs turned into a long tail allowing him to swim swiftly. Torco came to life again and turned into a triton. When he realized he was still able to fight, he swam back to surface together with the other sea tritons. They surrounded the pirate ships and started to lash their tails making huge waves. In a moment a terrible storm began, the high waves crashed into the enemy fleet destroying it. So the old prince Torco won his last battle against Atlas, but he could never again become a man. The legend says that when the sea in front of Punta Falcone in the Bonifacio Strait swells and thunders, it means Torco rises from the deep sea to warn Sardinians about the presence of pirates.