La Maddalena is the largest island of the archipelago. As you will see already even from a distance, the granite coastline is very jagged. The island has an almost triangular shape, a surface area of 20 square kilometres and about 45 km of coastline.
Some beaches you can’t miss
Even here we can find numerous wonderful beaches and bays, for example, the Abbatoggia peninsula with granite reefs alternated by tiny sandy beaches or the amazing Bassa Trinità beach, both on the north-western coast. We can glimpse them right now in front of us. Cala Lunga with a restaurant right on the waters edge and the Spalmatore beach on the Eastern coast are both worthy of mention.
The name of Cala Spalmatore, Spreader Bay in English, indicates a bay very sheltered from almost all wind. This is the main reason why the local fishermen caulk their boats there, they repair small crack on boats hull to prevent them form leaking. You can find a “Spreader Bay” on almost every Mediterranean island and it is always one of the most sheltered.
Guardia Vecchia and Military Fortress San Vittorio
Rugged terrain is typical to La Maddalena island. The highest point, Guardia Vecchia reaches 146 metres above sea level. It is easy to recognize it as on its top there is a military fortress San Vittorio, which was built in several stages: at the beginning there was only a watch tower built by the Pisans. Later on, in 1766, the tower was fortified in order to provide lodging for a small detachment of soldiers. Definitely it was not the large construction that we see now. In the 19th century the fortress was used also as a prison. Vincenzo Sulis, a rabble-rouser of the riot against the ruling Savoy House, was jailed here in 1821. It was the only serious riot that occurred in the recent Sardinian history. Sulis died at La Maddalena as a political prisoner, but not in jail. The fortress was considerably enhanced and renovated shortly before the second world war. The Navy in the past and the Port Authority now use the fortress as a weather station and lookout point for the entire area. A radar placed right at the top monitors large ships sailing across the Bonifacio Strait.
The little Paris
The history and development of La Maddalena town are entwined with the strategic position of the island. At the beginning of the 18th century there was only a small village founded by the Corsican shepherds that lived in the proximity of a small church. 70 years later they moved to Cala Gavetta, not far from the place where 3 years before a military detachment from the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia was based. 20 years later, during the Napoleonic era, the town had already 800 inhabitants and since then it has kept growing. Some locals worked on boats, some as merchants, others on cargo ships. Later many workers came to La Maddalena to be employed at shipyards and the granite quarry where they partially replaced prisoners from a penal colony that existed at La Maddalena until 1910. Many artisans moved to La Maddalena to meet the needs of wealthy citizens. The town was known as a little Paris during its most prosperous times. La Maddalena distinguished itself from other Sardinian towns for a low illiteracy rate and welfare was reflected also in local architecture. The period of prosperity continued during the presence of the American military base on the Santo Stefano island that was closed in 2008 after more than 30 years. At the moment the town has about 10 000 inhabitants. Many of them work in the tourism industry.