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A small galaxy of granite islands dotting the turquoise universe in which they are set, jewels of white and pink sand, Mediterranean maquis and rocks shaped by the mistral wind blowing through the Bocche di Bonifacio.

There are about 60 islands that make up the Maddalena Archipelago, a naturalistic treasure protected by the creation, in 1994, of the first National Park in Sardinia. Already inhabited in the Neolithic era, the archipelago was a hermitage of contemplation for monks and hermits, and was first settled by shepherds from nearby Corsica, before becoming inextricably linked to the military history of Sardinia and Italy as a whole.

It was the Savoys who installed the first bases of the Marina Sarda, a navy of the Kingdom of Savoy, founded by Baron Des Geneys, here in the late 1600s. Famous naval battles have been fought in its crystal-clear waters, with world-famous leaders such as Horatio Nelson capitulating in an attempt to occupy the archipelago in order to face the French fleet based in nearby Toulon, and the Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, who suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the valiant officer from Maddalena, Domenico Millelire, in an attempt to wrest possession from the Savoys.

Speaking of heroes, we must mention the Hero of Two Worlds, Giuseppe Garibaldi, who spent the last years of his life on the island of Caprera; the island is home to the Casa Bianca, the general’s home and now a museum dedicated to his exploits, and his tomb.

The Ponte della Moneta bridge leads to the island of La Maddalena, the main island of the homonymous archipelago and the only one inhabited. The landing point for the ferries that connect it with Palau, the town is characterised by the bright colours of the tourist port of Cala Gavetta. Once disembarked, it is easy to reach the island’s best-known and most popular beaches. Following the panoramic road, you will find Spalmatore beach, sheltered from the winds thanks to its closed conformation, Cala Lunga, a real natural swimming pool with incredible shades of blue, Monti d’Arena, characterised by its sandy mountain, the sand dunes of Bassa Trinità and the incredible rock formations of Testa di Polpo beach.

Two other world-famous beaches in the archipelago deserve special mention: Cala Coticcio, known as ‘Little Tahiti’, in Caprera, and the Rosa beach on the island of Budelli, the colour of which is due to a micro-organism that ‘inhabits’ the posidonia meadows and lives inside the shells; when it dies, the shells are washed ashore, shredded by the action of water and wind, thus giving life to the incredible colour of this beach, which was the set of Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece ‘Red Desert’.