What to see in La Maddalena: A Guide to the most beautiful village in Italy
La Maddalena never ceases to amaze, an island and municipality consisting of the Archipelago of the same name in Northern Sardinia, a destination for vacationers from all over the world.
In 2021, the city became part of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy” association: thanks to the incessant promotional activity carried out by its administration, and to the architectural, historical and natural heritage that distinguishes it.
What to see in La Maddalena, the most beautiful village in Italy?
Find out in the guide offered by Emerald Cruises Freedom, a specialist in organizing exclusive or shared boat tours in the Maddalena Archipelago.
La Maddalena: The Complete tourist Guide
What to expect from a tourist guide about La Maddalena?
A list of the most beautiful beaches? Of the secret coves of the Archipelago? Sure, but that’s not all.
La Maddalena is history, culture and tradition, which is why we will start this guide from La Maddalena history and the characters who, century after century, have written its most important pages.
One above all is Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Hero of the Two Worlds who lived the last years of his glorious existence on the wild island of Caprera. Let’s not forget Domenico Millelire, considered the first gold medal for military valor of the Italian Armed Forces, to whom the new square 23 February 1793 was recently dedicated, located right in La Maddalena.
Let’s go big and start with some history pills.
History, curiosities and characters linked to La Maddalena
Not everyone knows that …
- In prehistoric times, the islands of the Archipelago were almost integrally connected to each other and to the mainland (Sardinia). The tafoni, cavities in the rock that served as a shelter, date back to this period, still visible today in most of the islands of La Maddalena. The most famous is the Bear’s Rock in Palau, a natural monument that dominates the coast from the top of a granite hill. Wonderful are the tafoni of Spargi, located one next to the other: the Rock of the Witch; the Italian Boot and the Bulldog, with curious anthropomorphic shapes.
- The toponym “La Maddalena” is mentioned for the first time by Francesco Fara in the sixteenth century and seems to be linked to the patron saint of the island.
- Throughout her history, La Maddalena has been a trade route for obsidian and flint destined for the trades of Northern Italy and France. Later, in Roman times, it was the turn of granite, extracted from numerous sites to feed the commercial traffic of the Empire. According to authoritative sources, important works were carried out all over the world with the granite extracted from the Cala Francese quarry.
- In 1793, during the Napoleonic wars that affected La Maddalena, the defense prepared by the inhabitants of the island contributed to Napoleon’s retreat. The then artillery officer, Napoleon Bonaparte, bombed the historic center, but had to abandon the plan to conquer the city. Domenico Millelire and Tommaso Zorza took part in the battle: Maddalena heroes who stood out for their courage and audacity.
- The arrival of Giuseppe Garibaldi in La Maddalena, which will be followed by the transfer to Caprera, coincides with the years of the revolution of the landed properties of the Archipelago. In 1843, in fact, the free land was moved to the assignment of lots to the island bourgeoisie.
- Garibaldi rests on the island of Caprera, in a “work of art” tomb made entirely of granite
- At a certain point in history, La Maddalena and its islands are dotted with fortifications. It was 1882, the year in which Italy became part of the Triple Alliance and the Maddalena Naval Base was inaugurated. The island is strategic due to its position in the Mediterranean Sea, and hence the construction of lookouts, ammunition depots and forts will characterize different views of the Archipelago.
- Admiral and Baron Giorgio Andrea Des Geneys is considered a benefactor by the Maddalena community. Considered the founder of the Royal Sardinian Navy, as well as one of the founding fathers of the Arma dei Caabinieri, Des Geneys stayed at La Maddalena during the Napoleonic period and helped the Maddalena in supporting their causes.
- At the fall of the Fascist regime, Mussolini was summoned by the King, arrested and taken after various vicissitudes to Maddalena, where he remained a prisoner in the famous Webber villa, located on top of the island, a residence that belonged to a wealthy englishman of the time.
- The film “The great blue road”, based on the novel by Franco Solinas, another important figure linked to La Maddalena, tells the story of a magdalenino fisherman who used bombs to catch fish, called Squarciò. The character really existed, his name was Pasquale Rivieccio.
- At the end of July each year, in the Municipality of La Maddalena, the film festival “La Valigia dell’Attore” takes place, dedicated to the actor Gian Maria Volonté, a special figure in the history of cinema and honorary citizen of La Maddalena.
Square and monuments: La Maddalena historic center
It’s nice to start with a new entry.
Piazza 23 February 1793 is brand new: inaugurated in February 2022, it welcomes tourists with two monuments, an original cannonball shot by Napoleon Bonaparte and the original bronze from 1928 depicting Domenico Milleline, to whom the square itself is dedicated.
The newborn open space, which overlooks the port of Cala Gavetta, is defined as a “boutique square”, surrounded as it is by clubs, charming cafes and restaurants in pure “little Paris” style, a nickname that La Maddena boasted at the beginning of the 1900s.
Here is the right place to taste the excellent fish soup (u ziminu, in Maddalenino. Ed.); a plate of spaghetti with sea urchins; grouper ravioli with prawns sauce or delicious stuffed squid. To finish on a sweet note, try u curconi, a dessert similar to Genoese panettone but smaller, which has become a local specialty.
