Up on the granite cliff overlooking seashore to the west of the town of La Maddalena we can see a small Cappella della Madonnetta, Madonneta Chapel in English. It is one of the most charming places in the whole area.
“zi Cristu” and the birth of the small chapel
The story goes that one day a lobster fisherman Michele Scotto nicknamed “zi Cristu” was out at sea during a terrible storm, he was in dire straits and begged Saint Mary for mercy and to save him. Once he found shelter under this large rock he decided to give thanks to the Madonna by placing there a small picture painted on paper and every Wednesday he came back to light a candle. Later on the picture was replaced by a small statue.
The devotion of the locals and especially of fishermen to Virgin Mary has grown over the years and this location became more and more frequently a place of pilgrimage. At the behest of one soldier and with contribution of the islanders a small chapel was built in 1928. The Holy Mass and the Patron Saints feast are celebrated here on the 1st May. People meet first for lunch and in the afternoon they partake in the religious rituals. Recently the Chapel has become a very desirable location for weddings.
At the foot of the cliff with chapel we find Cala Francese, French Bay in English. Inside the bay that we, unfortunately, cannot see completely, sandy stretches and rocky coves alternate. The granite rocks envelop the northern part of the French Bay and its beach as if they wanted to protect them. The sea colour is lovely, mostly turquoise with here and there some dark spots due to marine flora on the seabed. The French Bay is considered to be one of the most scenic spots although water is deep even close to the shoreline. The bay lays on the western coast, but due to its particular shape it is extremely sheltered from the Mistral wind. Near the beach and inside a complex of buildings erected at the end of the 19th century as lodgings for stonemasons working at nearby quarry, we find a small tourist residence.
The French Quarry and its precious granite
Close to the French Bay there is an old quarry. Its name – the French Quarry – tells us about the many transalpine supervisors who worked here, many workers also arrived from Corsica as well. The quarry belongs to Grondona family from Genoa. Granite quarrying started in the second half of the 19th century and went on until the second world war. Then it was closed due to the excessive transport costs. Some old rusty machinery can still be found today in the quarry. The local granite, particularly appreciated for its durability, was used in many important works all over the world, for example a Suez Canal monument in Ismailia, the ports in Alexandria in Egypt or in Genoa, in Rome it was used for the Palatino bridge and for parapets along the river Tevere amongst many others.
And finally another curiosity
And finally another curiosity: for a long time many people were convinced that the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York was made of granite from La Maddalena. In 1986, year of the centenary of the Statue, the owner of the quarry on Santo Stefano island Pasqualino Serra verified personally the statue and discovered that the granite could not have been imported from Sardinia. First of all because there were no documents regarding such a commission. In second place because he found by chance a study, unknown till that moment, proving that the 4 huge granite blocks forming the base of the statue came from a quarry situated in Stony Creek, Connecticut. As a consolation to the Italians there is at least the fact that among the immigrants who built the base for the 93 metre high and 204 ton heavy statue, there were many Italians.