Porto della Madonna, or Saint Mary Port in English, is called also Manto della Madonna, that means Saint Mary’s Mantle in English, or even natural pool, the lagoon and in the past also the salt lake. This stretch of sea enclosed between the islands of Budelli, Razzoli and Santa Maria is considered one of the most beautiful marine areas in the world.
3 theories about the origin of its name
There are 3 theories about the origin of its name: the first one tells us that the colour of the sea has the same blue tones as the Virgin Mary’s cloak in religious paintings. According to the second one Madonna was a surname of a certain lobster fisherman who regularly came here. The third theory is that the name of the lagoon comes from the fact that this stretch of sea is an exceptional shelter from bed weather and high winds. Those who successfully reach it and escape from heavy seas thank the Virgin Mary for having shown them the right course.
Shallow seabed and crystal-clear
This marine area of rare beauty has very shallow seabed and crystal-clear water with many nuances ranging from almost transparent azure to emerald green with some variants of dark blue. Dark blue spots indicate the presence of Posidonia oceanica, eelgrass, growing on the seabed. Posidonia oxygenates sea and is a natural hiding place for thousands of marine micro-organisms essential to the Mediterranean ecosystem.
The Knight beach on Budelli faces Saint Mary Port. In the middle of the lagoon there is Carpa island. East of Carpa island we can see Passo del Topo, or Mouse Pass in English, with numerous granite spurs emerging from sea that appear to be small sculptures.
The island that delimits the lagoon in the north and faces Corsica is Razzoli. It is easy to recognize as it houses the light-house. The most notable characteristic of Razzoli is the granite bedrock. It has a rich reddish colour and is striated with quartz veins. The rocks have many different forms both above and under the seas surface. A long natural bay Cala Lunga, Long Bay in English, is a natural work of art, giving the impression of being filled with rock statues gallery. An important colony of Corsican seagulls lives on Razzoli and nests inside the large alcoves in the granite rocks. In the centre of the island there is a wind-swept valley. The light-house on Punta Maestro, in English Cape Master, was inhabited until a half a century ago and today still warns sailors of their proximity to the coast.
The Donkeys Pass
Razzoli and nearby Santa Maria islands are separated by Passo degli Asinelli, the Donkeys Pass in English, that allows boats to leave the lagoon in the direction of Corsica through the narrow channel. The water in the channel is very shallow and almost surreally transparent due to the constant marine currents and the snow-white sand on seabed reflecting the sunlight. Only boats with a shallow draft can navigate through Donkeys Pass and the skippers have to proceed very carefully, keeping in mind high and low tide. Saint Mary Port was a preferred secure hide-out for pirates who in case of necessity or danger could sail across the channel and escape towards the open sea. The same channel was useful also to the light-house keepers passing from one island to another or to Mr Pietro, the last shepherd from Santa Maria island who would swim his cows from Razzoli to Santa Maria and back in search of fresh pasture.