The village of La Maddalena was born in the second half of the 18th century along the Southern coast of the island near Cala Gavetta, an area that is protected from the wind. It has become bigger in the last years and the constructions have reached the area of Castelletti, a group of rocks that look out on the Eastern cove up to the square of Santa Maria Maddalena where the main church is still standing today. This is one of the most important monuments together with the market and the City Hall which is located in the former Elms Square. A curious fact: the church was built between 1779 and 1784 when the people moved from the village of Collo Piano to the seaside area. It’s a quiet place in Winter and it becomes the favourite destination in Summer especially for the ones who want to relax, go sailing, swim in the different beautiful coves or plunge into the vibrating life of the city and stroll around the shops, the coffee bars and the locals.
Cala Gavetta, the face and the soul
The natural inlet of Cala Gavetta is the historical harbour of La Maddalena and it’s also its “new heart”. It has been like that since 1779 when almost all the inhabitants moved from Collo Piano towards the natural harbour where the fishermen who started up the first wine stores coming back from their long journeys on the Royal ships. Part of their income was invested in the construction of new houses and the purchase of the land. The owners of the cargo ships belonged to the most important social class. In the ’50s and ‘60s there were several trading activities. In the marketplace there were 16 different shops besides the fishermen’s stalls and there are more than sixty shops in Via XX Settembre and Via Garibaldi which are the true “shopping streets” of the city.
Past and present
The Diocesan Museum is near the harbour in the historical centre next to the St. Magdalene Church that deserves a visit. Among the other unmissable monuments there is the Garibaldi Column that was built on the 4th July 1907 and the Roberts Palace overlooking the sea that reminds of its ancient owners: Giuseppe Zicavo, a famous fighter from the island, the General Commander of Genoa’s harbour and Daniel Roberts, a sailor first then a Senior of the British navy as well as the Consul of the island. Some events which are related to popular traditions are quite interesting like the bonfires that are started on the 24th June during the San Giovanni nigh and the Whitsun, the Trinity celebrations in May or in June with the Marcia Longa, the Vespers, the solemn Mass, the procession then the big dinner with the music and the dance.
Strolling around the narrow streets and the little shops
If you are staying in the village you can’t miss a stroll along the waterfront leaving from the harbour (maybe early in the morning when the fishermen’s ships are coming back) to see the buildings dating back to 1800, the Parish of ST. Magdalena and Cala Gavetta. If you are fond of shopping you can walk along the narrow streets that are spread with the tiny shops that sell handcrafted objects, boat supplies and clothes or you can also go shopping in the crowded Garibaldi street or by the stalls before the harbour. The former workers area of Moneta is a really characteristic district, once the marketplace that is now laid in Umberto I square (or Comando square). A votive chapel, a cave with two openings with the following writing “Offer to the Most Holy body of Jesus for saving us from the bombing of 24-5-1943” have recently been found behind the former armory.
Soup, fried fish and carasau bread
One of the most typical dish is the minestrù (vegetables soup) cooked by using only the season vegetables. The best vegetable soup is the one that is cooked in Spring when the variety of vegetables is wider compared to Winter. According to the traditional recipe the vegetable soup must be enriched with some minced bacon, the mint or marjoram, the garlic, the parsley and a lot of fresh basil cream that is added to the other ingredients. Another typical dish is the soup from Gallura (or suppa cuata), that is well-known in the North of Sardinia but it was born in this area. The sheep broth, some minced pecorino cheese, fresh parsley and stale bread are its main ingredients. Then there is also the risotto with myrtle and the myrtle liquor that is home- made, the sausages or the little fried fish to be tasted with the carasau bread. On the holiday table the offal and the venison and the fish of the day are never missing and they are cooked in many different ways.
Sea birds, goats and boars
The National Park of the archipelago of La Maddalena is one of the best loved and most visited places. The park was set up in 1996 and it includes the whole area of Maddalena as well as the surrounding ones and reaches the islands of Li Nibani and the Mortorio archipelago in the South. This area is featured by a slow tourism, you can watch more than 750 species of plants, bushes and animals among which the goats, the boars and the sea birds that come here to nest. We can mention the seagulls, the storm birds, the migrating birds that cross the Bonifacio strait. The sea is inhabited by different species of Gorgonia or the Venus Sea Fan that have the typical shape of a fan and there are the tursiope (a kind of dolphin) on the surface too, they are sort of whales that prefer staying by the coastline compared to other types of whales. Many excursions are daily organized in the National Park of La Maddalena and you can also be supported by skilled guides.
Beaches and pink secluded coves
The island is surrounded by many tiny coves that are featured by the Mediterranean vegetation. On the Eastern side there is Cala Spalmatore set between two cliffs and protected from the wind, it is featured by a low seabed and a stream that is made by the typical pink rocks of this area. From the overlooking Guardia del Turco you can enjoy an amazing view of La Maddalena Island and Caprera. Cala Coticcio is on the Garibaldi island beyond the bridge of Moneta Pass, you can sail there or you can walk for one hour along a track that leaves from Becco di Vela. On the Maddalena island there are more beaches that deserve a visit like Punta Tegge on the Southwestern side and the beach of Bassa Trinità on the Northern side, it is protected by the cliff on the top of which there is the tiny church of the Trinity that was built soon after he occupation of the island in 1767 in the centre of the old village that was once inhabited by the Corse people.
Sailing along the pirates’ routes
Sailing is the best way to enjoy the island, you can also sail by on the ancient ships and set sail on the pirates’ routes or the Royal Navy’s ships belonging to the Baron Giorgio des Geneys and the Admiral Nelson. The ships with the Latin sail belong to a very old tradition and they are one the island’s prides. The most ancient ships with the Latin sail can be found here and they are used to take the tourists to the most beautiful places of the island, you can go on beautiful excursions, you can have lunch on the ships and you can taste the very good fish, the seafood and drink the wine from this area mainly the Vermentino from Gallura. If you want to learn sailing the you can go to the Caprera sailing centre, the historical sailing school that was founded by the Italian Naval Academy and the Italian Touring Club in 1967 where you can take classes to learn how to sail.
Cycling, diving and horse-riding
There are quite many cycle routes and tracks that leave from the National Park of La Maddalena. You can reach almost all the beaches and the panoramic points if you cycle along these routes like the Sanctuary of Madonnetta and the charming inlet of Cala Francese as well as Punta Abbatoggia, a little peninsula spread with amazing beaches. There are many diving centres on the island and they organize many excursions every day to discover the rich seabed. There are the reptiles, the underwater rocks and the Posidonia Oceanica meadows. If you like horse-riding you can choose the excursions organized by the horse-farm of the island and you can reach the military fortresses among which the Arbuticci stronghold that hosts a memorial dedicated to Garibaldi that watches La Maddalena from the top.
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