The last time we visited La Maddalena was in 2011. My now husband and I were newly engaged then, and honestly, we were too in love and too busy staring into each other’s eyes to notice the beauty of the place.Seven years later, it felt like we were experiencing the island for the first time. This time, we were in the company of our almost five-year-old son and our nonna (“grandmother”).
The La Maddalena archipelago is home to seven main islands—La Maddalena, Caprera, Budelli, Spargi, Razzoli, Santo Stefano, and Santa Maria—and other smaller islands and islets. La Maddalena is the biggest island, with the largest settlement.
To get to the island from Montecatini, we drove to the western coast of Tuscany, the port city of Livorno. We then took Grimaldi Lines Ferry, an overnight cruise, all the way to Olbia, Sardinia. From there, we set our GPS to the port of Palau, a trip that took approximately 45 minutes. A smaller ferry and a roughly 15-minute-ride after, we finally arrived at the port of La Maddalena.
If you’re planning a trip to La Maddalena but don’t know what to do once you get there, here are some simple activities that we found pleasure in during our stay:
HEAD TO THE BEACH
The La Maddalena archipelago is well-known for its stunning coastlines, pristine beaches, and crystal-clear waters. In other words, it’s the ideal beach destination!
Up for a challenge? Go to at least one different beach a day! You’ll be spoiled for choice among the archipelago’s 63 islands and islets of various sizes and character. Who knows what hidden gems and treasures you’ll discover? In the seven days that we stayed on the island, we were able to visit more than seven beaches. Now that’s what I call a successful beach trip!
GO ON A MUSEUM VISIT
Take a break from the sun, sea, and sand and get a dose of some history, art, and culture at the Giuseppe Garibaldi Museum. Its namesake was an Italian general who contributed to the unification and creation of Italy. Garibaldi fell in love with the island of Caprera, bought it, and built his home on it, where he lived with his family for 26 years until his death in 1882. His home has been preserved as a museum of his artifacts and is open for daily visits.
Here is the first photo I took on our first day. My son was fascinated with the statue of Garibaldi in one of the main squares of La Maddalena town.
I’ll forever be the girl who gets quite excited at the sight of pretty-colored skies wherever I am in the world. My love for sunsets has become contagious that my boys have caught it as well. Chasing sunsets has since become our little family ritual. If you’re anything like me, then you’ll be happy to know La Maddalena serves majestic sunsets that shouldn’t be missed. Before settling for dinner, drive westward, find a beautiful spot, and watch the sky change its colors and the sun sink into the sea to make way for dusk.
RUN AT SUNRISE
I’m an occasional runner—but I can be persuaded to become a regular one if I can relocate to La Maddalena for the chance to witness its glorious sunrise while running everyday. This one time we dragged ourselves out of bed for an early morning sprint, it was purely magical, to say the least. It reminded me of this quote by Kristin Armstrong:
“There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.”
Here I am, embracing a dancer’s pose, on the road bridge that links La Maddalena and the fascinating unspoiled small island of Caprera. We ran for eight km., burnt 1,034 kcal, and yes, happily earned our pizza for the day!
TAKE A CRUISE
A visit to La Maddalena wouldn’t be complete without a boat cruise around the archipelago.
Along the port’s promenade, there are various boat tour agencies offering boat tours packages, some more expensive than others. After talking to a couple of tour providers and reviewing their packages, we chose to go with Flotta Del Parco.
Flotta Del Parco, with its motorboat Squalo IV, is a boat tour agency that takes visitors around the archipelago. Their tour, with daily departures from Palau and La Maddalena, include several stop-overs: Cala Corsara and Cala Granara in Spargi Island, Spiaggia Rosa (Pink Beach) and the Cavalieri Beach in Budelli Island, and Porto Madonna and Cala Coticcio in Caprera Island.
The cruise took us to La Maddalena’s most pristine beaches. My favorite was the stopover in Cala Coticcio, where the water was crystal-clear and the sand ultra-fine. All I wanted to do was dig my toes in it.
Apart from taking us to the best beaches, the Flotta Del Parco tour guide also did a good job at explaining some of the historical monuments on the island. I was fascinated by The small Sanctuary of La Maddonetta erected on a rock on the west coast. Dating back to 1800, it was built by Michele Scotto, a lobster fisherman, to honor the Virgin Mary after he was able to escape a shipwreck.
The Squalo IV motorboat was spacious and well-equipped, and its crew was helpful and friendly. Apart from the disappointment of not seeing the famous Pink Beach—because apparently all the pink sand was taken away by visitors—we were still delighted with our seven-hour cruise around the archipelago.
TREAT YOURSELF TO ITALIAN GELATO
No matter the time or season, gelato is the one thing that never disappoints in Italy. If we’re trying to be completely honest here, summer would simply not be summer without ice cream. (Yes, you may use this as your excuse to indulge. You’re welcome!) After a whole day of beach-bumming and sun-tanning, treat yourself to scoops of your favorite gelato flavors. As for me, you’ll always find me stuffing my face with Fior di Latte, Nocciola, and Biscotti. If you want to be a little naughty, have them squeeze in some Nutella at the bottom of your ice cream cone. Your dietician doesn’t need to know. (Your secret is safe with me!)
In the evening, the town comes alive as everyone ditches their swimsuits and puts on “real clothes” to head to dinner and to unwind from the whole day of fun under the sun.
The La Maddalena town is lively and filled with quaint cafes, bars, shops, restaurants, street vendors along the port, an open cinema…the list goes on. It’s never a dull moment exploring its narrow stone-paved alleyways as another day comes to an end.
This is my favorite part. I mean, if the question involves food and a little bit of drinking, then you know my answer will always be a resounding YES!!!
If you love beer, quench your midday thirst with a classic Ichnusa, a local Sardinian beer—it has “the soul of Sarda” written on the bottle. I think I had one everyday during our seven-day stay. The classic version is light and very refreshing.As for food, you can never go wrong with picking a seafood dish. Since you’re by the sea, freshness is guaranteed here. Try ordering a spaghetti allo scoglio (“seafood spaghetti”) or a seafood risotto. And remember to save some bread for wiping off the sauce on your plate!
Roby’s Restaurant along via Amendola surprised me with their pizza. I didn’t have high expectations when I ordered a tuna and onion one, but alas, I was blown away by how they were able to transform such simple ingredients to a mouth-watering delicious pizza. The restaurant also serves other dishes. Their service is amazing, their staff friendly, and their food great. What more could I ask for?
DRINK AND BE MERRY
After all the eating and drinking one can do in a day, you must make sure everything is well-digested, so you can go for another round the next day. This is where Grappa comes in. A uniquely Italian drink grape-based pomace brandy that contains 40 to 45 percent alcohol, Grappa is a digestive that is meant to be sipped after meals. A warning to the wise, though: This literally feels like fire through your throat and down to your intestines. A moment of silence is required after the shot.
For wine-lovers and enthusiasts, Vineria Nini on Corso Vittoria Emanuele is the place for you! Here, you can taste some local wines produced in Sardinia and indulge in traditional cold platters.Vineria Nini is where my husband and I found ourselves one late evening after a whole day of building sandy castles on the beach. We appreciated the ambience, dim lighting, and soft music in the background that transitions you into a relaxing mood. They have a quiet little space at the back where you can enjoy some privacy as you sip the night away.
Our seven memorable days in La Maddalena were filled with magnificent sunrises, magical sunsets, sandy toes, salty hair, sea breeze kisses, refreshing sea dips, and picturesque landscapes. I’m glad my husband and I got this second chance to fall in love with the archipelago’s beauty and everything it represents. It was a family holiday to remember.
Lora By Lora. x