Published On: Fri, Sep 25th, 2015
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Costa Smeralda, Sardinia

Soft turquoise seas are set into relief by harsh granite outcrops on the Maddalena Archipelago off the Costa Smeralda, Sardinia. The National Park is spared excessive tourism by its relative inaccessibility…


The nearest of the seven main islands of the Maddalena Archipelago lies within swimming distance of the Sardinian coast (though you would have to be quite a strong swimmer, and pretty good at avoiding boats). There is a regular public boat service from Palau to the main town, comfortingly called Maddalena, but this is the Costa Smeralda and most visitors arrive by private yacht. Yet for all its peacefulness and seclusion the archipelago bears the scars of conflict. Ancient fortifications characterise the uplands. The Pisans and Genoans argued about the islands in the 12th century, Napoleon tried to occupy the main island in his early years, and Nelson set up a naval base here. The Italian Navy established its own base shortly after Unification and, most recently, the USA also had a presence – one that provided considerable employment and permitted the islanders to resist the temptation to turn to mass tourism. Mussolini was once imprisoned here and Garibaldi made it his retirement home. Today it’s mostly birds, fish, yachts and a sense of history.

Photo © iStock
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