The archipelago of the Maddalena, seven islands north of Sardinia

Italy, Europe

The archipelago of the Maddalena includes seven islands: the Maddalena, Caprera and Santa Stefano in the southeast, Spargi, Budelli, Razzoli and Santa Maria in the northwest. Beyond extend the Bonifacio’s mouths, classified as an international marine reserve at the beginning of the year 1997. Rocky and jagged coasts, rocks sculpted by wind and water, and scrubland characterize these islands, called the Cuniculariae, or “Rabbit Islands” in Roman times. In the eighteenth century, the Maddalena, located in a strategic position, served as a military base. During a trip to the archipelago, don’t forget to visit Caprera, where Giuseppe Garibaldi, the hero of Italian independence, lived and where he is now buried.

This small archipelago is particularly popular with sailing and underwater fishing enthusiasts as well as lovers of calm and wilderness. Except for the two largest islands, the archipelago is uninhabited. Together with the other islets of the archipelago, it lends itself admirably to boat trips.

La Maddalena, the main town of the archipelago

The town that is now the capital of the island was founded in 1770, replacing a small village built on the edge of Cala Gavetta. With the failure of the French invasion in 1793, the British Admiral Horatio Nelson stopped in La Maddalena in 1804. In 1887, the entire archipelago was transformed into a naval base by the sovereigns of the House of Savoy.

On Via Amendola, which runs along the seafront, a group of 19th century buildings testifies to the rapid development of the city at that time. The Municipio (town hall), in Piazza Garibaldi, preserves a French bomb dating from the attempted conquest of Sardinia in 1793. In the evening, especially in the summer, Via Garibaldi is a meeting place for walkers.

Not far away stands the Santa Maria Maddalena church. Here you can see two beautiful candelabras and a silver cross given to the islanders by Admiral Nelson. Maddalena is still the headquarters of the regional navy of Sardinia.

On the road…

The picturesque road runs for about 20 km, along Cala Spalmatore and the bays of Stagno Torto and Baia Trinità. Leaving the Maddalena, you will pass by the church of Trinità, then by the junction for Monte Guardia Vecchia, with the fort of San Vittorio built under the Savoys, and, finally, you will reach the island of Giardinelli, connected to the Maddalena by a narrow strip of land.

Further north are Porto Massimo, the coves of Abbatoggia and Cala d’Inferno, as well as the other great fortification of the island, the Forte dei Colmi. The first part of the itinerary also includes the Museo Archeologico Navale “Nino Lamboglia”, the maritime museum, which presents the remains of the cargo of the “Spargi ship”, a Roman boat discovered in the 1950s.

Caprera, the last residence of Garibaldi

This island, with its 34 km of coastline, is connected to the island of La Maddalena by a 600 m long bridge, the Passo della Moneta. Those who are brave enough can climb the steps to the top of Monte Teialone (212 m). Caprera became the property of Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1856. His estate is now part of the Compendio Garibaldino, a vast museum.

The visit includes the stables, where a steam engine used for threshing is stored, the moorings and the Casa Blanca, where testimonies of the hero’s adventurous life are gathered: weapons, flags, portraits, clothes (including his famous red shirt) and a model of the battle of Solferino.

Garibaldi and Caprera

Giuseppe Garibaldi, legendary Italian hero and revolutionary, took refuge in Caprera in 1849, after the fall of the Roman Republic. He returned in 1855, after the death of his wife Anita, and decided to buy most of the island.
Later, English friends donated the remaining land to him. Garibaldi, who played a key role in the unification of Italy, settled permanently in Caprera in 1857. He died there in 1882.

Giuseppe Garibaldi et sa célèbre chemise rouge

Practical info

  • Location: in the north of Sardinia
  • 7 main islands and 55 smaller ones
  • Official language: Italian
  • Nearest airport: Olbia

Photo Gallery

The port of the Maddalena

Le port de la Maddalena

In the streets of Maddalena

Dans les rues de la Maddalena en Sardaigne

The turquoise waters of Caprera

Les eaux turquoise de Caprera

The island of Caprera, in the archipelago of the Maddalena

L'île de Caprera, dans l'archipel de la Maddalena

“ Italy is not in mourning, nor France, but humanity. ” Victor Hugo, about the death of Garibaldi.

Garibaldi’s favorite room was the salon, where he asked to be carried before he died. Everything has remained the same since that day. The calendar and clocks still show the exact time of his death: 6:20 pm, June 2, 1882. Caprera has a famous sailing school, the Centro Velico Caprera.

Santo Stefano, Spargi and Budelli

Located halfway between Palau and the island of La Maddalena, the islet of Santo Stefano is served by boats that leave the port of La Maddalena at regular intervals. Also called “Fort Napoleon”, the fortress of Santo Stefano (also called San Giorgio), built at the end of the 18th century, dominates the island. On the west coast, the beach of Pesce houses a vacation village.

Spargi, which measures a little less than 2 km in diameter, is completely uninhabited. The coast of this rocky island is steep and not very accessible, but there is a nice beach suitable for swimming, although without any equipment. A Roman ship was discovered off Cala Corsara, on the southern coast. It is now on display at the Museo Archeologico Navale “Nino Lamboglia” in La Maddalena. Tourist boats regularly stop at Cala Corsara.

The beautiful uninhabited island of Budelli is famous for its pink sand beach. Free of any tourist facilities, Budelli is appreciated by visitors for its unspoiled natural setting, which was the setting for a film by M. Antonioni. The transparent waters attract diving enthusiasts, who can observe the flora and fauna or go fishing.

Sailing in the north of Sardinia

The bays of Bonifacio are dotted with islets and rocks crowned with lighthouses that serve as natural beacons – making it an ideal setting for sailboat and dinghy races. The wind blows almost constantly, with a westerly wind easily reaching 40 km/h in summer.

The Costa Smeralda Yacht Club of Porto Cervo, founded by the Aga Khan, is the main nautical center in the area. It organizes several major races and other competitions. The most famous are the Sardinia Cup, an offshore race held every even-numbered year, and the Settimana delle Bocche, a summer competition between speedboats from all over Italy.

In odd years, the old port of Porto Cervo hosts about 50 old sailing ships, from the gozzo with its characteristic lateen sail to the 30-meter schooner. This famous event, which has been held since 1982, is usually followed by the world championship of maxi-class sailing ships.

Other major European and international championships are also held here. In 1983, the Costa Smeralda Yacht Club represented Italy in the America’s Cup with the yacht Azzurra. In 1987, it organized regattas to select the Italian representative for the edition of the America’s Cup held in Perth, Australia.

Photo Gallery

The island of Spargi in the archipelago of the Maddalena

L'île de Spargi dans l'archipel de la Maddalena

The pink sand beach of Budelli

La plage de sable rose de Budelli

The archipelago of the Maddalena

L'archipel de la Maddalena en Sardaigne

Sailing boat in the mouth of Bonifacio

Voilier dans les bouches de Bonifacio


With a passion for travel and discovery, we invite you to discover original photos that will inspire you to get away from it all. Visit museums and hiking trails, big capitals and small villages, and marvel at the beauty of our world. Plan your trip and set off to meet warm, welcoming people, witnesses of different yet enriching cultures.

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