The historic Piazza Garibaldi, very lively, can be reached in a short time from the ferry docking point. It is full of historic buildings and represents the heart of the village. Here the Town Hall was erected, guardian of a plaque commemorating the letter that Garibaldi wrote to the mayor of La Maddalena in the mid-1800s. the granite column dedicated to him.
Giuseppe Garibaldi is part of the authentic soul of the Maddalena community. In fact, the municipal coat of arms depicts the “Lion of Caprera”, which symbolizes Garibaldi on a rock. From that rock, the remains of the hero, as the Latin motto that surrounds the herald says, watch over and protect the coasts of Italy.
Piazza Umberto I is a real concentration of sculptural works, starting from the bust of Anita Garibaldi up to the monuments in honor of the fallen of Nassiriya and the fallen sailors. The architecture also stands out, with the stately building of the Military Admiralty.
Among the things to see in La Maddalena there are several churches. We recommend visiting the church of Santa Maria Maddalena, keeper of a crucifix donated by Admiral Nelson in 1804, and the church of the Trinity.
As soon as you arrive at La Maddalena, take a walk along the port of Cava Gavetta, breathe the sea air and fill your eyes with beauty. You will admire boats and small boats of all kinds that stand out against the turquoise sea of the Archipelago.
Cala Gavetta preserves the original Maddalenino dialect, all the folklore and traditions of the island. The narrow streets of its surroundings, colored by bougainvillea in bloom, remind us of Genoa and its alleyways.
What is the most evocative viewpoint of La Maddalena? The Madonnetta dei Pescatori that sweeps atop the island’s promontory, near Cala Francese. The Madonnetta dei Pescatori, in addition to offering spectacular views of the islands, is the favorite location for couples for a wedding “with a view” of the Archipelago.
Do you love culture? Mark the museums located in La Maddalena and Caprera on your agenda.
The two islands are connected by a bridge so that in a single day you can make several stops:
- Nino Lamboglia Naval Museum
- Garibaldi Compendium
- New Garibaldi Memorial
- Museum of the Sea and Seafaring Traditions
- FAI site of Cava Francese
The patronal feast of Santa Maria Maddalena is the most famous, important and heartfelt of the year. It is celebrated on 22 July with numerous shows (musical, sporting or cultural), fireworks and religious rites. The most exciting moment of the festival is the procession of the faithful that starts from the church of S. Maria Maddalena and arrives at the port of Cala Gavetta. Here, a procession of boats carries the statue to Piazza Comando, where it is slowly lowered into the sea together with a wreath of flowers.
La Maddalena Archipelago island
There is no corner of the La Maddalena Archipelago Park that is not worth visiting. What is the secret of its beauty? Of uncontaminated nature and its crystalline sea?
Mother Nature could answer the question. We do not know the mystery behind these islands, but we have the privilege of being able to explore them with a daily boat trip.
The Maddalena Archipelago is made up of the major islands of Maddalena; Caprera; Santo Stefano; Santa Maria; Spargi; Budelli and Razzoli as well as from numerous islets. 180 kilometers of coastline “immersed in a miraculous sea”, as the singer-songwriter Fabrizio De Andrè put it, referring to the Sardinian sea, a destination for tourists from all over the world.
The islands of La Maddalena preserve some of the most famous beaches of the Mediterranean Sea; countless coves and coves; natural landings that over the centuries have represented safe “ports”, shelters for navigators. Among the undisputed symbols of the Archipelago is the Port of the Madonna, a sea mirror with a thousand shades of turquoise enclosed between the islands of Budelli, Razzoli and Santa Maria.
La Maddalena Archipelago National Park was established in 1994. The managing body is the La Maddalena Archipelago National Park, established with Presidential Decree of 17 May 1996, and having its headquarters in the Municipality of La Maddalena.
The park is divided into permitted and forbidden areas to public access and provides usability rules to protect the environmeet. The last one concerns the protection of Cavalieri beach on Budelli Island and is contained in a specific order.
The moste beautiful beaches of La Maddalena
More than the most beautiful beaches of the Archipelago we will talk about the “symbol” beaches, the most famous, since the coasts of the Maddalena islands, as mentioned, are dotted with coves and coves to be discovered.
The Pink Beach is one of the most suggestive; the Cavaliere beach on the island of Budelli and the beaches of Cala Coticcio (known as the Thaiti of Sardinia), Cala Napoletana and del Relitto in Caprera, as well as Cala Corsara and Cala Granara in Spargi.
Let’s not forget the “queens” of La Maddalena, that is, the enchanting beaches of Bassa Trinità, with its dunes, and Monti da Rena.
Less famous than the aforementioned beaches but equally beautiful is Cala Soraya in Spargi, which is said to take its name from Princess Soraya of Persia who loved to bathe in her waters. What about Cala dell’Amore? It represents the perfect setting for a couple’s trip between lovers.
Have you never heard of some of these beaches? Do not worry. Only experienced and local skippers know them all.
Daniele, our skipper, can take you to discover the secret coves of the Archipelago thanks to a series of experiences tailored to your needs.
Furthermore, those who participate in the excursions of Emerald Cruises Freedom, private or shared with other guests, can discover the charm of the Municipality of La Maddalena by interspersing the visit to the beaches with a walk, a lunch or an ice cream in the historic center.