To the north-west of Sardinia, opposite the famous Costa Smeralda, an archipelago named Maddalena stretches out across a protected area of 12,000 ha. Classed as a national park since 1994 the seven islands (Maddalena, Caprera, Spargi, San Stefano, Budelli, Razzioli and Santa Maria) and numerous islets are usually visited by tourists during a day's excursion. The granite rocks and white sand beaches remind of the Seychelles although here there are scrublands where the coconut trees would be. The best beaches are those of Caprera and Spargi.
The name Maddalena is given at once to the archipelago, its main island and the only town on that island. This little port of just 11,000 inhabitants is home to the handful of hotels the archipelago offers. Thanks to groups of visiting tourists, this out-of-season paradise starts to heave once the summer arrives. Those, therefore, who choose to stay on the island, must be prepared to put up with these day troopers. To get there from Sardinia, there is a ferry service that operates between Palau and Maddalena whose journey time is just 20 minutes. It is possible to take the car on board. Other ferries connect the island of Maddalena with the others in the archipelago.
Beaches and walks are the two watch words on Maddalena. Divers will be interested to know that just like the islands, the underwater world, with its sweeping granite, is also classed as a national park.
The archipelago is an attraction in itself, the landscape offered by its pink granite coasts is splendid. But in Italy, something of cultural interest is never far away: the parochial chiesa of Santa Maria, the granite mines and several small museums are all worth visiting;
By far the best way to discover the island is by boat as some of the most beautiful vistas are only visible from sea. A good idea would be to catch the ferry from Palau with your car in order to visit La Maddalena and Caprera.
More than elsewhere in Sardinia, Maddalena should be avoided during the high season. There are swarms of people, groups numbering hundreds turn up every half an hour and the prices rocket. This is the moment when the charm of the island is lost in the crowds.
The few good restaurants on the archipelago specialise, to a large extent, in fish: grilled fish, marinated fish, fish carpaccio? The bill can be hefty, especially in high season, although it is unlikely that you'll eat badly.
The only thing you could bring back from Maddalena is a tan. The biggest wealth of the island is its granite, so, apart from collecting steles, there is nothing much to attract the avid shopper.